Self

Sports Are Pointless and That’s the Point

The true value of activities are in the bond they enable.

Sean Kernan
6 min readFeb 27, 2024

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Me and my sister Shannon

I’m a child of the water. The smell of chlorine induces nostalgia and the sensation of liquid engulfing my body feels as natural as breathing. This is a consequence of growing up in Florida, where swim lessons were an inevitability and swim team was the natural extension of that.

Swimming laps gives you ample time to contemplate. There’s little else to do, and thinking becomes a welcome form of escapism. And even in those early days of practice, I remember feeling the water flow past my face, and the sound of bubbles drowning everything out, and thinking, “Why am I going back and forth all day. What even is the point?”

Yes, I understood implicitly that this was part of training. But stepping back, it all felt so silly, like I was caught in an aquatic infinity loop. If I were swimming to escape something? Sure. Or to get across a river? Great. But down and back and down and back? It felt so pointless.

This logic isn’t unique to swimming. In basketball, bounce a ball up and down the court, throwing it into a basket, only to do it again. In golf, you spend hours just walking, occasionally hitting a ball with weird stick — and for what? Just write down your score and brag about it to friends?

Well, yes, in fact — that is part of the deal. There’s so much more to sports than just shooting a ball into a basket. At the end of all this noise, and crazy yelling in the bar at some game on the TV, are human relationships, and what they mean to us.

Philosophical origins of the love of shared things

Aristotle wrote of the many types of philia, which is one of the four Greek words for love. In Nicomachean Ethics, philia described as the basis for friendship. It has levels to it. The first is based on transaction, such as my long-standing relationship with my handyman. This is the weakest form, but still something. The second is based on the satisfaction brought to each person in the relationship, and all that comes with it. The third, and highest form, is the sharing of religious faith or a shared quest for a virtuous life.

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Sean Kernan

Writer and writing instructor. Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.