In his treatise on fair play, Sigmund Loland repetitively comes back to one formula(tion) of what is produced in sport: the sweet tension of uncertainty of outcome. Michel Serres is of a similar meaning when he states that the 'glorious uncertainty' in sport is that which saves it from being just another crude dialectic scheme, like, for instance, war.
Are there any other practices and structures that produce uncertainty to the degree, and as sweetly, as sports do? Uncertainty, definitely; as sweet, perhaps. Listening to a story, having sex, taking part of, or consuming, artistic improvisation, sure. The list could be expanded, but none of them has this production as a guiding rationale. Due to this, and despite the fact that sport has as its structural goal measuring, comparing, and ranking human beings, Loland is right to emphasize sport as a possible arena for the Aristotelian eudaimonia - human flourishing.
'Generalized athleticism' is but one of Deleuze's (and Guattari's) physical culture concepts that never were elaborated enough with. According to D & G, this modus sprung from, and was established in, ancient Athens, where it contributed to the upbringing of the free men - the vanguards of democracy. In all spheres of life, these men were paradoxically constituted as both friends and rivals. Ideas of justice and equality are foundational pillars of this model. Harsh as it may seem, justice and equality both must be executed, both must have their procedures. Modern sport is probably the societal sphere that has implemented this rationale the most successfully and sufficiently, which the name 'generalized athleticism' also implies.
To compete in sport one will need other competitors, and moreover, their efforts will spur you to perform better. The more equal you are with concerns to performance ability, the more sweet uncertainty you are probable to produce. Friend and rival in one. Cozy contest. Contest is derived from contestare, Latin for 'to strive together'.
So far, so good - in both the dramaturgical, and the literal sense of the expression. Why must 'So far, so good' end? Sport is an autotelic practice with the structural goal of inaugurating a victor, and ranking the tawdry mass of losers behind, and beneath, the laureate(s). At the molar (concentrates of memories and mores - memores?) level winners and losers are produced, and added to history, while at the the molecular (atomistic, micropolitical, and mo/ve/mental) level, the sweet tension of uncertainty of outcome revels and unfolds like the crest of a wave. But does the sweet tension really rely on the uncertainty of outcome?
According to Loland, the (uncertainty of) outcome of a competition is the impetus that renders sport it's dynamics. For certain, Loland applies Caillois's concepts of Agon (contest) and Alea (chance) in his conclusion to support his preferred -- and, it must be added, rigorously accounted for -- moral (molar) imperative of sports: play (with a shared ethos) to win. Portions of Alea may be added to the Agon, that nevertheless always will be the essence of sports. In this line of thinking, outcome, i.e. the zero-sum game of the production of the molar positions of winners and losers, is the key driver in sports, but if uncertainty never emerges, neither will sweet tension .
This box is untouchable; we cannot think outside it, if we, at the same time, want to benefit from its sweetness. But in a good Latourian manner I would like to, at least ephemerally, try to 'extract the honey, and press away the poison' from this equation. So where do I start?
In posts to come, I will argue that outcome, per se, is not a sufficient source for eudaimonia, human flourishing. Such coarse identity politics will only reproduce the anxiety of winners (will I be defeated the next time?), and the anger of losers (next time I'll defeat him/her). And why only strive towards the blooming of humanity; why not post-human flourishing? This kind of point of departure would harmonize with many of the contin(g)ental thinkers, such as Deleuze and his 'molecular' analyses.