Published February 9, 2007
Iceland has been gripped with handball fever for the past month. The Icelandic national team recently participated in the International Handball Federation World Championship, the handball equivalent of the FIFA World Cup. Handball is the single biggest unifier in Iceland. It brings together people of different ages, genders, religions and, lately, races.
Unfortunately, the results were not as fruitful as many had hoped. Team Iceland ended up in eighth place, a respectable result for sure, but a disappointment nonetheless, considering the team lost a game against Denmark in the eight-team finals by the narrowest of margins, in overtime. Had the results of that game been different, Iceland would have been in one of the top four spots. But, such is life in sports (see www.grapevine.is for more detailed coverage of the tournament and an explanation of the part Tom Cruise played in the whole fiasco).
In the wake of the tournament, many Icelanders have felt a little… sad. In Iceland, it is perfectly reasonable to ponder if there is life after handball? It ranks right up there with the other big philosophical questions, such as: Is there a god? Does life have a meaning? Should I stay or should I go?
Still, it seems that not everyone is of the opinion that handball is a matter of life and death. There are people who believe that the outcome of handball games, or any other sporting result for that matter, should be met with stoic indifference and who fail to understand how this can affect people. That is a gross misunderstanding. I can relate to people who say they don’t particularly enjoy sports. I myself do not particularly enjoy fishing and have a hard time imagining myself getting worked up over standing waist deep in a salmon stream. That doesn’t mean I cannot relate to people who do enjoy fishing. And I cannot relate to people who feel that the results of a sporting competition carry no weight for people off the field.
Being a sports fan, like much else in life, is about picking sides. You pick a side based on individual preference; there is simply something on one side that appeals to you. You enjoy the game and you hope the results will be favourable to the team you support. When they aren’t, you feel disappointed. This is the exact same rationale that takes place in politics, music, public debate, what have you… One side appeals to you more than the other.
Denying this is preaching absenteeism and detachment from the world of feelings. Obviously, sports do not carry the same weight as important political issues in the grand scheme of things, but let us not forget that wars have been fought over such preferential matters as religion (actually, wars have been fought over sporting results as well). Does religion carry more weight than sports? And if you think so, why?
Allowing yourself to be affected by sporting results is another way to affirm and embrace life. It simply means that you care, that you are willing to take sides in life and care about something other than yourself. To me, that is an admirable quality.