A Beautiful Ritual

A simple observation from the proceedings of the FIFA World Cup:  Upon entering the stadium, each team is accompanied by a phalanx of children – each holding hands with a player.

2381934_big-lndIt’s a beautiful ritual.

To the child, it’s a beautiful opportunity to stand upon one of the greatest of world stages and feel the energy as some of the world’s most elite athletes prepare to perform at the highest of levels.  I don’t know how they’re selected, or what they might have to accomplish – but the experience must surely leave a lasting impression.

To the athlete, it appears to be a “humanizing” ritual – a simple reminder that even a World Cup match is still just a game – and that before considerations of professional career, national pride or corporate sponsorship, that the game is still meant to elicit joy much in the way it did when the players were kids themselves.

And to the Spectator, it’s a beautiful and timely reminder that even at the very height of our ambitions, we possess the opportunity AND RESPONSIBILITY to nurture future generations.

2386515_big-lndSurely, there exist countless instructional leagues, camps & clinics where soccer (football) professionals provide instruction – just as many arts & cultural organizations offer “education” and “outreach” programs designed to engage young audiences.

What I’m left wondering is whether any Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Company, Theatre Company, Art Museum or OTHER professional company has already – or could/would – conceive of a similarly beautiful ritual – to take place at the start of their performance, concert or exhibition – to similarly energize the future, connect with the joy of the present and impart added meaning to the audience.

Soccer (football) is called, “The Beautiful Game.”

I applaud this beautiful ritual.

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  1. richard kooyman says

    Maybe it’s not such a beautiful ritual.. Maybe the NFL, NBA, FIFA, etc are huge profit centers that use their income to manipulate people’s emotions, promote an agenda, and tug at your purse strings, not just for the love of the sport but for a greasy buck.
    Maybe the sanity and sanctity of the arts is our last bastion from the profiteers.

  2. says

    Richard – whether for purposes of making profit OR driving artistic mission (and, I’m not-at-all convinced those must be mutually exclusive) , my (un-cynical) point is that the arts community MUST GET BETTER at, as you say, “manipulating people’s emotions, promoting an agenda and [tugging at] …pursue strings.”

    The worst possible violation of the “sanity or sanctity of the arts” is a failure to work in every possible way to engage audiences now and for the future.

    Beautiful rituals can and should aim for concrete benefits.

    And the arts & cultural sector needs them now, more than ever!

  3. ariel says

    To Mr. Lehrman it may be a beautiful ritual to
    others it may be just another way of getting
    a buck from the unwashed masses,but do
    spare us the thought that it” humanizes” the athlete whose aim it is to win at almost any
    cost and by winning demand higher fees
    for services rendered.The athlete thinks $$$$$ and the poor child is used as a shill
    by adults pretending it is “just a game ”.
    One can agree with Mr. Lehrman that rituals
    should or can aim for concrete benefits to
    the bettering of the human condition but
    alas in this case the ritual’s aims are so
    transparent as to be laughable.

    • says

      Of course, my point was less about the specific intentions of FIFA and more about the opportunity for arts & cultural to ADD meaningful gestures that invest in the future of audiences for the work that we do.

      I simply can’t be cynical about the motivations of others while I’m suggesting that WE (the arts & cultural sector) should be coming up with our own gestures in such a direction. Surely, someone will criticize us for using a “poor child…as a shill” but that’s not-at-all my concern. I’m genuinely asking whether/how we might embrace the spirit of such an action – because we surely NEED to be investing in the future of arts & cultural audiences in every possible way.

  4. says

    Matt: I love the grand entrance with the kids – and from the perspective of a former sportswriter who covered high school soccer – I think it’s a brilliant idea, especially in the US where we are trying to get more kids into the game. Whether it’s a profit motive or not, you don’t grow your sport unless you get more kids involved – just ask the NFL how nervous they are that Moms are concerned about concussions now. So regardless of the motive, the idea is wonderful – EVERY PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE, or every professional musician or actor or dancer, was at one point, a little kid with aspirations to be on that big stage (kick the winning goal, sit in the first chair, be the Black Swan).
    I agree wholeheartedly with you – and frankly, hand-wringing or eye-rolling over profit motive is ridiculous WHEN YOUR EYES ARE FIXED ON THIS PROCESSION. They already have your attention. THEY ACHIEVED THEIR GOAL. You watched. You paid attention. Mission accomplished.
    What I think is an even more lovely ritual is when members of each team exchange jerseys at the end of the match. I think the symbolism that this is a worldwide sport that ultimately transcends national boundaries is powerful… Frankly, I wish a lot of our “purist” arts organizations would get over themselves, ditch their limiting parochialism and trade jerseys with other members of the arts world – AND THE BUSINESS WORLD – that are out there in their communities.
    Bravo for a great post. Keep kicking ass and taking names.

  5. ariel says

    The exchanging of jerseys is to give
    the great unwashed a phony presentation of
    the athlete as a noble pure soul just out there
    kicking a ball from one end of a field to another end for the sheer pleasure of the
    exercise .That the game is a multi million $$ business at the expense of the poor is for
    the most part ignored and dragging out
    impressionable children as shills to please
    the crowd is deplorable however one finds
    excuses for this show bizz. Yes “They have
    achieved their goal ” they have suckered you in.Rather than getting more kids into the
    game it might ,just might be more useful
    in introducing the kids to the arts ,it might
    better the world just a little .