Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens defines the nature of play and its characteristics. There are 5 key rules that define what play truly is, which includes that play cannot be defined, it is distinct from ordinary life and at a certain moment is over, it has its rules and no profit is gained by it. This all may have been true back in 1938 when the book was written; today, these so called characteristics of play do not apply.
First off, Johan’s statement that play is distinct from ordinary life is simply false. In our day and age, athletes are looked upon as role models, inspiring many to work hard and dream big. Athletes are viewed as ‘famous’, constantly being watched over by the media and the sports world. There is a direct connection between play and one’s personal life. This past month, Ray Rice was charged with assaulting his girlfriend, after knocking her out with a left jab. As a result of his actions off the field, he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL, which will likely end his career. The NFL had all the right to punish Rice for what he did. Athletes represent their respective leagues and must act in a professional manner.
Huizinga also mentioned that there are no such benefits to play. Professional athletes all receive paycheck for playing their respective sport. Many players actually play for the love of the game, but today sports have become a business.
Recently, Lebron James decided to return and play for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. What many people have failed to realize is that he only signed a two-year contract with the team he plans to finish his career with. The NBA has just agreed to a 24 billion dollar extension with ESPN and TNT. As a cunning businessman, Lebron understood that in two years he could make a lot more money per year. These days, people just think of ways to make the most amount of money.
Players also are not free while playing, as they’re bound by their contracts. They don’t have the freedom to play when they want and do as they please.
The beautiful thing about sports is that in some cases, if gives people a way out. Many players come from tough backgrounds where drugs and jail surround them. They play sports to escape the danger that surrounds them for a short period of time. In such a case, these players are really playing according to Hulzinga.
At the end of the day, these athletes get to play what they love everyday while making a living out of it. And that is awesome!