efforts at the Olympic trials. In those days, participants had tornswear the Olympic Oath, promising never to go professional,rni.e., to take money for sport. Something of the atmosphere ofrnrowing is reflected, mutatis mutandis, in the movie Chariots ofrnFire: one wanted desperately to win, but of course not to givernthe impression of being overiy concerned. Competition inrntrack meant entry to the British upper class for the Jew I laroldrnAbrahams; a way to glorify God for Erie Liddell. For both—rnand for the others—it was also something in itself.rnThose amateur days, days of what former President Bushrnmight have characterized as “kinder, gentler sport,” are nowrngone. The Olympics no longer bring merely the coveted gold,rnsilver, or bronze medals, but immense winner’s purses andrnlife-long advertising contracts. Avery Brundage is dead, andrnwith him the spirit of the modern Olympics, which PierrernCourbertin thought that he had faithfully reclaimed from ancientrnHellas. There, too, the “laurel wreath games” (agonesrnstephanitai) were not enough; there had also to be games withrnvaluable prizes or purses of money as rewards {agones thematikoirnor chrematitai). Sport did not long remain entirely amateur,rneven among the Olympians, and there are complaintsrnabout professionalization as eariy as the fifth century B.C.rnGames for fun—ludi; contests to test the absolute limits ofrnone’s strength—agones; sport for laurel wreaths, for gold, forrnmedals, for money, for fame, for girls, for advertising eontracts,rnfor an}’ or all of these reasons: all have been a seriousrnpreoccupation of boys, men, and even senior citizens fromrnthe earliest of days. Though women were involved in sports,rntoo—as they were in Greece, although their participation is farrnless fully documented than men’s—athletics historically play arnfar more central role in the life of boys and men than of girlsrnand women, and they do so e’en now, although the infamousrnTitle IX of a benevolent and all-wise government is seeking tornchange things. Relatives and students involved in high schoolrnand college coaching tell me that four times as many men volunteerrnfor sports as women. But Title IX regulations are forcingrnschools to equalize men’s and women’s sports, whichrnmeans that a fair number of men have to be banished from participationrnand a large number of women lured into it, withrnpotential, long-range consequences for the self-image and selfesteemrnof various members of one or the other sex. The evidencernis fairly clear, however; left to their own inclinations—rnwhether these inclinations are by nature or by conditioning—rnthe boys and men of the late 2()th century, like the boys andrnmen of the 30 recorded centuries past, find something fascinatingrnand compelling in sport, both as ludus (game) and asrnagon (struggle).rnWhy are males fascinated with game and struggle? It hasrnoften been postulated, or perhaps even claimed asrnproven, that a woman’s essential character is hers by nature,rnwhile a man’s must be acquired. Whether or not this sloganrnis true of women, it definitely is true of boys and men that almostrnall of us must do something before we can be anyone orrnanything. Something hard, something at least a bit dangerousrnat times, something that enables one to define oneself in therncompany of one’s peers.rnBoys and men fight—dangerously—more readily than girlsrnand women. Is this innate or conditioned? Whichever it is, itrnis a fact. Fighting, whether successfully or unsuccessfully, certainlyrndefines a boy or a man; but serious fighting, not tornmention war, is a costly way to gain definition, as it produces asrnmany losers as winners, and given the nature of male strength,rna high number of casualties. There is no slogan in modern warfare,rn”It matters not whether you win or lose, but how you fightrnthe fight,” to parallel the familiar “It matters not whether yournwin or lose, but how you play the game.”rn>ood male friendshipsrnmay develop in a varietyrnof ways, but one ofrnthe most tried and true is when men arernunited in a struggle against a commonrnenemy. It is seldom that good malernfriendships develop without a sharedrntask, or, even better, a shared foe.rnSport has frequently been a way of training and preparationrnfor military service and thus primarily a male concern. Indeed,rnin the Greek city-states, proficiency in sport was one way thatrna young man from a lower class could gain entry into the militaryrnand ultimately into a higher social status. Some eventsrnclearly have military utility, such as the javelin. Nevertheless,rnsport from the beginning has gone far beyond direct militaryrnutility. Although the Olympic Games included events thatrncould be dangerous—such as the pankration, an “anythingrngoes” fight—most events left the losers as well as the winnersrnintact—exhausted, perhaps, but intact.rnAt least from the well-documented early days in Greece,rnmost male sports require far more effort—sweat, tears, and occasionallyrnblood—than any tangible profit from them can justify.rnThe coveted laurel wreath of the Olympic victor couldrnhardly become a keepsake or family heirloom. Of course,rnsome events did bring a profit: a record from the fourth centuryrnnames 50 amphoras of oil as first prize in a stadium race (aboutrn400 yards). But most events did not, and, as even that earlyrnChristian sports commentator St. Paul wrote, “Know ye notrnthat they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth thernprize?” (I Corinthians 9:24). Yet all ran, and still run. Howrnmany foot-pounds of effort are expended by the tens of thousandsrnof runners of all ages in marathons across the country,rnmost of whom receive only a T-shirt for their efforts?rnThere seems to be some truth in the idea that a womanrnknows by nature what she is, while a man must measure himself.rnThe goal of Greek education was to help a boy grow up kalosrnkagathos (beautiful and good), and the idea that one shouldrncultivate a fine character to match a well-honed body was takenrnseriously, if not always followed. The Greeks of Homer’s dayrncompeted clothed, but by the fifth century athletes, at least thernmales, competed naked (the girls and women usually worernsomething). Whatever the function of nudity in competitionrnmay have been, it seems to symbolize the idea that in a race orrnmatch the man is revealed for who he is as well as for what herncan do.rnFEBRUARY 1994/21rnrnrn