Last night I was at a delightful gala dinner meeting of the Anal G. Méndez University System. People of all sectors of the society were celebrating the extraordinary accomplishment of raising a four million-scholarship fund that will be complemented by the same amount by the university system. The recipients are talented young people lacking economic resources. The former president of committee was the distinguished Mario Gaztambide and the incoming star was Miguel Vázquez Deynes. The academic entrepreneur José "Pepito" Méndez was all happiness due to this formidable achievement. The incoming Board of directors` President, Dr. Celia Cintrón, also contributed to the beauty of the activity.
During the table conversation a woman lively asked me "Why is it that in Puerto Rico we have an enormous interest in spectator sports"? Her latent premise was that spectator sports were not necessarily accompanied by a widespread participation in sport. So I answered that people love sports as fans, as people who do not engage in the physical work of the game, but who vicariously participate in an imagined community of meaning and purpose, in whish "we" are fighting against someone or some of them. We passionately observed this phenomenon in the Trinidad - De la Olla fight. The sense of a participation in a large community, especially a community that is outside the normal constraints and acts out of its enthusiasm and behaves in ways that are not controlled, is what makes sports, but also music concerts and spectacles so energetically exciting.
Though the form of these pseudo-communities replicates the competition of the larger market, it is not the competition of all against all, but rather of the "we against we", in which our "we" re-affirms a sense of home and place. It is a pseudo-community because the connections last only as long as the game and the victory party, but do not expand to the rest of our lives and emotions.
Another person inquired, during the conversation, if those public events, of any kind had an enduring quality on the behavior of the people, and my answer was No. Those in our pseudo-community don`t worry about us when we are sick or have a family problem or when we may experience difficulties at work. The momentary high quickly will disappear and life situation will remain unchanged. Yet, like every momentary "high", it feels good while it last. Here we are faced with an extraordinary organizational sociology principle: the hungrier people are for some kind of connection that allows them to experience being part of the "we", the more frenetic or intense is their connection to the spectacle, the team, the artist or the athlete involved.
With this kind of attachment, people begin to see their lives as being validated or negated, depending on how the team or the spectacle is doing. This can explain the development of a kind of fantasy that we are winning or losing, and that we are the best or not. To certain point, we are referring to arenas in which rewards hopefully should be allocated according to merit. Expertise and capabilities should shape chances for success. Sometimes with the surge of energy, people transcend the emotional deadness of some workplaces. For that very reason, people will talk about sports, spectacles and Miss Puerto Rico confirming that they are still alive.
By the way, the Ana G. Méndez University System is la truly and lively learning community.
Copyright 1999 QBS, Inc.