Is commercialization being over done?
We have a choice – at all times – to choose our response to any stimuli
Well, this blog was sparked off by the recent “match fixing”, betting, corruption and such other controversies! I seem to be taking on topics that are bound to invokke some strong reactions, both for and against!!
However, when I started thinking about it, it seems to me that the predominant thinking now seems to be that any activity must be “commercially” viable for it to succeed or to be perceived for the doer to be considered successful. Come to think of it, we even have phrases that seem to suggest that one must not be nice – if one were to succeed – I am referring to such statements like “nice guys finish last”.
Take some of the “charitable activities” that are in vogue today – even something like a social cause of poverty allieviation and feeding those who are unable to get a decent meal seems to be looked at from a ROI perspective. I am not saying that this is wrong, FAR FROM IT. I believe that anything needs to be viable and optimally run to make the greatest effect. For example, the company/group where I used to work prided itself on saying that all CSR initiatives were also managed with the same rigour and focus that was accorded to other “commercial” ventures. This was said more to drive home the point that CSR initiatives were equally, if not more important, and nothing else.
However, when something like a sport becomes “entertainment” then everything that stands for sportsmanship goes down the drain, I begin to wonder.This led me to do a web search on the etymology of the word “sport”. A search in The Online Etymology Dictionary gives the following result (emphasis supplied):
c.1400, “to take pleasure, to amuse oneself,” from Anglo-Fr. disport, from O.Fr. desport “pastime, recreation, pleasure,” from desporter “to divert, amuse, please, play” (see disport). Sense of “to amuse oneself by active exercise in open air or taking part in some game” is from late 15c. Meaning “to wear” is from 1778.
mid-15c., “pleasant passtime,” from sport (v.). Meaning “game involving physical exercise” first recorded 1520s. Original sense preserved in phrases such as in sport “in jest” (mid-15c.). Sense of “stylish man” is from 1861, Amer.Eng., probably because they lived by gambling and betting on races. Meaning “good fellow” is attested from 1881 (e.g. be a sport, 1913). The sport of kings was originally (1660s) war-making. Sportswear is from 1912. Sports car first attested 1928. Sportscast first recorded 1938. Sportsman first recorded 1706. Sporting “characterized by conduct constant with that of a sportsman” is attested from 1799 (e.g. sporting chance, 1897).
So, since when did “sport” become “entertainment?” So, in keeping with my etymological pursuit, I again tried to understand what this word/term meant – and what turned up?
1530s, “provision for support of a retainer; manner of social behavior,” now obsolete, along with other 16c. senses; from entertain + -ment. Meaning “the amusement of someone” is from 1610s; “that which entertains” is from 1650s; “public performance or display meant to amuse” is from 1727.
So, I presume that it’s reasonable to think that “sport” initially started as a means to amuse oneself and then slowly but surely moved to become entertainment – the Roman “circus” is a prime example, I think (Thanks Goscinny and Uderzo for Asterix!) However, while I think sports as entertainment has been going along quite well, betting has come by and introduced a shade that, in my personal opinion, is completely unnecessary.
So, since when did “betting” become entertainment?
1590s, in the argot of petty criminals; probably aphetic of abet, or from obsolete beet “to make good,” from O.E. bætan “make better, arouse, stimulate,” from P.Gmc. *baitjanan. The original notion is perhaps “to improve” a contest by wagering on it, or it is from the “bait” sense in abet. Used since 1852 in various Amer.Eng. slang assertions (cf. you bet “be assured,” 1857). Related: Betting.
I have seen many times on the golf course that many cannot play a game unless there is a “stake” – and they state that the “stake” however small it might be, brings out the competitive spirit in them. I am reminded of an interaction I had with a fine gentleman and a good friend – some years ago. I had been playing golf for about 18 months at that time. I then met this person at the 19th hole – and he was asking me how my game was coming along. He followed it up with a query on “the stakes I played to”. I asked him to explain his question. He then explained that there was a “stake” that one put up. I blurted out (how naieve), “Is that not gambling? I do not gamble.” He retorted, “then your game will never improve”. I do not know what really came over me then – and I retorted, rather brusquely and angrily, “Well, my handicap has come down to 13 from 26 in just over a year. For me, the motivation is from within, I am rather sad that you say that money motivates you”. The moment I said the last sentence, I wished that I had not said it. However, as they say, words once said cannot be taken back. While I might have looked at it simplistically, the core theme is that motivation has to come from within.
So, the ORIGINAL concept of a “bet” was to make the contest better – seeing the similarity of the words, it probably is obvious. And, in that context, my friend might have been right in suggesting that there MUST be a stake, however, small.
However, can one justify the manner in which “betting” has turned out today? It is almost being used like a lottery and, in my opinion, requires the same level of skill :). So, the stakes become higher and higher and everything then gets blown out of proportion and out of context. And that’s only half, or even less, the story!
The other half, or probably more, is the advent of “advertisement”, or more specifically, “endorsements”. Here again, I am tempted to go into the etymology – and perhaps might run the risk of a few of you who read this coming to visit me with the primary motive of “teaching me a lesson – on NOT to teach English lessons”.
mid-15c., “written statement calling attention to” something, “public notice” (of anything, but often of a sale); from Fr. avertissement, from stem of avertir (see advertise). Meaning “public notice” (usually paid), the main modern sense, emerged 1580s and was fully developed by 18c.
early 15c., “to take notice of,” from M.Fr. advertiss-, prp. stem of a(d)vertir “to warn,” from L. advertere “turn toward,” from ad- “toward” (see ad-) + vertere “to turn” see versus). Sense shifted to “to give notice to others, warn” (late 15c.) by influence of advertisement. Original meaning remains in advert “to give attention to.”
late 14c. endosse “alteration,” from O.Fr. endosser (12c.), lit. “to put on back,” from en- “put on” (see en- (1)) + dos “back,” from L. dossum, variant of dorsum. Sense of “confirm, approve” (by signing on the back) is recorded in English first in 1847. Assimilated 16c. in form to M.L. indorsare. Related: Endorsed; endorsing.
You can endorse, literally, a cheque or other papers, &, metaphorically, a claim or argument, but to talk of endorsing material things other than papers is a solecism. [Fowler]
For those of you who think that this is turning out to be an English / Etymology lesson, please accept my apologies. I promise you, that this would be the last of the “etymology” lessons (at least in this blog 🙂 ).
So, today the norm seems t be more of endorsements and less of advertisements! I also think that this is probably coming about due to the fact that the key personnel in the company that advertises wants to hob-nob with these personalities and are more likely to adopt a celebrity endorsement over a regular advertisement! And a by product is that the company’s products are being advertised and sold! 🙂 I have a few close friends who are from the advertising / marketing space and I am bound to get an earful from then for this statement! 🙂
It is a completely different point however that shows fickle and shallow nature of the buyer – who seems to think that a product is good just because a well known personality “endorses” it. While this might have been the way it started, today it has lost all relevance – primarily because many of the “endorsers” will pretty much endorse anything, as long as the price is right! That IS a sweeping statement – and I make it consciously. There are a few who do not endorse any products, Rajnikanth, for one! 🙂 And on that count, I MUST agree that Kamal Hassan has also been quite clear that he will not endorse any product.
The aim of any budding cricketer today seems to be to get into the Indian Cricket team, at any cost, and the aim seems to be to make money, rather than to play cricket. I do not have a problem with anyone making money – as long as you state it to be so.
Put all of these things together and bring them to a boil – am sure that we have a very volatile and highly unpredictable mixture – and outcomes such as the current “match fixing” controversy are the result. There are always claims that there are vested interests at play, in almost anything. I was speaking with a fellow traveller on the flight the other day and got a very interesting viewpoint regarding the selection for the Indian Cricket Team.
The opinion that was stated was that many of the high profile “endorsing” cricketers were being propped up by the company whose products they endorsed. There was a reference to a very popular and well known international brand that sells soft drinks as a company that lobbied for and ensured that the players “endorsing” their products were in the team, whether they deserved to be there or not. The fact that this was an opinion voiced by a person close to the powers that be in the cricketing circles, lent it a whole lot of credence to me.
Look also at the imbroglio in the IPL – and the shenanigans of all concerned. I also think that all politicians have taken Lord Jesus Christ’s words as gospel – WHEN IT SUITS them. I say this since they seem to follow only “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!” Would it not be useful for them to re-visit the teachings in the holy books (Bible / Gita / Koran / Torah / Guru Granth Sahib and all others that I am ignorant of).
So, the point (I can hear those of you who have read this blog up to here going, “finally, phew!!”) I am making is this. Has commercialization taken over all other virtues and values, in all walks of life? And, do we, as individuals have a choice or a role in making a difference?
Well, a question that might come up in your mind is , “What can I do to stop this?” A LOT, if you ask me! For starters, you can choose to boycott all products that are being “endorsed” for commercial reasons. You can choose NOT to watch cricket (or any other game that has the potential to be “fixed”). You can choose to stop watching new channels and reading news papers that spew this nonstop nonsense all the time. And if you are thinking, well, this guy (Cheenu / GS) has lost his marbles – well, I can empathise with you. 🙂 🙂 I would like to say again, whatever you focus on is what you get in your life. For example, if I were to make a statement such as, “Please DO NOT THINK of an elephant”, I can readily take a bet (pun and irony intended) that the first image that flashes in your mind is that of an elephant. That’s because the human brain cannot process negatives.
It has also been shown through some detailed studies that the human brain reacts faster, stronger and for longer to “threats” and anything else that we like to be “away from”. And on the contrary the human brain reacts slower, weaker and for a lot lesser time, for things that we want and would like to manifest in our lives. For those of you who would want to know more about this, you could watch a Google Video titled “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock – this was a talk that he gave to employees at Google. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeJSXfXep4M)
And for those of you who think that I am being “old fashioned” and “idealistic” I would call your attention to these words of Pastor Martin Niemöller, who wrote about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
There is another such story about the animals in the farm as well – and we are all aware of this. So, if you want to have some say in YOUR life, I’d suggest that you start taking control – exercise your choice in terms of anything that you bring / manifest in your life. Say NO to bribes and YES to living with integrity at all times, whatever the cost / provocation. Say NO to sensationalism – by CHOOSING NOT to watch any TV channel or read any news paper that peddles it and say YES to helping those whom you know have been affected and need help. Say NO to using “influence” to do something that is improper / dishonest and say YES to making an honest and sincere attempt to succced and do the things that matter. I could go on and on – and will desist from doing so, by exercising MY choice 🙂 And yes, you had a choice to stop reading this whenever you wanted to, and to choose not to read any more of my blogs!
Thanks for stopping by at my page – and I hope I have intrigued you enough to start pondering, if you haven’t already.
Thanks again, and I pray for and wish the best of health and happiness to you.
Cheenu / GS