A League Of Their Own

While the Olympic Games are somewhat familiar in terms of their connection with politics and even pagan religion [1]. Yet while the Olympics are familiar, there are some major concerns that some people might have about such a competition. By and large, the Olympics are a contest that favors either large nations that have enough money to devote to resources in a wide variety of sports (nations like the United States, Russia, China, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, and so on) or nations which specialize in a few sports that they are good at and have the logistical capability to handle easily (like Kenyans with long distance running or the Dutch with speedskating and so on). Yet there are nations which have very little if any chance of winning any kind of athletic glory in such a competition. As inspiring as the movie “Cool Runnings” is with its story about the Jamaican bobsled team, the possibility of any kind of success for such an effort, or a Tongan alpine skier for that matter, is extremely remote because of the disadvantages of economics of scale and training opportunities.

While looking up information about the EU accession talks of some small European nations, I randomly came across a biennial games that included Europe’s smaller nations, all of which are sovereign states and members of the European Olympic Committee, that play a certain amount of sports with their own medals [2]. To be sure, few people outside of those nine nations (Cyprus, Iceland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Malta, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Andorra, and Montenegro) probably care much about the games, nor does it appear as if the small nations of Oceania or North America have their own games of their own. Nevertheless, just the idea of a competition with a set group of small nations that play a select group of sports with each other on an ongoing basis and that rotates among their small nations is an appealing way for athletes from such nations to find success in a competition that is fair.

Lest we think such a thing is entirely unfamiliar for Americans, let us ponder the way that college football is organized. It may seem odd for the small nations of Europe to have their own level of games, but we think nothing unusual of having multiple divisions of football, where we have a Football Bowl Subdivision with the largest teams, a Football Championship Subdivision for smaller colleges, and then Division II and Division III for still small colleges and even another division, NAIA, for schools that do not offer athletic scholarships at all but still wish to compete in some fashion with other schools of the same size. Likewise, high school sports is organized in almost all states via some kind of system of different school sizes, either four or six levels, generally, sometimes with different levels for public and private schools as well.

Of course, perhaps the most notable cases of people with games of their own came about because of exclusion from the games of others, like the Negro League baseball teams of the 1930’s and 1940’s, which spawned players who were instrumental in integrating baseball after World War II and others who have remained somewhat forgotten and obscure to this day, or those leagues that served as a substitute for leagues which could not play because of war (like the women of the movie “A League Of Their Own”). Yet it is one thing to play in a league with one’s peers for a fair and friendly competition and another thing to be excluded altogether from the best successes. One thing that makes the Games of the Small States of Europe so quirky is the fact that they are not undertaken for ethnic reasons or with political axes to grind, but are rather a way in which little nations have formed their own community of peers to compete with, whether the rest of the world wants to watch it or not. There is something rather quaint about that, something to celebrate, and something for others in the same kind of position to emulate.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/trapped-in-a-cul-de-sac-of-our-own-making/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/sochi-problems/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/games-people-play/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/passing-the-torch/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/sports-and-pagan-religion-a-preliminary-investigation/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Games_of_the_Small_States_of_Europe

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Musings, Sports and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A League Of Their Own

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