Men – and some women – watch football, dispute and debate football, and even occasionally kick a ball around, because it offers them a small-scale model of life, not necessarily because it distracts them from life altogether. Claude Lévi-Strauss observed in The Savage Mind that the virtue of a small-scale model is that it sacrifices the sensible in favour of the intelligible. Life, it is true, can be grasped in all its confused futility merely by opening one’s eyes and sitting passively, a spectator on the stands of history – but to understand the social processes and conflicts, the interplay between individual and group, even the physicality of human experience, we have need of small-scale models.
I heard recently that Tim Robbins is involved with theater workshops in California state prisons. What a great idea.