Christopher Hitchens and Claudius Galenus on Sports

Dave Zirin in The Nation:

Hitchenscigarettecoat Nuance is the mortal enemy of essayist Christopher Hitchens. Whether it's his rapturous support for Bush's Iraq invasion or his best-selling dismissal (God is NOT Good) of religion, Hitchens will always eschew a surgical analysis for the rhetorical amputation. Beneath the Oxford education, he has become Thomas Friedman in an ascot, with all the subtlety of a blowtorch.

Now Hitchens has turned his attention to sports and the ensuing essay in Newsweek, called “Fool's Gold: How the Olympics and other international competitions breed conflict and bring out the worst in human nature” is everything you might fear. I'm no fan of the politics that surround the Olympic games but when Hitchens takes out his dull saw, nothing connected to sports is spared.

More here. In defense of Hitchens, I also present somethin written by the Roman physician Galen a couple of thousand years ago, and unearthed (for me, I mean) by Justin E. H. Smith:

ScreenHunter_05 Feb. 13 11.20 All natural blessings are either mental or physical, and there is no other category of blessing. Now it is abundantly clear to everyone that athletes have never even dreamed of mental blessings. To begin with, they are so deficient in reasoning powers that they do not even know whether they have a brain. Always gorging themselves on flesh and blood, they keep their brains soaked in so much filth that they are unable to think accurately and are as mindless as dumb animals.

Perhaps it will be claimed that athletes achieve some of the physical blessings. Will they claim the most important blessing of all: health? You will find no one in a more treacherous physical condition… Their sleep is also immoderate. When normal people have ended their work and are hungry, athletes are just getting up from their naps. In fact, their lives are like those of pigs, except that pigs do not overexert or force feed themselves…

More here.

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