No one can doubt that the advance of socialism and the welfare state in the last 70 years has been in close-order step with the rise of team sports. Thus, to put it mildly, one’s surprise at the indifference of those who defend, often militantly, the capitalist or free enterprise ethic. One would expect them to be in the forefront of the concern over our addiction to team sports and the associated conditioning. Instead they are silent. Conceivably there is a subjective reaction, such as that manifested this year in the rejection by Republicans of Jack Kemp or the reluctance of Bill Bradley to become involved. But this, to say the least, is highly speculative. Amidst the fervent talk of improved education in the campaign this autumn there will be, we may be sure, no mention of this socialist conditioning.
It is, no doubt, too late for any really effective movement to abolish team sports - in the modern phrase, to restructure our athletic life. We might hold the line at where we are, resisting, for example, the frequently proposed intrusion of soccer into our culture. Soccer is, unquestionably, a team sport, although the social ethic is somewhat relieved, one judges, by a certain unlicensed individualism on the part of its British spectators.
Perhaps better, and the best we can now do, is to encourage and emphasize those athletic activities that rise above group effort - track, fencing, tennis singles, swimming, boxing and weight lifting. Once, many years ago, when I first became aware of the socialist threat, I identified and publicly proposed the needed organization, a Crusade for Individualist Athletes -C.I.A., as I recall. It seemed a promising suggestion. Quite a few people wrote me in support. Alas, however, I became a victim of my own indiscriminate enthusiasm. I cited baseball as one of the socialist sports, whereupon indignant letters poured in. “Let me tell you something, Casey, when you’re up there at bat, you’re on your own.”