Newsweek Exclusive: Christopher Hitchens Hates Sports, Doesn’t “Believe in Miracles”


Christopher, why don’t you tell us what you really think about sporting events because I don’t believe your latest Newsweek piece, “Fool’s Gold,” did the job.

With trademark flourish, you revealed a portfolio of the world’s worst behavior, decrying sports competition as the catalyst.  As your subtitle stated,

How the Olympics and other international competitions breed conflict and bring out the worst in human nature.

Human nature? A definition would be helpful.  If men are fundamentally good (as the converse of “worst” of human nature suggests), what, then, is the panacea for what ails mankind?  Aside from ending sports competition, that is.

In fairness, I cede your point that such contests can function as a spark, igniting an already-volatile situation between countries or people-groups. But, is it only sporting events which–pardon the pun–get the ball rolling?  Weren’t these conditions latent prior? The event can hardly be to blame except, perhaps, exacerbating said preexisting tension.  If the event is at fault for provoking poor behavior, what about other competition?  How about Spelling Bees and Science Fairs? Chess matches? Theological debates? Not mentioning the business world or political campaigns.  Dear Hitch, (blogger evokes John Lennon) imagine all the people, living live without competition…you can do it if you try!  Yes, well, people have and it’s called Communism.

Aside from this, are there not more immediate “sparks” to squelch rather than wagging your finger at the Olympics, et al? As a cross-cultural pursuit, sports provide far more enjoyment, goodwill, national pride and admitted distraction for people from the difficulty of their daily lives than it does harm.

Ultimately, Hitchens, this is a cheap shot, a foul ball…a poor play.  You bricked it. What would you recommend as the world’s primary form of entertainment or diversion, particularly in the poorer nations you listed?  Sitting in drawing rooms sipping sherry discussing the philosophical import of the latest Ellis novel?

Oh, right.  You’d recommend whiskey.

(Don’t take this the wrong way.  I still adore you.)