Influence of sport on the arts, literature, music and cultural identity

The story

“After many years, having seen many things, what I know most surely about morality and the obligations of men, I learned from sport … ” – Albert Camus

“He shoots, he scores!” These four little words are indelibly etched onto the cultural identity of many Canadians. It was coined by one of the most famous sport broadcasting voices, Foster Hewitt, whose play-by-play style had a major impact on hockey and Canadian popular culture.

Sports and athletes have inspired artists for millennia. Some of these products – whether visual art, music or literature – have expressed extraordinary, even awe-inspiring feats of strength, skill and athletic achievement. Other times, sport has been presented as a metaphor for daily life – for the challenges we encounter, for strength, endurance, suffering and loss. The role of sport in a broader cultural landscape has also been explored in art – sport as big business, spectacle or national pastime.

To many, sport is more than a competition. It is a passion born in youth that plays a large role in personal identity and development. Events, terminology, personalities and symbols taken from sports have become cultural touchstones that, when seen or heard, evoke shared experience and community. Such touchstones include Frank Lennon’s iconic photograph of Paul Henderson celebrating his famous goal in the 1972 Summit Series, or Donovan Bailey carrying the Canadian flag over his head after winning Olympic gold. These moments were all created with an audience in mind – they were directed toward a community of viewers; they were meant to be shared, revisited and recontextualized.

As forms of media have developed over the last century – from newspapers and radio broadcasts to live televised sporting matches and up-to-the-minute Tweets – sport has continued to navigate its way through our cultural fabric and into our daily lives.