Viswa Subbaraman

Opera and Orchestra Conductor

The Beautiful Game!

As most of you know, I’m a pretty die-hard college basketball fan.  (Another shout out to my 2010 National Champion Duke University Blue Devils!)  But, I’m pretty stoked about the World Cup starting tomorrow.  (A spoiler alert – I will most likely not talk much about music in this post). I was listening to BBC’s World Have Your Say yesterday afternoon on KUHF’s HD channel 3, and they had an interesting discussion involving artists, poets and business folk.  The question was whether soccer is an art form.  (They also discussed whether soccer was one of man’s greatest inventions, but I’m going to skip that portion of the discussion).  What I found interesting were the number of artists who took offense (or since it was on the BBC offence) at the question having even been posed.  As a musician, many of the offended struck me as simply being jealous – of course in our culture, sports figures make more money, get more publicity, and are heralded more than artists.  I count myself as one who thinks that’s a bit of a shame, but as a sports’ fan myself, I’m not sure I’m in the position to argue much.

I do have to say, though, that I truly think there are some athletes who transcend the game and truly become artists.  (I also think there are some artists who transcend the mundane and truly become artists).  Michael Jordan is the first who comes to mind.  (The dark blue side of me cringes).  What he was able to do with the basketball was truly artistic.  My favorite Jordan moment was when he went up to dunk the ball, saw Sam Perkins coming over, switches hands and lays the ball in – all in midair.  Larry Bird was another one!  What passing ability!


But, the focus should be on the World Cup.  It starts tomorrow.  Pele is still the gold standard artist of the game, but in my memory, it has to be Zidane.  His ability to control the ball and rule the midfield was artistic.  Check out this video.  If a ballet dancer is considered an artist, why can’t great football players also be in the running?  (That can include Barry Sanders, Peyton Manning, or any number of American football greats.)


The level of mastery some of these players show is akin to a great musician, dancer, painter, or sculptor.  I was amazed that many of the arguments from the “sportsmen can’t be considered as artists” camp came because of the lack of intellectualism.  That argument is so elitist.  The training athletes go through to understand tactics, their teammates’ movements, what to do with the ball, etc. are pretty intellectually demanding.  Is it similar to understanding Camus?  No, but I can tell you there are some pretty “unintellectual” musicians who are brilliant artists.

In the end, art endeavors to create beauty and order.  Watching some of these players make such beautiful moves with the ball – hanging in midair, switching hands while a defender comes over to block you? – and these teams play with such order (Germany?) – how can we NOT see the art in it.

Enjoy a month of the beautiful game.  I know I will.  Allez les bleus!  (Please don’t let Domenech screw up a great team!)  Go USA!

Next week, I'll tell you about the cool Opera Vista developments!