The Loneliness of 'The Long Distance Runner' Essay

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Literature and Sports Essay:

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” (Wayne Gretzky). Sports can be seen as an important aspect of people’s culture in life. This is seen in all the novels that we have looked at throughout the course. Two books that have sports as an important part of culture are The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner and Fever Pitch. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner shows running as a culture in Smiths' life as he says that running is part of his family tradition especially running away from the police. In Fever Pitch sports it is seen as an important part of his family culture as it is the only time, he gets to spend with his father which then leads to a bonding experience between him and his friend. Sports can be seen as culture as we as fans think that we are a part of the team and we are always mentioning the team as “we”, suggesting that we are on the team instead of saying “they”.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner is about a boy named Smith who is a poor teenager from a dismal home in Nottingham, who is part of the working class. Throughout this book, it shows that running is an important aspect of Smith’s life and culture (Cengagee). Smith tells us that running is a big part of a family tradition, saying that in his family their tradition of running is involved with running away from the police (Cengagee). However, Smith robs a bakery for their cash and after this he gets arrested and put into a reform home they have a running team because they see running as a form of rehabilitation (Cengagee). They think that running can help you heal and that it shows that you are doing something good, I think that they just use it as an excuse to win races and give people the opportunity to not do their chores. His experience of running from the police makes him get picked to compete in the race, he accepts this offer as he gets to trade his chores there for going out on a five-mile early morning run every morning to get him prepared for the big race (Cengagee). The warden knows that Smith is going to win the race and that it will reflect the warden’s glory, he invites several friends to witness this competition as sports like running are part of their culture. The warden wants everyone to come and watch because he knows that Smith is going to win and he wants to show the other teams up, showing that he has the best runners and that it does help with rehabilitation. Although, Smith is a good runner and running is his culture he purposely loses the race because he wants to be honest with himself and everyone else, showing that he refuses to be manipulated (Mambrol). He does this because being honest is one of his biggest traits and he wants to show everyone that even if he is being manipulated he can still do what he chooses as he is honest to himself and others and his honesty shows that he enjoys running for the fun of it, not for the competitive part. His early morning runs of five miles allow him to prove his philosophy of life and his perceptions of society, these runs also help him think about self-revelation when he learns that his life on the streets weighs his opinions in life and he will always be seen as an outlaw in society by his unlawful actions (Sillitoe). Even though Smith is a great runner he realizes that no matter how good he is and whether he wins or loses the race he will always be seen as different, lower classed, and an outlaw. He comes to understand that he has a thing known as runner’s brain which shows that he loves running and that is what makes running part of his culture (McKeane). Smith uses this book as a way to share his public insights with the readers, he uses running as a metaphor for living and the tension that comes from living in the working class. When Smith runs in the story it shows isolation as running is a solo sport and that allows him to begin to understand and become aware of his culture. This shows that running connects to his culture as it gives him a chance to be alone and get away from his community and bad life (Brady). Smith noticed before the race that it was all about being professional and winning for everyone but he decided to lose the race because to him it was about his culture and having experience with it (Brady). The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is an incredible book that shows that sports as seen as culture and that there are different ways that culture can be expressed and shown in sports.

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Fever Pitch is an autobiography book written by Nick Hornby, he tells this story about his life and his experiences. It explores his love for football particularly with Arsenal Football Club. Nick's parents had divorced and that hit him hard as he is one of the only kids at school with divorced parents, this can be seen as really tragic for Nick considering that when you’re in high school if there is something different about you or your family, you aren’t liked as much and you are seen and known as different. (SuperSummary). After his dad left and got with another woman his dad took him to his first football game as a bonding experience that he can share with his son, before the match begins Nick tells his father that he has no interest in football this makes his dad upset as it is a way that they get to spend time together, which becomes a critical part of their culture and a critical part of the overall plot of the novel. After the first game, he informs his father that he enjoys football because for him football has become something that eases his pain away. However, after a game in 1968, he grew obsessed with football and became an avid fan. These games become the primary bond that he and his father share, as they start to go to all the Arsenal games together. A few years later his father moves away and it becomes a culture and tradition as he starts taking his friend's older brother to games (SuperSummary). When Nick turns 15, he gets his first girlfriend and is not into sports as much anymore, when his girlfriend dumps him right before a game he realizes that there is more out there in life than football and he stops going to games and starts focusing on university and getting a job. After going into a depressed state through university and not knowing what to do for a job or getting a job, and after seeing a psychiatrist he gets tickets to the 1987 semifinals game and this lifts him out of a downward spiral. He starts playing football with his friends in his twenties regularly and goes to a few Arsenal games as an adult and this helps him come full circle, this shows that even when he tries to get rid of his love for football he realizes that it is now a part of his cultural and is a tradition that he must keep to keep him from having a depressed life. Football then becomes a coping mechanism for his parents’ divorce, this is a good way for him to cope with his parents’ divorce as it gives him a distraction by not thinking about how his parents are divorced and how this is the only time that he gets to spend with his dad, it helps him feel like there can be good in his life after such a tragic time he went through finding out that his parents are divorcing and that his dad is seeing another woman (Nande). He never thought about the horrible and uncritical pain that loving football would bring to him by having to see them lose a lot and becoming disappointed. Smith became linked to the North London Football Club at a young age and into his early twenties, he believed strongly that the fortunes of both of these things were connected and that sometimes even after hating the club for being an addiction he couldn’t seem to give up on it because he was too obsessed and it became a culture and tradition for him and it became something that he loved (Nande). Every fan of a team will have the same thoughts, as to them the sport that they are watching becomes a part of them and they talk about it as they are on the team, us fans will say to other people “we won last night” as they are part of the team. Another way that they show that they are a part of the team is when we say “We are playing a certain team tonight” even though we should be saying “They are playing a certain team” (Nande). There are many proven facts that scientists have found that prove that being a sports fan can be good for your emotional, physical, and social health because it allows you to connect with others and it allows you to have someone that you can talk to about something interesting to you and about something that you share love and passion for. This is shown in Fever Pitch because it gives Nick and his dad and friend something to talk about and something, they can connect with in the same way (Hill). This also gives Nick a sense of belonging as he finds somewhere that he belongs in the world. Fever Pitch is a great book that shows sports as a culture and the things that people who are obsessed with a sport go through.

Sports are an important aspect of life as a tradition and as a culture and we see this in Fever Pitch and the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Both of these books show us how the characters in the books see sports as their culture and as an important aspect of their life and that trying hard at the sport or liking the sport can have a huge impact on the way that they think and feel about sports. For them, sports are a lifeline like food or water and it is the way that they live and the thing that they love doing the most. This is shown in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner when Smith runs for his reform homes team and it tells us that running is part of his culture and a family tradition. In Fever Pitch it is shown when Nicks's parents get a divorce and he goes to a football game with his father, knowing and expressing that he does not like football, however after watching his first game he becomes obsessed with the game and realizes that it is a bonding experience that he gets to share with his father and later on with one of his classmates older brothers. Both of these books show that sports are an important aspect of culture to people but they also show the problems and struggles that people go through for the things that they are interested in and love doing. Fever Pitch and the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner are two of the best books that show the relationship between sports and culture.

Work(s) Cited:

    1. Brady, Tony. 'The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner.' 1960. Icconoclasses. 25th November 2020.
    2. Cengagee. 'The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Runner By Alan Sillitoe, 1959.' 22 November 2020. ENCYCLOPEDIA.COM. 24 November 2020.
    3. Hill, Lisa O'Neill. 'The healthy flip side of being a sports fan.' 13th April 2012. CNN Health. 25th November 2020.
    4. Mambrol, Nasrullah. 'Analysis of Alan Sillitoe’s Stories.' 23 June 2020. Wilfred Laurier University. 24 November 2020.
    5. McKeane, John. 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner – running a blog book club.' 15th May 2013. Support the Guarduan . 24 November 2020.
    6. Nande, Anushree. 'Book Review: Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby.' 2013. Football Paradise. 25 November 2020.
    7. Sillitoe, Alan. 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.' 2020. notes. 24 November 2020.
    8. SuperSummary. 'Fever Pitch.' n.d. SuperSummary. 24 November 2020.
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