chapter  8
6 Pages

Fictions, facts, binaries and places

Clearly, a huge amount of sports writing supports the status quo, that is, the voices that contribute to the pro-sport discourse outlined in my opening chapter, including the many hagiographies and the regular newspaper reports of sporting contests. To these could be added the writings of many sports histories, works that often degenerate into gazetteers of results, performances or sensationalism. While literary fiction might be equally banal, German scholars Hans Lenk and Gunter Gebauer have addressed the question of the critical possibilities of sports writing. They suggest that sports fiction possesses a critical potential that is lost by those works that simply seek to reconstruct sporting events.2 ‘Narratives in sport literature’, they add, ‘have a greater flexibility than historical reports.’3 Likewise, John Carey adds that a writer of fiction can go much further than a scientist, changing the world in fictional terms in a way that mortals only dream of.4 It is not that scientist and novelist deal with different objects but that they deal with the same objects in different ways.5 Jeffrey Hill notes that a fictional work is unlike an ‘objective’ academic study in that it ‘does not stand outside its subject’.6 Some of the enduring qualities of sport such as pain and camaraderie, for example, are not analysed in fictional work but are presented more as existential statements of what sporting work and life are like. And fiction does not necessarily set out to represent some kind of ‘reliable’ form of the world but, often, to play with it (as in the work, for example, of Charles Dodgson and Philip Roth). Sport is not only constructed and reconstructed through fiction: as this book has attempted to show, it is also deconstructed.