Laughter in popular games and in sport. The other health of human play.Gesnerus. 2013;70(1):127-50
Authors: Eichberg H
Hurling in Cornwall, la soule in Britanny, Shrovetide football in England: Popular games have normally been treated as forerunners of modern sport, sport having regulated the space and the time of the game, the (non-) violence of behaviour, the control of results, the planning, strategy, tactics, techniques and evaluation of the competitive action. This is told as a story of social improvement and progress--and about turning unhealthy wildness into civilized 'healthy' sport activity. What sociological analysis of game-playing tended to ignore was the laughter of the participants. With the seriousness of modern sport, as it was established in the nineteenth century, a culture of laughter disappeared. This study tries to counter this mainstream by a phenomenology of laughter in popular games. A contrasting attention is turned towards the seriousness of sporting competition, the smile in modern sport and fitness, and the 'underground' dimension of laughter in modern sports. By comparative analysis, laughter reveals as a bodily discourse about the imperfect human being. It tells an oppositional story about the perfectionism in the order of Western thinking--in sports as well as in health. The bodily 'physiology' of laughter, the exploding psychical energy, and the inter-bodily social relations in laughter and play and game point towards the multi-dimensionality of health, as it was formulated by WHO: as "physical, mental, and social well-being".