Wabi Sabi for football

Came across a new esthetic ideal the other day, which was a shocker to me, since I’ve been a beauty hound since I was a kid. An esthetician of the non-hairstylist type. The only thing I like better than beauty is happiness…and since to me they’re synonymous—voila!

The name for this beauty, or this Japanese style of beauty, is wabi sabi. As one might imagine, it partakes of the zen loveliness of a Japanese garden, leaning toward minimalism, in Western terms. The phrase comes from two words originally: wabi, meaning poverty, and sabi, meaning loneliness.

How cool is that? Pretty darn poetical, I’d say.

The most inspirational image of this style, for me, comes from the poet Basho, who said that an overdone artwork is like “painting a flower on a flower petal.” That is, let nature be, don’t futz around too much making things pretty. Let it go.

To Basho and his wabi sabi buddies, beauty is fundamental and universal, way beyond mere emotion. Way I reckon it, beauty is the building block of the universe, the one indivisible atomos of the Greek ideal. There’s molecules and atoms and electrons and quarks and gluons and as one goes deeper and deeper into the heart of reality, one finally arrives at the building block of matter: beauty. Whether it is a wave, a particle, or a doily has yet to be determined.

So what has that got to do with football? Everything, dude. Football is the most beautiful violence of all time: brutal ballet, except better. Like most violence that’s worth a damn, it requires officiating. And with officials come mistakes.


That’s where wabi sabi comes in, or anti-wabi sabi in this case. Since it wasn’t perfect, we had to make it better: that is to preclude all mistakes via instant replay. Supposedly, one could check back to make sure no mistakes were made, and then it would be perfect. Bullshit, they made it way worse—destroyed the integral fluidity of the game. It’s frankly horrific, esthetically.

All to avoid mistakes. Good luck with that. Blown replays are common as assholes.



Filed under: Spirituality, Writing | Posted on January 16th, 2012 by LWIII

3 Responses to “Wabi Sabi for football”

  1. Tom I wrote a post about wabi sabi a couple years back if your interested. I missed the connection to football I’m afraid.

    I really like the aesthetic and have been trying to incorporate it into designs more and more since learning about it.

    Who’d a thunk instant replay was the anti-wabi-sabi. I see it now though.

  2. LWIII says:

    Hey Steve, very cool post, a great intro to wabi sabi. I’m just learning about it, so that’s just the ticket. I find the esthetic principle excellent for writing, to find profundity in simplicity and not try to stuff everything in there.

    One of your links mentioned that there are no books in Japanese on wabi sabi. Now that’s wabi-sabi!


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