There are two versions of sport in the world right now. There is the sport that you do, the sweaty and the skilful alike, and then there is the sport you watch, whether that is up close and personal or expensively channelled through the TV. It is all good. But like so much else in life, what is important is getting the proper balance.

If you compete, or even if you are just a recreational athlete, there is always so much you can learn from watching the pros. What they do can not only be educational, it can be truly inspirational too. And sometimes it doesn’t even have to be human athletes who inspire. In fact, there is an innocence to equine sports in particular that is impossible to resist.

Sometimes watching horse racing, especially over jumps, the bravery and the willingness to race that you see from the animals involved, is truly remarkable. The knowledge that they are so willingly taking their life in their hands only adds to the sense of something really special taking place. It is not how it normally feels when you compete yourself, and it certainly isn’t ordinarily how most human sport works.

b
by  narcolepsy_ 

Horse racing is a great example, because there are human competitors in the mix as well. It means there are some remarkable back stories that can really bring the spectacle to life. In UK jump racing there is a jockey called AP McCoy who has been a record-breaking winner over the past 19 years. His achievements are on a par with anything that anyone has ever achieved in any sport. He has just announced that he is to retire. It means that every time he races over the next few weeks the scenes will be hugely emotional. The combination of that incredible record of success with the innocent majesty of his mounts makes for a truly emotional spectacle.

And it is that emotion that is the key part of spectating. It means giving a little of yourself to the event, letting yourself imagine the trials and the strains that those involved have had to endure. It means understanding that just as you or I experience emotional highs and lows, the same is true of elite performers, even if they work hard not to show it. Weakness is never allowed to be part of the competitive front they put on, and that must bring its own strains.

The buzz that you get from working out yourself, or competing directly with someone else brings an immediate and uncomplicated reward. Do well, you feel good. Do badly and you have to go away and lick your wounds. But that downside is part of what makes the good times so sweet. Winning and losing are the yin and the yang of sport.  You can’t have one without the other.

c
by  Anna Tesar 

There are an awful lot of people who simply spectate superficially. They’ll take in the game or the race, and aside from the technicalities and the outcome they don’t really engage. Those people are missing out. The real joy of sport as a spectacle is imagining yourself beneath the skin of those involved. And not just in terms of what it feels like to win, but what it means to starve yourself for a week, to be away from your loved ones for weeks at a time, to know that every single twinge in your muscles could spell the end of years of work. That sort of sensibility makes watching sport so compelling. But of course, to truly know what that is like, you have to get out and do some sport for yourself as well. It is a matter of balance.