Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Touching the Stars

Watching a replay of the cyclists climbing the Angliru during this Summer's Vuelta a España, what struck me was not the competition for the podium, nor Contador's superhuman effort to win the stage. Rather, I noticed all the people reaching out to push, or simply to touch, the riders as they passed (in the following clip, look particularly around 4m30sec and again at 8m30sec).

Certainly, people want to help the cyclists who are fighting to get up a route that kicks up to an inhuman 23% incline (if you don't cycle, trust me, that is an absolutely impossible gradient), but I'm not sure that explains all the touching going on, particularly since some of the cyclists were penalized for getting little boosts early during the race.

I was hoping to wait until I had developed a general theory for touching athletes, but I don't have one, so I'll throw the question out to you. People love touching athletes whether giving them high-fives, patting them on the back, or shaking their hand. Is it a fascination with a finely tuned body? Is there something erotic about it? Are athletes like a medieval king who represented God and could heal with his touch?

I think it is different than most celebrities (I don't see people slapping actors on the butt as they walk along the red carpet, although it has probably happened)--there is something unique about an athlete's body that makes people "reach out and touch someone." What is it?


SM Sprenger said...

Maybe Curt Cobain has the answer you're looking for in his "All Apologies" !!

What else could I say?
Everyone is gay.
What else could I write?
I don't have the right.
What else should I be?
All Apologies.

Anonymous said...

If you've ever seen a group of teeny-boppers (or "Tweens" as we now call them) at a boy band concert, you'll agree that the touching phenomenon extends beyond the athletic arena.

The same was true at both Obama and (believe it or not) McCain rallies. Look at the footage: everyone wanted their hand touched.

Maybe it's just a desire for contact with celebrity--no matter how meaningless.