Sport and literature today, a multiple artistic experience

Deporte y literatura hoy, una vivencia artística múltiple


Director of idiomaydeporte.com


Jesús Castañón Rodríguez







          This study examines the relationship of sport and the literature in Spain in the next century. He Describes its main characteristics in the production of literature of creation, the media, mythology, knowledge and the promotion of reading and the lyrics. He Was presented as paper presented at the XXVI Encuentro de Escritores y Críticos de las Letras Españolas en Verines who organized Subdirección General de Promoción del Libro, la Lectura y las Letras Españolas del Ministerio de Cultura del Gobierno de España, Universidad de Salamanca, Principado de Asturias and la Fundación Príncipe de Asturias in Pendueles (Asturias) in September 2010.

          Key words: Sport sciences. Literature.



          Este estudio analiza las relaciones del deporte y la literatura en España en el siglo XXI. Describe sus principales características en la producción de literatura de creación, los medios de comunicación, la mitología, el conocimiento y la promoción de la lectura y de las letras. Se presentó como ponencia en el XXVI Encuentro de Escritores y Críticos de las Letras Españolas en Verines que organizaron la Subdirección General de Promoción del Libro, la Lectura y las Letras Españolas del Ministerio de Cultura del Gobierno de España, la Universidad de Salamanca, el Principado de Asturias y la Fundación Príncipe de Asturias en Pendueles (Asturias) en septiembre de 2010.

          Palabras clave: Ciencias del deporte. Literatura.


EFDeportes.com, Revista Digital. Buenos Aires, Año 15, Nº 150, Noviembre de 2010. http://www.efdeportes.com/

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    In the twenty-first century, sports literature has been renewed in Europe with various activities that exalt the relationship between intelligence and sport and promote balance between the mind and the body.

    In Spain, the relationships between sport and literature today comprise a multiple field with at least five centres of interest: production, communication, mythology, knowledge and the promotion of reading and the arts.

Literary production

    Sporting literary creation has represented a way of strengthening the language and, in Castilian Spanish alone, it already exceeds a thousand compositions and covers such varied genres as poetry, novels, short stories, essays and journalistic pieces, theatre and children’s literature, as well as new literary forms for the consumer society with cinema films, television adaptations and situation comedies.

    It recreates artistically thirty-six of the three hundred and sixty-eight sports integrated in the sixty-five sports federations at the end of the last Olympic cycle in 2008, barely 10% of federated sport, with a majority predominance of football. And it deals with themes related with the Olympics in general, with seventeen Olympic Games sports (athletics, basketball, handball, boxing, cycling, fencing, skiing, football, gymnastics, equestrian sports, grass hockey, wrestling, swimming, canoeing, tennis, sailing and volleyball), with another twenty non-Olympic sports (chess, motor racing, aviation, billiards, shooting, Basque rural sports, water-skiing, indoor football, ice hockey, Japanese wrestling, climbing, motorcycling, skating, Basque “pelota”, fishing, regattas, rugby, trekking, squash and surfing), as well as aspects linked to the practice of sport and the recreation of the social figure of the sportsman.

    Beyond these data, based on my experience as a creative author and member of literary juries, I would like to draw attention to four considerations for their possible evolution.

    A contrast of foci is frequent between sportsmen or women and writers which is the consequence of their function as protagonists and spectators. The former concentrate more on the experience of effort, competition and stories of personal achievement, whilst the latter concentrate on the social evocation of values and desires as a frame in which to set other non-sporting stories or as a festive sphere of illusions and shared emotions for the conquest of a collective dream.

    Writers and sportsmen and women confront the challenge to forge literary spaces and times for a sports reader used to the mechanisms of sports communication. The development of long structures and the relationship of complex ideas are conditioned by the custom of presenting the sports story with a schematisation of the event, an excessive dramatisation of the characters and a lively rhythm that accommodates the fascination, the hope and the justice of protagonists who act at top speed.

    Both fight for a form of expression that finds a balance between technical terminology, journalistic language, the voices of a culture and the new expressions created by the author to encompass what takes place in the sports ground, the stands, the corridors of power and the media.

    And furthermore, the diversification of topics could stem from specific new spaces for attending to the emotional needs of, at least, six population groups: the resigned who seek to resist and find relief in sporting exploits, the fighters who seek in sports news a release from difficulties and a hope for improvement, the conservatives with little physical activity who practice sport as a family activity, the aspirational who take up the fashionable sports, the triumphant who practice keep-fit activities, in the open air or with a high component of competitiveness, the transitionals who seek unconventional sports and the reformers who aim for social progress with non-competitive sports, swimming, keep-fit and activities in the open air and in the country.


    A second sphere is the relationship between literature and the world of communication. This is currently assisted by cultural journalism and specialist magazines and supplements, although with an excessive concentration of their attention on international football championships and the Olympic Games.

    I consider that the literary dimension of sports journalism should also be taken into consideration with poems about Acisclo Karag, Enrique Mariñas and Matías Prats or the literary creation and participation as theatre actors of the sports journalists Javier Callejo, Pepe Domingo Castaño, Juan Manuel Gozalo, Matías Prats Cañete, Javier Ruiz Taboada, Carlos Toro...

    It is very useful for the dissemination of information and the understanding of the development of linguistic foci and mechanisms. It allows the improvement of perception through the contrast of the experience of the sportsman or woman, of lyrical interpretation with rhetorical resources achieved by the communication and of the personal recreations of authors. And it accommodates a literary vision in which the sporting event is an occasion for art, via chronicles that add a magical dimension to the human experience or with the literary value of a form of expression that shares with literary language the use of figures of diction through repetition, descriptive, logical and pathetic thoughts, as well as figures of speech to create special sounds and images that transmit the joy of sport.


    Creative compositions and their alliance with other artistic manifestations have exalted the figures of thirty-three myths linked to six sporting disciplines: athletics, boxing, cycling, football, golf and tennis. This creation of image currently also favours the account of the experience of sportsmen and women in a kind of fable from which to extract lessons applicable to the consultancies of the business world and the development of editions of children’s literature and literature linked to advertising events.

    Although it is usual to forget the incursions made by writers into sport as athletes or managers and those of sportsmen or women and managers as creative authors, in my opinion, these two emerging trends may find a niche in the socio-cultural activities performed by the foundations of sports clubs and municipal sports foundations for all ages. They are especially appropriate for distributing information, they benefit from the presence of current myths, attract the support of sponsors and favour the relationship of sport with painting, commercial drawing, cinema, music, literature…


    Another section bears a relationship with thought. In recent times, considerable growth has been experienced throughout Latin America by the analysis of the mechanisms that intervene in the staging of sport by various social sciences, prominent among which are philosophy, politics, psychology, semiotics and sociology.

    Knowledge of sports literature includes various anthologies which have covered classic authors, Latin American writers and translations into Spanish of literatures in other languages that, so far in the twenty-first century have been aimed excessively at the world of football.

    I consider it essential to encourage the documentation and recording of data regarding the academic reflection of literature since, in the twenty-first century alone, it has been able to suggest new routes in the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Switzerland for the study of sports culture in its artistic representations and its relationship with popular culture. This is recorded, among others, in the magazines Versants (2001), Romance Quarterly (2005), The International Journal of the History of Sport (2005), Bulletin of Spanish Studies: Hispanic Studies and Researches on Spain, Portugal and Latin America (2007) and in the volumes Ludus (2000), Enciclopedia dello sport. Arte, scienza, storia (2003), La réception des cultures de masse et des cultures populaires en Espagne: XVIIIe-XXe siecles (2009) and Sporting Cultures: Hispanic Perspectives on Sport, Text an the Body (2009).

    This access to information on the cultural history of sport may always be transformed into exhibitions or multimedia formats for the awareness of the general public and scholars of Hispanic studies.

Promotion of reading and the arts

    One of the most exciting challenges is found in the encouragement of reading and the promotion of the arts for today’s population, which now has at its disposal expressive forms for sporting practice and contemplation.

    Their experience today is formed by the reporting of a personal adventure in which feelings speak aloud to suggest routes via: journeys of intense emotions, artistic transformations of pain, freedom though effort, redeeming talents, conquering ones dream in far away lands…

    The reconciliation with books and socio-cultural and animated activities is faced with the opportunity to develop environments of relaxed and active style able to inspire life. Literary reading of clubs, stadia, sports grounds and specialised museums, the creation of literary activities with a sports format, the literary and sporting contextualisation of the recreations of great exploits, the promotion of a creation that deals with all kinds of sports and does not concentrate on their forms of performance, dissemination in the sports supplements of newspapers or in the digital media, virtual exhibitions, conference cycles with Latin American authors to highlight sports literature in Spanish throughout the world… are some of the keys that allow excitement, understanding of sport and the overcoming of the distance between physical and intellectual culture.

    In this new century special attention is deserved by children’s and young people’s literature, since this is a population group in which physical education and sport will have a major impact with the extension of top-level competition to the teenage population, with the setting up of the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, and the development of specific education programmes, such as that of the International Baccalaureate Organization in 2008. Its work in favour of a healthy lifestyle, which is balanced in the intellectual, physical and emotional sense takes into account the cultural dimension of sport, the influences of the communications media and the repercussion of physical education on well-being, since these plans also take into account the improvement of expression with the learning of languages for interaction in artistic festivals and application in digital communications media.


    The twenty-first century is presented as an opportunity to participate without exclusions in the artistic recreation of sport and to give continuity to this singular relay race which has seen the participation of writers from Miguel de Cervantes to the Nobel prize winners Jacinto Benavente, Vicente Aleixandre, Pablo Neruda, Camilo José Cela and Gabriel García Márquez with texts on the Olympics, baseball, football, equestrian sports, judo, wrestling, skating, swimming, canoeing, tennis and sailing.

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