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The toil before the sport

Thilo Mangold

Interacting with something new takes effort - in the kitchen, in art, or when making children. The effort is worth it: rewards await. For example, sports results.

I like to read printed newspapers. And I do so from front to back, page by page. That's how I have always done it. At first presumably because I just thought that was the way to do it.
Still today, this is how I force myself to touch on departments and topics that don't directly appeal to me.

I can get myself to do a lot of things if I think it might be worth it; to make a donation, to read, to go on a run. Not because I know it will pay off, then I wouldn't speak of effort. This happens when I only suspect it or have some faith in it. Confronting new things is exhausting, requires toil, and leads to connections. This is enriching.

That's how I see art: it offers me access, perspectives, bridges. These are often not immediately obvious, and have to settle - or sometimes have to be worked out. I believe in this so strongly that I regularly fall into a corresponding pitfall to this work ethic. In an exhibition, I read every label, every wall text. By the way, I also finish reading bad books. Admittedly, in this case, it is more difficult to speak of enrichment.

Feuilleton in sports

In the 1990s, I was a primary school student, and the Basler Zeitung always combined feuilleton and sports in the last pages. If I wanted to know how FC Basel or the regional handball teams were playing, I had to first work my way through theater reviews and exhibition notes. Through texts with words I didn't understand or between which I could hardly make a connection.

However, in the beginning, I couldn't do that with sports either. But the structuring of those tables and reports was easier to grasp. And the photos in the sports pages were also less abstract than those in other newspaper sections. Since elementary school, the structure of the newspaper has helped me to classify events in the world. There are wars and politics and weather and drama and sports. What happens can be divided into genres. Or does it even happen in genres?

At the time, Josef Zindel was a sports reporter at the Basler Zeitung who was also a cabaret artist. His style was close to that of the feuilleton, he worked with figures of speech, personal comparisons, and with a twinkle in his eye. I found that entertaining. And I think it was new. Other sports reporters (who are still mostly men) simply described sporting events chronologically.

Abdicating supreme disciplines

Zindel, it seems in retrospect, cared less about departmental boundaries than others. An architectural journalist writing about basketball (or a basketball journalist writing about architecture); now that's something I would like to read. I am convinced that they would help me to understand, put in the translation work, put things in order for me. An art critic who writes about painting is like a sports reporter writing about tennis: predictable for insiders, hard to understand for outsiders.

Classifying in genres is important; it gives structure, helps to situate. But if we overcome the genres and connect them the distinction between insiders and outsiders becomes obsolete. Exploring or dissolving genre boundaries is therefore at least as important. Those who draw over the lines create something new.

Perhaps the feuilleton is the epitome of newspaper writing. When art and culture form the superstructure of a society, it is mirrored, decomposed and renegotiated here. And yet the feuilleton is losing space and resonance - much like the decathlon, which was long regarded as the supreme discipline of sport. Are they both victims of specialization, of bubbleization?
I, for one, can hardly type the word feuilleton without having to concentrate very hard on the correct sequence of letters. And if I had to find a dictionary definition for feuilleton, I would choose: "the toil before the sport".

man, Oct./Dec. 2022