New Ball Games

Surely our hunter-gatherer ancestors played games: "Race you to that carcass," perhaps, or "I'm a better spear thrower than you." The winner ate; the loser was tiger bait. Our Darwinian need for competition, short of war, ultimately diverted to sport. The Greeks stopped battles for their Olympics; the Romans hailed their gladiators; they also played a version of soccer. Ancient sportswriters recorded it for us.

Of all our desires, what is it that compels men and women to throw, hit and kick balls, or chase one another for 100 meters or 26 miles? And what compels us to watch them at...

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