Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship??  It does sound a bit more wholesome than our usual theme.  While I'm sure we can find controversy within it, we might benefit more by exploring just how much "lip service" can be replaced with "philosophical substance."  After all, sportsmanship is a code that encompasses both selfish and groupish behaviors, that is taught from an early age:  I'd wager that it is a stronger prosocial ethic than religion.  (Uh-oh, courting controversy seems to be a habit.)


"The most important life lesson we are teaching kids is to be graceful in triumph and humble in loss."

- Buena Vista Middle School, statement of "Sports Philosophy & Sportsmanship"


Americans are certainly competitive, but are we graceful losers?  Well, we would be (promise!) if we ever lost (ha,ha)!  How can we reconcile our self image, which seems to come almost entirely from winning, with this humbug about humility?  What does it mean to be "graceful in triumph," beyond white lies about what a good game the losers played, and not exhibiting behavior you wouldn't want visited on yourself when you yourself stumble?  In other words, is sportsmanship just a compromise, or is it something deeper?


"Sportsmanship Checklist:  I played fair.  I was respectful.  I accepted the outcome of the game." (Poster)


Sportsmanship invokes other concepts with unclear definitions.  Its fungibility even permits some to try to recast it as determination, teamwork,  or spirit.  So sportsmanship is a fine example of a concept whose meaning is being publicly negotiated.  That makes it a good subject for us:  as philosophers, might we seek to define it as creatively as possible?  That is, before it can be right or wrong, good or bad, doesn't it have to be interesting?


"It's good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling." - Mark Twain


I haven't played golf in many years, but I think I have been guilty of labeling shots as "lost" before they had lost their momentum.  How about you?  Think of how much of the population conceives of life situations in terms of sports:  business, law, politics, even courtship.  Whatever ethical program a philosopher wants to push, wouldn't relating it to sportsmanship be a wise "pitch"?


So those are some things to think about during the World Cup.  The plan is to choose the topic for July 15 from something related to sportsmanship that arises during Tuesday's discussion.  Welcome to team-style philosophizing!


Jeff


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  • Becky

    My brother in law, whose a soccer coach, turned me onto this ted talk. Thought it would be nice to share.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXw0XGOVQvw. Its John O Sullivan "Changing the game in youth sports".

    July 4

  • Jay C.

    Interesting article, Harlan. It is surely a good idea to keep an expensive piece of machinery in good order, with the proper fuels, lubricants and regular functional operation. Need to protect it as well, from crashes and malfunctions. Best to keep it safely garaged when not in use. GPS tracking will allow close monitoring and may even facilitate gathering of performance data.
    As I recall, the Borg have a process for assuring that downtime is appropriately spent in rest and recovery, virtually eliminating damage to the valuable asset from reckless operation.
    Resistance is, of course, futile.
    And the entire operation is efficiently operated by the Ferengi.

    July 3

  • Carlos C.

    I'm so sorry to have missed it. I've been swamped with writing and spaced on it. The good news is that my novel is now in review stage. So I should now be able to contribute with coherence when I do show.

    1 · July 2

  • A former member
    A former member

    I really enjoyed the discussion and meeting the people in the group.

    1 · July 2

  • Harlan L.

    I can't resist posting this article. Perhaps the best way to prevent injuries is not necessarily "sportspersonship" but rather health telemetry. I know people will criticize this as eliminating praiseworthy ethical attitudes from games. But rather avoid a broken ankle than bewail the loss of good intentions. (Of course, I'm being a little bit provocative here, but isn't that one role of philosophy?) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-01/u-s-soccer-team-tracks-movement-to-prevent-injury-onset.html?alcmpid=mostpop

    July 2

  • charlie

    I liked the group a lot -- great people in a friendly and stimulating discussion.

    July 2

  • Dave R.

    Leuki (the referee?) had very little work to do during this meeting - great energy and plenty of substantive ideas to blend into my current thoughts on sportsmanship. When do we all get our gold medals?

    1 · July 1

    • Nathaniel G.

      No gold medals. We are all winners. :)

      2 · July 2

    • Rieko

      We were respectful to each other and followed the sort-of rules.

      2 · July 2

  • Harlan L.

    Many exciting and creative ideas as well as very sportspersonlike interaction.

    July 1

  • Becky

    Really enjoyed the conversation on sportsmanship.

    1 · July 1

  • Dave R.

    Last one there is a rotten egg?

    June 30

  • Jay C.

    The TLS article is quite wonderful. Pindar ! Let's do an Ancient Greek poet meetup, Pindar and Hesiod; Athletes, Gods and Farmers, who best serves mankind ?

    June 28

  • Harlan L.

    Do sports lie on a continuum between individual and social? From, say, shot putting, hundred yard dash, pole vaulting, weight lifting (are there weight lifters fan clubs?) to football, baseball, soccer. Golf is interesting because its a "lonely" sport but there are definitely fans of star golfers. Sports can be a "social glue" so one can be in a strange city, go to a bar, and immediately have a common topic for conversation. Same for "water cooler" chats. Maybe sports are close to Rousseau's civil religion. Religion and sports share the "civic glue" aspect but I think sports are too this-worldly to be identified as some kind of religion. Obviously, sports and national identity can be closely tied; certain authoritarian cultures, as well as the ancient Greeks employed sports consciously to create "national" identity. The "ping pong diplomacy" of the U.S.'s opening to China was an interesting political use of a sport. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/china/peopleevents/pande07.html

    1 · June 27

    • Nathaniel G.

      Yeah I would go a step further and say that language itself, is a structuring mechanism, with paradigms and a sort of confirmation bias that is in-built into language itself. But yeah, I agree.

      1 · June 27

    • Charlie5

      Parochial altruism, caring more about your group than outsiders is proposed as "all we can accomplish", like Einstein saying we can't love the whole universe! What about just a day, love one day, everywhere, and then try again tomorrow?; not "normal" according to the article, normal here is to cut yourself off from the whole and fight it out; so instead i pursue the human abnormality of peaceful unity. I went to parochial school, where they taught me the lesson of the garden of gethsemane; please, don't save everybody, father, only the ones that believe in me! guess that's why in a parochial culture, exclusion is considered "normal"

      June 27

  • Charlie5

    To me religion is shamanic man figuring out how to change inherent, raw madness, from an irritant of the mind into a salve. for me it seems primarily a solitary thing, the social aspect quite external and after-the-fact, the religious ideation itself a relationship built on ritual and insight, between the individual and the object of contemplation; here it seems to be defined more as a political or social institution of centralized power; "nationalistic" "solidarity" sounds like talk of war and conflict, doesn't sound anything like my relationship with the universe or my experience of daoism, but sounds a lot like monotheism with its insistence on attachment, exclusion, and violence.

    June 27

  • Jay C.

    Terry Eagleton's new book, "Culture and the death of God" .. Eagleton pays particular attention to the attempts by Enlightenment, idealist and Romantic philosophers to produce a convincing secular alternative to orthodox Christianity, but finds them all too esoteric, too rationalistic, too implausible. (He pays a tongue-in-cheek tribute to sport as the most successful contemporary version of religion, listing the ‘sacred icons, revered traditions, symbolic solidarities, liturgical assemblies and pantheon of heroes’ that qualify it as today’s ‘opium of the people’.)

    June 25

    • Nathaniel G.

      This is a little off topic concerning sportsmanship, but I have often thought college is a type of secular "initiation," ritual like you saw in mystery cults around the same time as the birth of Christianity. (Christianity adopted much from mystery religions also.) I mean I think college is a vastly overrated experience, but in college people leave home, have symbolic solidarities, liturgical assemblies on quads, and also a pantheon of intellectual heroes. God may have died as Nietzsche proclaimed, but the spectre of religion still lingers in our society in many places, including in sports and college.

      1 · June 25

    • Gary J.

      absolutely...the social sacred is alive and well in sports and the academy!

      June 27

  • Deborah B.

    This is such a wonderful topic - I wish I could be there!

    June 26

    • Jeff G

      Darn! Was having difficulty predicting your viewa on this. Well, 7/15 may provide a second chance.

      June 27

  • Jay C.

    Amen, brother Nathaniel.
    I'm still a member of a cult I joined ar OSU, and in very close touch with some of my cult brothers.

    June 26

  • Charlie5

    As a passtime, the playful game of making myself out to be an"individual", separate, & in competition with other "individuals", is described in animal behavior as preparation for serious battle later in life. To be one with the universe when spending time with the universe, and to be one with humanity while with humanity, we join in any reindeer games if it's all in fun, and happily cast off any plans to develop the competition any further, or to take it seriously in any way, for that would just make "sports" another potential conflict zone for our communities; (as trainers we can't talk sports because many treat sports as their religion). We're strong living breathing creatures and robust outdoor activity helps and heals us, so if conflict isn't an issue, we might just be working out together and having fun. And if we were to pick up shovels, build roads, farm, and cultivate, that would be an even more perfected and idealized form of sportsmanship.

    June 25

  • Jay C.

    That's a quote from a review on spiked.com, bay Michael Fitzpatrick

    June 25

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