Friday, July 18, 2008

On a Lived Athletic Philosophy

In The Inward Morning, Henry Bugbee describes an experiential philosophy that is not “set up like the solution of a puzzle, worked out with all the pieces lying there before the eye. It will be more like the clarification of what we know in our bones” (p. 35). In many ways, intercollegiate athletic departments and individual coaches follow this model when developing mission statements, ethical guidelines, and programs on sportsmanship. For these individuals, an athletic department philosophy is not an analytic argument but rather a belief system determined through myriad conversations and decisions over many years.

One aspect of this formation process involves a tension between openness and contraction. On occasion, the process of philosophical thought requires an attention to one’s surroundings – in this case to people, programs, and broader athletic issues. At other times the process necessitates moments of contraction – acknowledging that a given athletic philosophy may not necessarily meet the needs of other institutions or teams.

A second aspect of the development process involves experience. A rich understanding of athletics help individuals shape an institutional athletic department philosophy. Again, Bugbee writes that “Experience is our undergoing, our involvement in the world, our lending or withholding of ourselves, keyed to our responsiveness, our sensibility, our alertness or our deadness” (p. 41).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Olympic Dreams and Fears (of a Philosophical Nature)

In just a few short weeks, the Beijing Olympics will begin. A fellow contributor to the blog suggested that we all address the following questions, which are intentionally wide in scope to allow for a wide variety of answers, from the personal to the political:

1. What is one good thing that you want to see happen at the Olympics?

2. What is one bad thing that you fear might happen, and what, if anything, can be done about it in advance?

Contributors as well as readers are invited to post their answers in the comments to this post.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Of downhill football and through-balls through the palm-trees

I recently returned from a two-week holiday in Madagascar, where I watched a soccer match between an under-18 development side from Cape Town in South Africa and an invitation team drawn from the islands surrounding Nosy Be in the North of Madagascar. The pitch was equal parts clay, soil and grass, and sloped noticeably downward towards one set of goalposts. In the middle of the pitch were two palms which grew outwards and away from each other, which made it possible to play the ball between them, or off of them and back to oneself or a teammate. We were staying at a guest lodge on one of the islands, and lunch was delayed while our cook ran at striker for a half, trying his best to score a goal for the Island XI. The game was played in a fantastic spirit, with smiles all round and great sportsmanship displayed by both sides. The South Africans won 3-2 in the last minute via a spectacular overhead kick, but it was clear that the result was unimportant. Afterwards, each Malagasy player split a coconut he had brought and handed half to his opposite number – it was only when the islanders began distributing generous measures of rum to the players that the South African coach, smiling broadly, intervened. For me, a lucky spectator, the match showcased the power of sport to draw people from the most diverse communities onto common ground, for no other reason than to compete and have fun doing so. The supporters too were amazing, shouting for and praising the skills of the opposition as well as their own players. It made a nice change from the vitriolic taunts of the crowd at most major football matches. In the end, there weren’t millions riding on the result, the players weren’t going to negotiate new multi-million dollar contracts after the game, and the coach’s jobs were safe. Simply, those involved celebrated a soccer match in a joyous spirit which is so noticeably absent in sport today. Everyone was smiling, whether they won or lost. How many times have you seen that lately?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dealing with Doping

Given some of the past discussion on this blog about performance-enhancement, this story might be of interest. Team Garmin-Chipotle exemplifies what some philosophers of sport have argued is the best way to deal with doping. It is athlete-driven, rather than the top down approach that organizations such as WADA use.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Publication Announcement: Sports, Virtues and Vices

Mike McNamee, a contributor to this blog, has a new book out with Routledge entitled "Sports, Virtues and Vices: Morality Plays". It looks to be very interesting. The publisher's website for the book can be found here.
The book contains a wealth of contemporary sporting examples, and explores key ethical issues such as:

-How the pursuit of sporting excellence can lead to harm
-Doping, greed and shame
-Biomedical technology as a challenge to the virtue of elite athletes
-Defining a ‘virtue ethical account’ in sport
-A family of vices and virtues in sport

Congratulations to Mike on the book!