Monday, September 28, 2009

Rooting for U. S. Steel

I had a good weekend. The NY Yankees clinched the American League East, and the NY Giants shut out Tampa Bay.

I've been a Yankee fan since childhood, but even as my interest has waxed and waned over the years, I am happy when they do well.

It was said during the 1950s that "rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U. S. Steel." Which got me wondering why people choose to root for the underdog.

There are some tentative explanations on the web: and

But I am wondering how philosophers of sport think about the question . . . why do we root for the underdog? Should we root for the underdog?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Diving and the Integrity of Soccer

Cesar Torres, the current president of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport, has this piece for the NY Times on the integrity of soccer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Publication Announcement: Philosophical Perspectives on Gender in Sport and Physical Activity

Edited by Paul Davis, Charlene Weaving

There are a broad variety of sex and gender resonances in sport, from the clash of traditional ideas of femininity and athleticism represented by female athletes, to the culture of homophobia in mainstream male sport. Despite the many sociological and cultural volumes addressing these subjects, this collection is the first to focus on the philosophical writings that they have inspired. The editors have selected twelve of the most thought-provoking philosophical articles on these subjects from the past 30 years, to create a valuable and much needed resource.

Written by established experts from all over the world, the essays in this collection cover four major themes:

* sport and the construction of the female
* objectification and the sexualisation of sport
* homophobia
* sex boundaries: obstruction, naturalisation and opposition.

The book gathers a broad range of philosophical viewpoints on gender in sport into one unique source, subjecting the philosophical origins and characteristics of some of the most controversial topics in sport to rigorous scrutiny. With a balance of male and female contributors from both sides of the Atlantic, and a comprehensive introduction and postscript to contextualise the source material, Philosophical Perspectives on Gender in Sport and Physical Activity is essential reading for all students of the philosophy of sport, sport and gender, and feminist philosophy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Has the Science of Sport Outpaced Philosophy of Sport?

Last Sunday's New York Times included a very interesting essay by Alice Dreger (reprinted at this link) that accuses sport philosphers of lagging behind sport scientists. She concludes that we need to reach consensus on what sport is really all about before we can adequately address such issues as sterioid use and sex determination.

She may be right to criticize sport philosophy for our lack of new thinking on such issues, but we may also have more to contribute than first appears. First of all, there is a fairly wide consensus in the sport philosophy community that sports are sets of rules that set lusory goals (i.e. an object of the game, such as arriving at the finish line) and at the same time prohibit the most efficient means of achieving such goals (i.e. by crossing the track or riding a motorcycle).

At our recent IAPS conference in Seattle, and especially as part of Sigmund Loland's keynote address, it was noted that the bans on drugs are, first of all, a prohibited efficiency. The rationale for prohibiting these efficiencies and not others revolves around a desire to promote training activities associated with the positive holistic adaptation of human beings. Traditionally, the training activities promoted are associated with human virtues, and those prohibited are not. Although steroids may produce strength, their use is neither a form of training nor associated with virtue. Sex classes and other similar conventions are designed to exclude performance factors that are not "trainable" (such as sex). Professor Loland's arguments (which I may or may not have summarized correctly here) do provide a framework that at least begins to address Alice Dreger's very relevant concerns.

In the end, though, she is right. We sport philosophers need to communicate more clearly our ideas on "what sport is all about" and what implications this should have for how it is practiced. To be sure, we will not all agree on these questions, but we should make more of an effort to communicate with sport scientists and with the public more generally.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Update on Semenya

The case of of Caster Semenya and the insensitivity of the IAAF was discussed in this post. Now Semenya has been "made over" by a South African magazine and is a "cover girl". This would seem to only exacerbate the problems first raised by her case.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Conference Announcement

Mark your calendars and start thinking about a paper to submit, if you're so inclined, for a conference in philosophy of sport:

"Philosophical Dimensions of Sport & the Environment"
St. Francis Xavier University
May, 2011