Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are we too professional?

In one of Ed Smith's usual thought-provoking articles he ponders the question whether we are mistaken in our belief that professionalism underpins excellence:

"Professionalism was continually invoked as the primary means of improvement, whereas amateurishness was mocked as a laughable relic. But it was often unclear to me what the word professionalism meant. “What we really need,” people would say, is “a good, solid professional win.” How does that differ, I always wanted to ask, from a normal kind of win? In fact, professionalism wasn’t so much a real process as a form of self-definition. We had to become ever-more professional, because that was the lens through which we interpreted progress and success."

The concept of professionalism (often of a MacIntyreian kind) has been considered (and generally celebrated) by a range of authors in the philosophy of sport (for examples below) but perhaps it's time, as Smith says, to realise that unrealistic expectations of professionalism can end up acting as a straight-jacket.

Further Reading:
Howe, P.D. (2004) Sport, Professionalism and Pain: ethnographies of injuries and risk. London: Routledge.
McNamee, M.J., Sheridan, H. and Buswell, J. (2000) 'Paternalism, professionalism and public sector leisure provision; the boundaries of a leisure profession'. Leisure Studies 19 pp199-209.
McNamee, M.J. (2008) Sports, Virtues and Vices. London: Routledge.
Zeilgler, E.F. (1977) Problems in the History and the Philosophy of Physical Education and Sport. Prentice Hall Foundations of Physical Education Series.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Steroids and Forgiveness

Steroids are again in the news, with the formal admission by Mark McGwire that he used steroids during his career, including the season in which he broke the HR record. Much has already been said about this, but I think an interesting philosophical point here has to do with the nature of and justifications for forgiveness.

Some, like Jack Clark, are too angry and upset to consider forgiving McGwire, at least at present.

Others, like Joe Posnanski and Albert Pujols, are more open to it. Former Cardinal Andy Van Slyke is not happy with the nature of McGwire`s confession.

Should "we" forgive McGwire for his transgressions? In a world of earthquakes and grinding poverty, this can seem of little consequence. But forgiveness is a key component of flourishing human relationships, and so I am wondering if anything can be learned from McGwire`s situation?