Friday, February 26, 2010

Canadian Women Win Gold, Drink Molson!

 Photo: Luke Winn, Sports Illustrated

Here's one of the best quotes about Canada's women taking gold, and the ensuing celebration on the ice:

Is it possible to just see something like this, laugh at it, and be happy for these girls? 

I wonder, and would like to hear from readers and fellow contributors, if the same sort of uproar over the on-ice celebration would be happening if it was a men's hockey team celebrating a gold medal victory?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Change in Comments Policy

I've changed the comments policy to not allow for posting unless you are a registered user in some sense (Open ID, Google account, etc.), in order to avoid the influx of comments spam that is occurring. Hopefully this will help, and not be too much of an inconvenience.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Should Ultimate Fighting Be Legal?

New York state currently does not allow ultimate fighting matches to be held in the state. Advocates are fighting for that to change:

Ultimate fighting advocates push for legalization in NYS

Posted at: 02/18/2010 6:56 PM
By: Matt McFarland

ALBANY - Ultimate fighting is a billion dollar industry, an industry that is currently banned in New York.

But while fans of the sport feel New York is getting closer to legalizing it, their biggest opponent is not yet ready to throw in the towel. From the cage to the Capitol, the knock down, drag out fight to legalize this popular yet polarizing sport continues.

Saying there must be pioneers in sports, Nick Sanzo is speaking from experience. Thirteen years ago, ultimate fighting was no holds barred, bare knuckle brawling. U.S. Senator John McCain even called it "human cock fighting." In 1997, then-governor George Pataki and the legislature banned the sport from New York State. But since then, mixed martial arts, and specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has morphed into a billion dollar industry.

Sanzo says the sport has changed over the years. "We have rounds, we wear gloves. There are a lot of rules: where you can strike, how you can strike," he says. "It hasn't affected the sport. It's made it bigger and more popular."

Ultimate fighting may be popular, yet it is still not legal in the Empire State.

Sanzo, who trains aspiring fighters and runs New York Mixed Martial Arts, argues that, "We're a New York based company that takes our shows to Vermont, but we'd love to have them in New York State. We'd love to see that revenue come to New York state."

And so would Governor David Paterson, even putting it in his budget. Paterson says legalizing MMA could bring the state up to $2 million a year in taxes. Back in 2008 while lobbying the state, UFC released a study. Its findings claim that an upstate show would generate more than $5 million for the local economy.

Without throwing a punch or a kick, Colonie Assemblyman Bob Reilly is without a doubt MMA's toughest opponent. Spearheading the drive to keep the sport outlawed, Reilly claims a recent Marist poll supports his cause. Nearly seven out of ten New York State voters say no to MMA. Reilly cites wide public support against allowing MMA in the state saying, "People literally come up to me every day, saying keep up the fight against it, we don't want it." Reilly adds, "At some time we have to say no to the lobbyists, no to the money and no to the violence."

Right now the sport is legal in forty-two states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and most recently getting the green light in Massachusetts. Also there have been UFC cards in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Casino, as well as up in Montreal. Essentially making New York an island. MMA supporters argue there is money to be made and that New York is losing out.

Sanzo thinks, however, the ban is likely to change. "I think we're going to see them at Madison Square Garden. We're going to see them right here in Albany," he predicted. "I think its going to happen. It's just a matter of time."

Reilly counters by saying a "violent" sport is no way to build an economy. "That's not something I want to do," Reilly says. "I hope it's not what the governor wants to do. I hope that's not what the legislature wants to do."

Should ultimate fighting be against the law? Does the money involved make this a political necessity for New York? Is ultimate fighting really a "human cockfight"? Is violent sport immoral? Is legal paternalism warranted in this case?

Friday, February 19, 2010

The next frontier: gene doping

Interesting article on the CNN website today about genetic engineering and the idea of creating better athletes through gene doping. A bioethicist is quoted as saying he is in favor of such manipulations:

Andy Miah, a bioethicist and University of the West of Scotland professor, argues that society is morally obligated to find safer means to genetically enhance athletes.

"If we can develop technologies that more carefully align with an athlete's individual physiology, then the chances of it leading to unforeseen side effects diminishes considerably," Miah said.

If it's possible to create webbed fingers so that swimmers can improve their stroke, he's for it.

"Some will recoil at the idea of this, since they feel it will sully the good name of so-called 'clean' sports. My response is that this is already happening," he said. "Every athlete makes a choice about what technology they will use to help them prepare for competition. Some athletes will reject the advice of nutritionists, psychologists, physiotherapists and so on.

"They may not even wear running shoes. However, the majority of athletes immerse themselves in a world of technology -- whether they perceive it or not -- and modern sport has always been about the obsession to evolve performance, beat world records and generally test the boundaries of human capability."

The entire article is at .

Sport, character, and decency

Here is video of the Tiger Woods press conference from earlier today. Toward the end of his remarks he says, "I need to make my behavior respectful of the game." He also mentioned character and decency, suggesting these are more important than his golf skills.

I am just very curious what people have to say about the relation of an athlete's off-the-field behavior and his on-the-field behavior, or about Woods's remarks more specifically. His statement, "I need to make my behavior respectful of the game," implies that he at least sees the two as related.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is sport worth dying for?

See the article at Religion Dispatches for a discussion of this question. It seems to me that in one sense, sport is not worth dying for, given that it is a form of play, albeit serious play. As the author of the piece points out, the real question is whether or not sport is worth the risk of death, which is present in many sports. I would answer that yes, at least some sports are worth the risk of death, because for some they are near-necessary elements of a flourishing human life. I'm not arguing that we should not seek to make sports as safe as possible--so the changes to the Olympic luge run might be justified, as are whatever can be done in the NFL to prevent brain damage from head trauma--but I do believe that we should not go to the other extreme and make physical safety the primary concern that trumps all others. When I ride my bicycle on the country roads of Madison County, it is generally pretty safe. However, in some sense I'm risking my life, as all it takes is one distracted or drunk driver to end my existence, or just one mistake by me on the bike sending me hurtling into concrete, asphalt, or barbed wire. Of course, we all risk our lives when we go to the grocery store, cross the street, go to work, and so on. I won't be hang gliding or sky diving any time soon, but as soon as the snow and ice go away and the temperature climbs back above freezing, I'll be back on my bike, riding carefully.

HT: Rob Sica

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gender testing in sport... again...

Ian O'Reilly gives an informative and interesting commentary on developments following a symposium in Miami last month whereby it was suggested that those with 'gender ambiguities' undergo surgery if they are to continue to participate in female sporting competitions.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hitchens on Fool's Gold

Apparently, Christopher Hitchens believes that it is not only religion that poisons everything, but sports as well.
There is a considerable body of  philosophical literature on whether sport is fascistoid, as well as other aspects of the dark side of sports. And while Hitchens tells many stories in support of  his thesis that sports breed conflict and bring out the worst in human nature, there are many stories one could tell of how sports bring out the best in human nature that deserve to be told.

One of the beautiful aspects of the Olympic Games is that we'll witness examples of perseverance, courage, humility, and hope. Sure, there will be stories of cheaters, people with athletic skill but little moral excellence, and so on, but in this way sport is like the rest of human life. My own hope is that we'll attend more to the good stories, not only of the culmination of years of training as medals are won, but as we see actual lives reflecting the Olympic words "It's not the triumph, but the struggle."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Religion and Football

As masses of people in the United States and elsewhere huddle around food, drink, and the altar of their HD television sets this Sunday for the Super Bowl, some of the old questions about the relationship between football and religion are on  the radar again. For example, Shirl James Hoffman, author of Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports, will appear on the American television show "Fox and Friends" this Sunday--Super Bowl Sunday--to discuss the question "Do faith and football mix?" Here's the publisher's blurb for the book (NFI, by the way):
In recent years the United States has seen an influx of Christian athletes and coaches into big-time sports, as well as a heightened importance placed on sports in church programs and at Christian schools and colleges. However, as Shirl Hoffman critiques, a Christian vision of sport remains merely superficial—replete with prayers before free throws and praises after touchdowns but offering little, if any, alternative vision from the secular sports culture. Good Game retells numerous fascinating stories from the world of ancient and contemporary sports and draws on the history of the Christian tradition to answer “What would it really mean to think Christianly about sport?”
Recently, Books and Culture, a book review magazine published by Christianity Today, reviewed two books in the article "And God Created Football." The End of Autumn: Reflections on My Life in Football (again, NFI), and Football and Philosophy: Going Deep (small FI) each contain material relevant to the connections between football and religion as well as the issue of whether football in some sense constitutes a religion. Whatever one ultimately thinks about these issues, it does seem that sport, including American football, offers moments of transcendence for athletes, coaches, and fans.