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Sports And Objectivism

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I am not a big sports fan (actually not a fan at all), but I can definitely see it's potential value. It gives man a sort of hero worship - in most cases, a completely proper one. Professional athletes have acheived greatness. They have mastered their bodies, honed a skill to perfection, and in many cases, capitalized on their abilities beautifully.

I think there are some immoral sports, however. Take boxing for instance. Present in this sport is the idea that it is proper for on man to physically harm another. Hockey has this element to it as well, although not in the same manner that boxing does. In boxing, it is inherent in the game. In hockey(correct me if I'm wrong here), it's not the rules of the game that make it violent, but just a "tradition" of sorts. I'm not sure which is worse - a game entirely based on the use of force, or a sport in which it is present for little more than commercial appeal.

Football is sometimes viewed as violent, but let's take a look at what is really going on. Is football really violent (i.e. man should destroy man), or is there just a great risk of inury. There is no direct attack of one man on another. One football player knocking another to the ground is not done with the express intention of causing him harm (if teams are playing ethically). Rather, injuries are a side effect of "capturing the ball." Sports, to be of value, do not have to be completely safe. In fact, placing themselves in that situation demonstrates a kind of courageous confidence in their ability to evade injury and withstand beatings. This is definitely something to be admired.

I could go on and give examples from a few other sports, but I think you get the idea.

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Are sports consistent wtih Objectivism? What is the social value of professional sports? What is the personal value?

Thomas A. Bowden, an Objectivist lawyer and big sports enthusiast, wrote a very nice article in the August 1983 issue of The Objectivist Forum. The article was titled "In Praise of Spectator Sports" with the subtitle "The value of sports as 'a celebration of human skill, determination, and goal-achievement.'"

The subtitle pretty much sums it up, but if you are interested in the subject you might enjoy reading the article for all the details.

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I think there are some immoral sports, however. Take boxing for instance. Present in this sport is the idea that it is proper for on man to physically harm another.

I believe when relating to morality, it is different to initiate force unwillfully, which is opposite to the welcoming of force to build ones self defence capacities, make money, have social interaction, and other positive attributes, which participating in boxing willfully creates.

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Thomas A. Bowden, an Objectivist lawyer and big sports enthusiast, wrote a very nice article in the August 1983 issue of The Objectivist Forum. The article was titled "In Praise of Spectator Sports" with the subtitle "The value of sports as 'a celebration of human skill, determination, and goal-achievement.'"

Tom also wrote an ARI op-ed in praise of sports which you can read at http://www.aynrand.org/medialink/sports.shtml and Rob Tracinski did one too which is at http://www.aynrand.org/medialink/op-eds/heroes.txt.

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ESPN's Page 2 examined the issue of the hardest sport a while back. Eight panelists, some with Ph.D.s, rated each sport on a number of attributes. If nothing else, it at least can perform its stated purpose of encouraging debate. Which sport is most deserving of hero worship?

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/sportSkills

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Boxing immoral?!?

What about martial arts, are they immoral too?

Boxing does not assume it is alright to hurt others, but that it may be necessary to defend yourself against others. The arena is a place where two individuals test their skills against one another, while agreeing to respect certain rules to avoid as much as possible causing real damage.

I heard Ayn Rand was a fan of Ali, and I myself enjoy watching a good fight now and then.

Actually, the only sport I enjoy watching more than boxing or martial arts is RoboWars, the show where two teams build robots that have to destroy one another in the arena. :)

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I dont really enjoy watching any sports. Soccer can be ok, but I wouldnt go out of my way to watch it. I can understand why others enjoy watching sport though and I think it can certainly fill a positive need for some people. The problem is that it often degenerates into some kind of irrational neo-tribalistic 'warfare', with the whole "my team" against "your team" aspect. This can probably be seen more clearly in European soccer, although it applies to pretty much every national sport where countries compete as a whole.

I think there are some immoral sports, however. Take boxing for instance. Present in this sport is the idea that it is proper for on man to physically harm another.

Would you apply the same reasoning to martial arts tournaments, or is there something about boxing in particular that makes you dislike it? I personally find almost no enjoyment whatsoever in boxing, but it would be hypocritical for me to claim it is immoral when I enjoy watching martial arts, and sometimes UFC.

oops, erandror beat me.

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I believe when relating to morality, it is different to initiate force unwillfully, which is opposite to the welcoming of force to build ones self defence capacities, make money, have social interaction, and other positive attributes, which participating in boxing willfully creates.

I didn't look at it this way before. My condemnation of boxing is withdrawn.

Simma down, everybody!

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I didn't look at it this way before. My condemnation of boxing is withdrawn.

Simma down, everybody!

Of course we have to remember that just because something does not involve the initiation of force, this doesnt mean that it is moral. I'd be loathe to accept that street fighting (for instance) would be a particularly moral activity for a rational individual to engage in, even if both parties had agreed to the fight before hand. Similarly I'd have to ask questions of someone who was just involved in boxing for the 'pleasure' of hurting others. I suppose it all comes down to the reasons why the individual has chosen to participate in the sport.

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I dont really enjoy watching any sports. Soccer can be ok, but I wouldnt go out of my way to watch it. I can understand why others enjoy watching sport though and I think it can certainly fill a positive need for some people. The problem is that it often degenerates into some kind of irrational neo-tribalistic 'warfare', with the whole "my team" against "your team" aspect. This can probably be seen more clearly in European soccer, although it applies to pretty much every national sport where countries compete as a whole.

Would you apply the same reasoning to martial arts tournaments, or is there something about boxing in particular that makes you dislike it? I personally find almost no enjoyment whatsoever in boxing, but it would be hypocritical for me to claim it is immoral when I enjoy watching martial arts, and sometimes UFC.

oops, erandror beat me.

Soccer is great escapism if you keep it in context.

I go and watch my local team and cheer them on. I have realistic expectations and don't lose the plot if they get beaten. It is fun to sing about how much you hate your local rivals but that's as far as I take it.

The tribal thing is a big problem in the west of Scotland. I live in central Scotland having moved there from East Scotland, where I was sheltered from it.

It's very us against them where Fenian B******s fight with Orange B******s (as they call themselves) and some people I have met (including a guy at my work who I mentioned on the Eddie Willers thread) are so collectivized that they cannot imagine that somebody does not take one side over the other.

It is also notable that it is a case of "Hooray! They have lost" rather than "Hooray! We have won". (Where is John Galt when you need him.)

It is an even bigger problem in some parts of Italy, notably Rome.

But sport provides me with a chance to be entertained and worship heroes albeit on a limited scale.

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Personally, I like those sports that have a strong esthetic component like figure skating, gymnastics, synchonized swimming, and diving. Perhaps the reason is that I was a dancer and gymnast in my younger days and still enjoy doing choreography. http://www.speicher.com/choreo.htm

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L. Peikoff in his lecture "Why Ancient Greece is my Favorite Civilization" gives an interesting angle on this issue.

He said, the Ancient Greeks would have thought the skills of todays professional sportsmen admirable ....... BUT only in slaves... supposing one had slave and had no better use for him then to train him in a sport to such a degree. (understand the talk is of slaves in old Greece)

Apparently Greeks would see the honed specialized skills of todays top sportsmen not worthy acquiring for men since they believed in well rounded universal development, like say doing a pentathlon in Olympic games and having good education (like rhetoric etc) and good looks (body bearing and muscles) to top it off...

He said the Greeks wouldn't consider running today's marathon (40 miles+) as sport since that would take such specialization that one who undertook training for it wouldn't have time to lead the life proper to man.

That is how I remember this part of lecture from memory, last time I listened to that tape is something like half a year, so if anybody wants to have some argument with that, let him look it up on tapes first. But the above is essentially what he (LP) tried to put accross in the lecture on this point - Ancient Greeks and sports.

Personally, I have always seen top flight pros in any sport as leading (very much) impoverished lives and usually the talk is about the first third of one's life that falls near 100% victim to the sport one does. At least nowadays many of them make enough financially to set them for life and that is something to consider. There's many a men who worked most of their lives at routine factory jobs and made a pittance in comparison and if they dedicated part of their lives to some sport 100% and made it to top, they wouldn't be loosers any way at the end of it and very likely would enjoy it more.

I suppose thats the way it really is in reality. Moost top sportsmen wouldn't in most cases lead some more worthy alternative lifestyle anyway, so it is perhaps from this point of view not much loos for them that way.

On the other hand, Greeks wouldn't have dreamed of specialization we now have in most productive professions, not just sports but again, the question would be if that is quite right.

Myself, I have always been an example of such universality that L Peikoff outlined in his lecture on Greece now that I think of it. I used to do sports like cross country skiing and bicycling and rock/ice climbing, I even took ballet dance classes when ~ 30 yrs of age (I didn't race on skis or on bicycle but I did it way more than just recreational pastime, the ballet was of course just interesting to learn a bit, that all and I was still quite trim at that point for it) and I got pretty well acquitaned with Ayn Rand's philosophy and read various books in philosophy (appart from Objectivism) and studdied physics at university all the while keeping bread on table by manual labor (housepainting on my own).

vaclav (knowledge integration)

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Only someone who has never sat at East End Park, Dunfermline (The home town of both Nazareth and Andrew Carnegie) on a wet Wednesday night and sung about how much he hates Falkirk (local rivals) would say something like that. :)

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The question arises, then regarding professional sports.

There is much discussion in the media about the "outrageous" salaries paid to star athletes, especially in baseball.

Would capitalists consider these "outrageous?"

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Quote frankly, I find NOTHING wrong with a star athlete placing a high price on him/herself for his/her talent. As in any capitalist endeavor, it is up to the purchaser to either accept such price or reject it.

I'm focusing specifically on professional baseball here, since it is exempt from antitrust laws. I would argue that professional baseball is the only endeavor that is truly still capitalist! :D

I scoff at the media for their commentaries expressing disdain at the high price of such sports and athlete's salaries. After all, the owners of such teams had the choice of rejecting such prices. They instead elected to contract such players at such prices because they thought such players could increase the profits of the owners and their teams. :)

Yankees did right by signing Alex Rodriguez. :D

That's why the Yankees rule! :)

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A-Rod is an entirely separate issue. You know that the union and Bud Selig nixed the contract with the Red Sox, right? Do you know why?

Because there is a clause in the collective bargaining agreement something to the effect that you can't take less than a current contract, because it would undercut the lowest paid players on the team. It was originally placed to protect those who were good, but not that good, and has now been used to hamstring the greatest player of last year, who wished to go to the Red Sox above all. Now, granted, the Yankees had the most money and A-Rod got a more valueable contract, which makes me happy. But A-Rod valued the Red Sox above the actual monetary value of the contract, and was not allowed to sign with them.

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A-Rod is an entirely separate issue.  You know that the union and Bud Selig nixed the contract with the Red Sox, right?  Do you know why? 

Because there is a clause in the collective bargaining agreement something to the effect that you can't take less than a current contract, because it would undercut the lowest paid players on the team.  It was originally placed to protect those who were good, but not that good, and has now been used to hamstring the greatest player of last year, who wished to go to the Red Sox above all.  Now, granted, the Yankees had the most money and A-Rod got a more valueable contract, which makes me happy.  But A-Rod valued the Red Sox above the actual monetary value of the contract, and was not allowed to sign with them.

A-Rod would have made a mistake by being willing to sign for less than his value.

Perhaps there is an unusual justice in Bud Selig nixing this deal. This one time he was right.

Sports provide entertainment for the fans.

They provide an element of fun for amateurs like myself who participate in them.

Each one of us is meant to enjoy life, and having good clean fun through sports is one way to do so.

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There is much discussion in the media about the "outrageous" salaries paid to star athletes, especially in baseball.

Would capitalists consider these "outrageous?"

I don't think theres anything wrong with it unless they are actually advocating stealing the money in question. There's a big difference between expressing disgust at the things which society has chosen to value, and advocating the initiation of force in order to alter these values. For instance, I think that the general decadence of modern society is highlighted by the fact that people such as Britney Speares and Jennifer Lopez have been able to make a lot of money in the way they have. Am I 'jealous'? No. Do I think that the government has the right to confiscate the money? Of course not. Does expressing this opinion somehow mean that I'm 'anti-capitalist'? Not even remotely.

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I think sports are valuable as entertainment because they show us the amazing accomplishments man can make when he dedicates himself to a task. Lessons in honesty, work ethic, and team work can be learned through sports and it’s just good exercise.

Spearmint, sometimes sports do turn into a tribal sort of game when people get serious about the “my team against your team” deal. But it can be harmless if taken in the right way. I’m a Red Sox fan and my best friend is a Yankees fan. We joke around with each other, insult each other, etc. But in the end, we realize that it’s just a game and doesn’t mean anything beyond entertainment. I will say that what BlackSabbath said is exactly true and most particularly when it regards the Red Sox. People here actually wear shirts that say, not “Go Sox” but rather “Yankees Suck”. It’s almost more important to Red Sox fans that the Yankees lose than that the Red Sox win.

And a final note, I don’t care for Olympic games. This may seem a bit wacky, but I believe even Aristotle would agree with me on this. Olympic games (at least, the core ones like running, pole-vaulting, swimming, etc.) are all things that humans are not the best at. So what that somebody can run at 20-miles-per-hour. Imagine if an alien came to our planet, saw us running competitions and everybody cheers at the guy who ran at 21-miles-per-hour—then sees a cheetah zooming by at 60. They’d think this is crazy; who cares that we can run that fast? It’s not a thing we’re particularly good at. It’s as if you were to say, “I went to Cal-Tech and beat up everybody there in boxing.” Big deal, it’s Cal-Tech. You’re not accomplishing much. That’s why I prefer games like baseball and hockey, which are my two favorite sports. They require not just physical ability but strategy—something that humans are the absolute best at, and something which only we can do. When the short-stop gets a line-drive right in his glove, whips around in a fraction of a second, and delivers it to the second-baseman is right in place at the right time, you see something that no other beings could do.

Now I propose: What about women being admitted to compete with men (e.g. golf, but also in things like football)? Legally, I think we all agree that any sports organization should be free to admit and reject whomever they please. But what about ethically?

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Spearmint, sometimes sports do turn into a tribal sort of game when people get serious about the “my team against your team” deal.  But it can be harmless if taken in the right way.  I’m a Red Sox fan and my best friend is a Yankees fan.  We joke around with each other, insult each other, etc. 
It's not that bad in America, no. I was referring more to soccer in Europe than anything else, since that seems to be the most obvous bastion of irrationality in sport. Youd probably weep for humanity if you investigated the kind of mentality possessed by large numbers of football fans in places like Glasgow or Turkey.

So what that somebody can run at 20-miles-per-hour.  Imagine if an alien came to our planet, saw us running competitions and everybody cheers at the guy who ran at 21-miles-per-hour—then sees a cheetah zooming by at 60.

So, now that Deep Blue has beated Kasparov at chess, would you say that chess champtionships are silly? Or that paintings of 'still life' are pointless now that we have cameras (I might actually agree with you on this one tbh)?

Now I propose:  What about women being admitted to compete with men (e.g. golf, but also in things like football)?  Legally, I think we all agree that any sports organization should be free to admit and reject whomever they please.  But what about ethically?
Depends on the sport. In sports that depend largely on physical attributes generally possessed by men (basketball/weightlifting/whatever), it makes sense to have a seperate division for women, since they are unlikely to be able to compete on the same level until we make significant steps advances in physique altering drugs. In sports that don't depend on physical attributes such as poker or chess, I think it would be silly to have a seperate women's division.

On a sidenote, I look forward to the day when many people have moved beyond 'traditional sports' and TV begins to broadcast 'computer sports' such as quake/starcraft tournaments.

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Well, Deep Blue still has some challengers so the competition is not yet over. But when it has a clear victory, competition chess will cease to have meaning. I would still play chess casually (just as I run for exercise, but not competition).

As for paintings, I don’t think cameras quite beat them out. It can be much more difficult to arrange the subject matter for a picture than to just imagine it and paint it. If computers ever become more effective tools of creating images, though, I would say paintings should go.

As for “computer sports”, I don’t think they deserve the title of a sport. Maybe a game or competition, but a sport requires a combination of physical and mental ability. Computers have mostly eliminated the physical.

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