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Rand on Sports

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quinp
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On the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein said:

Rand ... indirectly persuaded me that caring about the success of strangers on sports teams that happen to carry the name of my city or school is a waste of time. This freed up thousands of hours for other endeavors more directly related to my own life. (I’m not an evangelist about this; if you enjoy rooting for sports teams, and think the opportunity costs are worth the enjoyment you get out of it, more power to you.)

I asked him what passage(s) convinced him of this. I thought I had heard of or read such a Randian passage that dealt with the topic, but some say Rand never wrote such a thing. He replied:

I'm pretty sure that Rand actually wrote somewhere that one can properly enjoy sports to watch athletic greatness, but that rooting for a particular team is irrational. But it wasn't a particular passage that did it, it's the overall idea that one should aspire to one's own greatness (or as great as one can be), and not be a "second-hander."

Can you help me get more specific? Where might I find some relevant passages?

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Here are two passages that may be relevant to what you are asking:

Similarly, one cannot substitute recreation—games, sports, travel, hobbies, reading murder mysteries, watching TV, going shopping, going to the beach, and the like—for work. Recreation presupposes creation. Leisure activities are a form of rest and presuppose that which one is resting from; they have value only as relaxation and reward after the performance of work.

[quote name='The Ayn Rand Letter

Vol. 1, No. 25 September 11, 1972

An Open Letter To Boris Spassky

' ]

Please do not take this to mean that I object to games as such: games are an important part of man's life, they provide a necessary rest, and chess may do so for men who live under the constant pressure of purposeful work. Besides, some games—such as sports contests, for instance—offer us an opportunity to see certain human skills developed to a level of perfection.

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I am not a sports fan. However, I don't see anything wrong with supporting a particular team.

I do see something wrong with basing one's own sense of self worth upon a sports team, however, unless one directly has a relationship with that team.

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indirectly persuaded me that caring about the success of strangers on sports teams that happen to carry the name of my city or school is a waste of time

I agree with that. Picking people to root for just because you're at the same school or in the same city is textbook chauvinism. But liking a team (or athlete) based on one's own values, and rooting for it, doesn't make one a second hander.

Speaking of which, how great was Mr. Andrew Eugene Pettitte again, last night.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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  • 2 weeks later...

In America, some people are absolutely fanatical about the teams they support. That someone could watch men running around and have their mood and self-esteem so directly affected by actions that have so little affect on the actual world is strange.

I am impressed with feats of athletic prowess, however. I also believe that being a fan (watching games, purchasing tickets and merchandise) supports the financial aspect of a team, and therefore does make one part of that team. It's like being an extreme minority owner.

Also, it's important to support hometown teams, otherwise they will lose money and move away. When they move away or go bankrupt, one will no longer have a local sporting event to go see.

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I don't know about anyone else, but I supported my college team because I felt a sense of connection with these players who went to the same institution I did, and I felt a sense of community with the other fans. Basically, I loved my school, so I rooted for our basketball team. Of course, I think many sports fans take this too far or live vicariously through their sports teams, but I think a healthy amount of community support can lead to a rational support for a particular sports team.

I really can't bring myself to care about national league sports, but I love college sports and I root for the colleges I have some connection to.

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Interestingly my high school football team, from the year I graduated, is being inducted into some sort of hall of fame this Wednesday, and even though I wasn't on the team, I'll be going. They had an undefeated season that year, ending up taking the state championship. (They year before they were undefeated until losing at the semifinals.).

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In America, some people are absolutely fanatical about the teams they support. That someone could watch men running around and have their mood and self-esteem so directly affected by actions that have so little affect on the actual world is strange.

The part you added to make it strange makes it strange. Actually supporting a team, and caring if they win or lose (without having one's self-esteem be affected by it - as I'm sure no one's is, that's the part you added yourself) is not strange.

I am impressed with feats of athletic prowess, however. I also believe that being a fan (watching games, purchasing tickets and merchandise) supports the financial aspect of a team, and therefore does make one part of that team. It's like being an extreme minority owner.

Also, it's important to support hometown teams, otherwise they will lose money and move away. When they move away or go bankrupt, one will no longer have a local sporting event to go see.

Or a team you might actually like will move in to take their place.

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Thanks for all your replies, especially dream_weaver's quotations. I'm still on the hunt for a quote on whether Rand explicitly opposed (or did not oppose) being a sports fanatic, particularly when it comes to supporting one's school or local team over against other schools and teams.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for all your replies, especially dream_weaver's quotations. I'm still on the hunt for a quote on whether Rand explicitly opposed (or did not oppose) being a sports fanatic, particularly when it comes to supporting one's school or local team over against other schools and teams.

Leanord Peikoff said in a Podcast that Rand was a fan of Muhammad Ali.

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In America, some people are absolutely fanatical about the teams they support.

I see no need to restrict the statement to America. Just think about what happens when the Soccer World Cup is won. I think it might even be the case that in some countries, almost everyone is fanatical about their soccer team.

John Link

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Well, my university just lost its season opener against Stetson University.... in our new basketball coach's debut game... for those who don't know, season openers are supposed to be gimmes. Suffice it to say I'm not gonna be a very happy sports fan this year. Just thought I would share my pain.

Edited by Dante
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On the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein said:

Rand ...
indirectly
persuaded me ...

There is no such passage, that is his own conclusion. It is such common sense it hardly takes a Rand make the point.

Still, there are some valid bases for having a favorite team.

Knowing enough about a sport to be able to perceive skill and talent directly, and wanting success to go to those who deserve it.

Knowing enough about a sport to be able to understand strategies on display, and approving of teams which agree with your own conclusions.

Familiarity with the career arcs of particular players or coaches or even owners, which become stories interesting in themselves.

There are probably more.
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I used to be a New York Jets fan.

I went to home games for 20 years.

Eventually I realized that the Jets' success or lack of success affected my mood for a couple days or more each week.

I also realized that going to the games was taking time away from activities that were more important to me, such as hobbies that could eventually become careers.

So for the last few years I haven't been watching football on a regular basis and I no longer root for any specific teams.

I still watch an occasional game and I watch most of the NFL playoff games every year.

As a result, I enjoy the game much more, regardless of who is playing and regardless of who wins.

Now when I watch a game, my mood always remains the same or improves, but never gets worse.

I've also been able to put more effort into my hobbies and career.

And I'm saving time and money since I don't go to the games anymore and I've decided not to pay for an NFL television package.

The End.

Go Jets!

LOL

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  • 2 weeks later...

It depends upon the full given context: To do sport for the sake of your own value of health is a proper moral virtue.

To see sport as a centeral productive purpose is an early stage of barbarism; it is not man's qua man life.

Supporting a particular team, independently on its members, connection with you and mainly its success, is a deep stage of subjectivism, and a complete whim.

Apparently, the two latest ones are widespread together in our days.

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Supporting a particular team, independently on its members, connection with you and mainly its success, is a deep stage of subjectivism, and a complete whim.

I assume you meant to say "of its members". I disagree. I think that supporting a high school or college team as a representation of your connection to that institution is entirely reasonable. I love my school, therefore I want its sports teams to do well. I also think this could be applied to professional teams; if you're a fan of the sport, say for instance football, and you happen to think that your team has a coaching staff that knows a lot about the game and players who are devoted, honorable and exceedingly talented (Jason Witten, the Cowboys tight end comes to mind), there's nothing morally wrong with wanting that team to succeed. Legacy's also an issue for me: my team (the Cowboys), are, as of the past few decades, a team founded on the sports philosophy of the great Tom Landry, and since they still operate largely on his teachings and basic expertise, every successful season of theirs is a testament to his greatness. For that reason too, I want the Cowboys to succeed year after year. I can also suggest (though this is not necessarily the case for me) that if one feels that his city is head and shoulders better than others, such as Denver, for its relatively large Objectivist population and smoothly functioning government, they want their city represented well in the sports arena (there's a direct correlation, too: a successful city makes money, spends some of it on watching football, the football team makes more money, and the team acquires better coaches, players, and equipment).

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To see sport as a centeral productive purpose is an early stage of barbarism; it is not man's qua man life.

An athlete who adopts his sport as his central productive purpose is barbaric? That's ridiculous. How is being an athlete fundamentally different from being any other kind of entertainer; a musician, for example? Being, say, a guitarist in a successful rock band takes an incredible amount of talent, dedication, and hard work. It is a career that can be approached healthily (with the goal of creating great music) or unhealthily (with the goal of becoming famous, or producing any music that sells whatsoever). Being the point guard for an NBA team is not fundamentally different. In principle, "athlete" is a perfectly acceptable career choice.

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An athlete who adopts his sport as his central productive purpose is barbaric?
Yes, and you what 'productive central purpose' means in context. It's hard to me to imagine John Galt or Howard Roark as soccer players instead of mechanics, philosophers and architects. That would be perfectly ridiculous. And it has a very specific justification in Objectivist philosophy: Art, science and philosophy are man's qua man survival. More specifically, they have a very important role to man's life, and I think you know it.

In principle, "athlete" is a perfectly acceptable career choice.
Read my things again. I did not say that getting money from sport is a crime. As well, I did not say that getting money from gambling in the internet is a crime, like all those socialist who cry they get no career with the same talents one who [gabled] has. No, it isn't right: it is a simple business making ability, with one who, eventually, made it in a more productive way.

What I said was a follows: I think that all the mysticism of "Soccer is art in a very mystical way that no one can integrate; it is more logical than set theory; it symbolizes of our life", and especially when it becomes "Whom we support and whom kicks his ass," is not rational, and not living qua man.

Respectively, I see most of the guys from my school that see sport as a productive central purpose unemployed in future.

Weston:

I assume you meant to say "of its members".
If you say, all right.

I think that supporting a high school or college team as a representation of your connection to that institution is entirely reasonable.
No, that's a context dropping! I didn't say that supporting a team for a non-athletic reason is irrational. I said that the context always has to be about the values you share with the people that participate in the team: a school in which you expand your knowledge context or a team which is objectively the best (value of body developing) (but then the concept 'support' becomes meaningless). I said "independently on its members". If you cheer a team because you want a player of its who shares values with you to win, or because you know it has a lesser governmental regulation, who am I to tell you it is immoral or irrational?

if you're a fan of the sport, say for instance football, and you happen to think that your team has a coaching staff that knows a lot about the game and players who are devoted
Yes, this is what mystics of the mind call "practical knowledge". For instance, when you go to a philosophy course at Leningrad university, you get practical knowledge, so when somebody tells you a philosophical sentence you can contradict it by "Oh, this was said by X, on Y in the book Z, so nothing new".

there's nothing morally wrong with wanting that team to succeed.
Yes, if your reason to want them to succeed is more than the circular proposition of "Because they win!".

Legacy's also an issue for me: my team (the Cowboys), are, as of the past few decades, a team founded on the sports philosophy of the great Tom Landry
A general question (not on your team): is there such thing as sports philosophy? That reminds me when a TV chef started subconsciously writing poems about the proper color of a tomato in the broadcast my grandmother said he is "philosophizing" :lol:
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I answered this in a previous thread about rooting for specific(esp. local) teams, and it still applies.

One thing you forget is this: Every sport I can think of, especially team sports, are more enjoyable when attending the event live rather than watching it on TV. Also, especially in the past, the majority of games you were able to get on TV locally were of local teams playing. So if you live in Cleveland, OH, the vast majority of live baseball games you will see are Cleveland Indians games, and your local cable provider shows you every Cleveland Indians game, you will quite naturally form an affection with that team as you learn more about their players and their history, unless there is something obviously repulsive about them.

It's just like with friends. I'm still pretty good friends with a lot of people who went to school with me, but that doesn't mean that the school I went to was somehow special in 'producing' likeable people with similar values to me. It's just that I know those people, and that makes a big difference. Maybe all of you guys on this forum would be better friends than the ones I hang out with, but I can't see you guys whenever I want to, nor do I really know you. If a good friend of mine gets married vs. someone on this board gets married, I really happy for my friend, while I don't 'really' care about the one getting married from this board. The one on this board may be a better person than my friend, and I may even know it, but that doesn't change the fact that my friend getting married is more important to me. Just like watching a team succeeding, whose games I've attended for the past ten years and whose players backstories I'm aware of, is much more important to me than seeing a team I really know nothing about winning, even though they may be better.

I know that there are a lot of irrational sports fans, and the more irrational they are, the more loud/visible they will be also. That doesn't mean there aren't solid reasons for being a fan of a certain team. I have a favourite team in all sports I follow(some local, some not), but I am one of those who don't support 'my' team regardless of what the team currently looks like. I have fallen out of love with many teams, due to the makeup of the team at the time, but I do stick with my teams in general, unless there is something really repulsive. I'm also one of those fans who don't ever "brag" about "my" team, and I'm brutally honest about what is going on with the team. This gets me into trouble quite often, as many of my fellow fans don't like to hear that the other team was clearly better thirty seconds after losing an important game. Or saying that you really admire a player on a team who you are "supposed" to hate, just because he is playing for your division rivals.

Still, in addition to the accessibility of the team, there are other constants to teams as well. That's why the argument about the players changing teams doesn't apply. Many teams have a clear identity year after year, and despite the players changing, that stays the same. Take the Pittsburgh Steelers for example. They have been known to be a defensive team for the last 40 years, and have always, no matter who the coach is, played a defensive style. Also, if you watch the same broadcast for ten straight years, and go to games at the same stadium, you can definitely start to feel affection towards the people who do play-by-play on the broadcast, or some 7th inning song that is sung during every home game. Especially if this is something you have done ever since you were a kid. Teams become almost like family to you.

I have to mention, that I very often have a secondary favourite during every season, just based on what kind of personalities are on the team, or what kind of style they play. Just like when watching a movie, you root for a certain character to do well, you do it in sports as well.

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