Browsing Archives of Author »Wayne Norman«

Did Lance Armstrong Cheat, and Does it Matter?: what to make of all this now that he will “no longer address” the issue

August 28, 2012

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When Lance Armstrong suddenly pleaded “no contest” last week in the USADA’s proceedings against him, my university’s communications office sent out a time-sensitive request to faculty members who might have some comment. I foolishly glanced at a couple of news reports on my iPad in the meeting I was in, and then tapped out a […]

“Great Team Chemistry No Match For Great Team Biology”

March 7, 2012

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That was a recent headline from The Onion, and as usual, the short article that followed it pretty much wrote itself.  “I’ve never seen a team work in sync with itself as well as A&M did tonight, but unfortunately, they were up against players who have bodies far better adapted for playing basketball,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas […]

This bullfighter needs a left tackle…

March 7, 2012

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…though he is clearly not lacking in cojones. This post may interrupt the flow of posts on the NFL’s “bountygate” (last seen here) but the surreal juxtaposition probably isn’t out of place. Is a bullfighter an athlete? an artist? a butcher? sad clown? all of the above? Well, if Juan José Padilla were an NFL player, […]

What we cannot reliably learn from former NFL players about the “bounty” system (or anything else)

March 7, 2012

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It goes without saying that most of the chatter on the sports networks comes from the mouths of former players and coaches. There may typically be one journalist or “broadcaster” moderating a discussion, and occasionally there are non-player “experts” about particular subjects internal or external to the sport in question (from folks who analyze the […]

Bounty Ethics in the NFL

March 6, 2012

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It’s now day 5 of “bountygate” and there’s surely very little left to be said. For those not entranced by the blue glow of 24/7 sports gossip on ESPN and the NFL Network (where gaggles of pundits on retainer need something to gab about between the early-Februrary Super Bowl and the late-April draft), or for […]

Shameless “Linsanity” link

February 18, 2012

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In an over-committed personal and professional life — which includes teaching, overseeing another blog, being an editor of an academic journal, trying to get better on electric guitar, running, Bikram yoga, and refereeing on-going incidents involving two house-bound tomcats — this blog seems to have drawn the short straw for the time being. But to […]

Luck don’t come easy

October 31, 2011

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This blog has been dormant so long it missed an entire baseball season. There are no doubt plenty of thorough accounts of that season; but a very short post-World Series blog post in the New Yorker by Roger Angell captures a lot of what’s great and weird about every baseball season. Thrilling but, in a […]

“Wage sport on war”

April 30, 2011

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Nike makes the case for sport. It’s not the whole case — hey, it doesn’t even talk about why sports is great from the couch. And it doesn’t consider the case against. But in two minutes they make a beautiful case.

Still wondering about the Wonderlic test

March 26, 2011

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I just read another extremely typical, and unhelpful, treatment of the relevance of the Wonderlic test for predicting the prospects of young quarterbacks in the NFL. It comes from SI.com’s “Cold Hard Facts,” via the Beacher Report. I raised this issue in the previous post, “Your brain on sports.” Like everything I’ve ever read or heard […]

Your brain on sports

March 24, 2011

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Does playing sports make you smarter? Or is it just that smart people play (and excel at) sports? The studies referred to in a New York Times blog post today won’t settle that debate. But they do highlight ways in which the jock’s brain seems to be smarter and faster than the nerd’s. The main […]

Ridin’ with the King

March 22, 2011

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It was my great pleasure yesterday to meet my long-time hero King Kaufman, who I name-checked and quoted in the very first post on this blog. King famously described his groundbreaking sports column (or we might say “sports-on-TV” column) as “Like talking to the guy on the next barstool, if the guy on the next barstool […]

Which sports are best and worst to watch live? Part I, general observations

March 17, 2011

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At one point in the highly entertaining Champions League match between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan a couple of nights ago we were treated to an extended period in which Bayern’s back four passed the ball back and forth across the pitch. You might have thought they were simply time-wasting, except that it came at […]

What’s in it for the paying spectator?

March 9, 2011

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I’m guessing, conservatively, that 98% of the sporting events I’ve watched in my lifetime have been on TV. And I’m guessing that this fact does not make me stand out among sports fans. Properly speaking, I am a big fan of sports-on-TV, not of sports as such. And sure, I have always enjoyed playing sports; but […]

Is there nothing we can’t sportify?

February 22, 2011

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Sumo, discussed in the previous post, is a rare example of a sport that is threatening to desportify. Perhaps the last one to do this was “professional” wrestling, which began as a version of one of the oldest competitions known to humans — hell, to beasts — and replaced the entire competitive element with scripted […]

Is sumo a real sport?

February 22, 2011

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A couple of weeks ago I blogged about sumo wrestling over at Ethics for Adversaries. A lot of the stuff I used to blog about here — especially issues over rules, regulations, and norms of sportsmanship — is also fair game over there, but I will try to at least cross-reference posts that could fit […]

GQ’s 25 Coolest Athletes of All Time. Pretty cool.

February 4, 2011

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Tip of the hat to GQ‘s (US Edition) February feature for its feature on the “25 Coolest Athlete of All Time.” Most of their picks are actually pretty cool, and in mostly an old-school, cool-jazz-era sense of cool. (The magazine admits that “all time” begins when GQ itself began, in 1957. But that’s also, more […]

Sport and religion: Does Jesus want you to pray for His help?

January 21, 2011

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Did Jesus make me (able to) do it? He certainly gets a lot of credit. Not as many shout-outs as He gets at the Grammies. But he still seems to get credit for His fair share of home runs, touchdown catches, and buzzer-beaters. During my unintended blogging hiatus in the autumn I failed to pass […]

They don’t call it the “No Fun League” for nothing

January 21, 2011

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Every professional sports league is like a social science lab experiment for approaches to government regulations. And the NFL is what the European Union would look like if the President of the European Commission could live out his technocratic dreams. Why leave a matter to the judgment, discretion, professionalism, or sportsmanship of your personnel, one […]

Gamesmanship, showmanship, and sportsmanship, in Jets-v-Patriots

January 19, 2011

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I have a keen fascination with the territory between sportsmanship and gamesmanship in sports and other adversarial institutions. That is, between “the high road” of following both the letter and the spirit of the rules, on the one hand, and the “low road” of cheating within the rules, or of cheating when you think you […]

And just like that… it’s the beginning of the end of the 2010-11 NFL season

January 14, 2011

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Sorry about that. I disappeared for three months. From here, anyway. Life happens. There was so much going on I had to choose between writing about sports and watching sports in my free time, and I opted for the latter. Hopefully I can continue to do both from now on. In the meantime, the long […]

The end of the beginning of the 2010 NFL season

October 4, 2010

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A well-rounded sport-spectator experience involves following several sports through the course of the year. Different sports showcase different features that make sports spectatorship rewarding: from the mental determination and courage of individual athletes in, say, golf, tennis, or the marathon, struggling to maintain focus in the face of self-doubt, pain, and exhaustion; to the perfectly […]

Great athletes are not born, they’re made… then sold to the highest bidder

September 23, 2010

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It has been a big week for philosophizing about sports at Duke University, where I teach. Perhaps this helps us take our minds off a crushing loss to Alabama, the NCAA football national champions, who played here last weekend. First it was Justice Samuel A. Alito reflecting on how cheering for the Phillies made him, […]

Should we all root for the Washington Generals?

September 23, 2010

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US Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito visited the Law School at my university last week, and worked in a curious sports reference for those interested in reading the tea leaves of his moral psychology. We all want to know how those on the bench decide cases when the law itself is unclear and they have […]

More on “Why no gatherer-sports?”

September 18, 2010

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[This post picks up where the previous one left off. Both are jumping off from a question posed on the blog Overcoming Bias. Somehow two weeks elapsed since that last post -- coincidentally the onset of my fall teaching term at Duke.] It seems to make sense to enquire about the “primordial” roots of either […]

“Why no Gatherer-sports?”

September 4, 2010

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There’s an old adage one hears in business schools to describe managers with a limited range of management skills (and presumably limited career prospects): if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And if the only two tools you have are a hammer and a saw, every problem […]

Signaling – and Sharing – your Sports Fandom

August 28, 2010

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Here are a few more reflections inspired by the discussion over at Overcoming Bias of nerds using game-playing to signal social messages to the world outside the game. (Robin Hanson’s original post was here, my first extrapolation to the situation of sports fans was here, and his brief comment on that is here.) This Sporting […]

Nerds v. Jocks: twin brothers from different mothers?

August 28, 2010

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OK, it’s not exactly Superman v. Batman, but a pretty fierce and very nerdy debate has erupted following a post over at Overcoming Bias, and continuing on at Marginal Revolution (two of the consistently smartest blogs in the ‘sphere). Why do nerds — for want of a better term, though we may also be talking […]

World Cup Memories

August 19, 2010

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A month after the end of the World Cup, I think it is about time I close a few tabs on my browser that have been holding particularly memorable reflections on that delirious month in the early summer. Here are a few quotes. I like this from the English novelist Tim Parks, in the New […]

David Foster Wallace: confessions of a depressed sports fan

August 18, 2010

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Courtesy of Marginal Revolution and a tip from Business Ethics Blogger, Chris MacDonald, here is some food from thought from a 1995 article in Esquire by the great, and unfortunately, late American novelist David Foster Wallace: … it’s better for us not to know the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get […]

More on Blown Calls: which sport is worse?

August 17, 2010

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Here are a couple of quick addenda to the last post on the different types of challenges that officials face in different sports, and how this should affect decisions about introducing technology (or expanding its use) to overcome the “human error factor” in officiating. First, I want to point to the articles that prompted me, even […]

Blown Calls: How distracting is the human element in sports officiating?

August 17, 2010

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We can learn a lot about how sports differ from each other by focusing on the role of the officials — referees, umpires, linesmen, judges, timekeepers, and of course video-replay officials. Some sports involve officials being asked to make very “objective” clear-cut (if often difficult) calls: was serve on the line? who crossed the finish […]

Embracing the Arbitrary, part 1: why arbitrary rules make sports great.

August 14, 2010

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At the end of the previous post I promised to explore some implications of the late Professor Suits’s extraordinary clarification of the concept of a game. (And then I disappeared into work and travel for more than a week.) The intuition is that a better understanding of what makes a sport a sport will help […]

It’s a Funny Old Game. Of course: games are weird by definition

August 1, 2010

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Legendary English striker Jimmy Greaves found opportunities every week to shake his head, smile, and note what a “funny old game” football (soccer) was. We might call that a catchphrase now. But, at least in his early years as a television pundit in the 1980s, it always seemed to come out as his most genuine, […]

Soccer vs American Sports, part 5: Does taking the hands out of play make a sport inferior?

July 31, 2010

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During the 2002 World Cup, Allen Barra, a great American sports writer (and acclaimed reviewer of books in general) published an infamous anti-soccer rant. The target of the rant was an alleged “swarm of soccer nerds and bullies reminding us how backward and provincial we [good ol' American sports fans] are for not appreciating soccer […]

When is a Sport not a Sport?

July 28, 2010

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Do we need to answer the question “What is a sport?” in order to address questions about which sports are better than others, or how to improve any given sport or spectator’s experience? I suspect not. But reflecting for a moment on the different fundamental features of various sports does help us to explain why […]

Is Cheerleading a Sport?

July 27, 2010

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More post-World-Cup reflections on soccer soon. But in the meantime, a philosophical debate about sport erupted on a slow summer sports-news day last week. In case you missed it, here’s the AP’s account of the story: Competitive cheerleading is not an official sport that colleges can use to meet gender-equity requirements, a federal judge ruled […]

What’s Wrong With Soccer Broadcasting? (Soccer vs American Sports, part 4)

July 22, 2010

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The job of sports broadcasters is to help viewers see the order and intention where the untrained eye sees only chaos. We expect broadcasters to be experts of the game. (By “broadcasters” I mean the entire team, from the people who plan and select the camera angles and design or use replay and “telestrator” technology, to […]

Soccer vs American Sports, Part 3: Going with the flow

July 20, 2010

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Dazzling offensive plays are the pop music of sports. Like catchy tunes, they are hard not to love. Even more, they are like the vocals and the melody of pop-music hooks. (You can sing these yourself in the shower or on the school bus, without realizing that the song was a hit because of the […]

Soccer vs American Sports, Part 2: In praise of defense

July 15, 2010

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In Part 1 of this little series, I argued — well, asserted — that an appreciation of the individual and team defensive plays and strategies is an essential component of sports connoisseurship. As a corollary, a sport in which defense is either non-existent (say, bowling, golf, or most track-and-field events, for all intents and purposes), […]

Soccer vs American Sports, Part 1: Dissing defense

July 13, 2010

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We’ll get back to the 3rd part of the series on the ethics of diving soon. In the meantime, while the World Cup is still fresh, I’m starting a new series of reflections on some of the ways fans of North American team sports (principally American football, baseball, basketball, and hockey) might think about what […]

Blemishes on the beautiful game, Part 2: Is diving really a problem?

July 8, 2010

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Diving is not the story of this World Cup, by any stretch. And I’ve been too wrapped up in what’s been great about the tournament — namely, the tactical match-ups and play on the pitch — to blog about this perennial and revealing issue. As I noted in the previous post, diving seems to be […]

Blemishes on the beautiful game, part 1: Luddite officiating and the ethics of diving

July 6, 2010

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It’s been a terrific World Cup so far. We all have to keep our fingers crossed for the semi-finals and the finals being as intriguing as the quarters, because our individual and collective memories of the overall quality of any given World Cup lean heavily on the quality of those contests. The nil-nil draw and […]

World Cup diary #3: the beginning of the end

June 28, 2010

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A busy travel schedule has allowed me to see most of the matches so far, to keep up on the press and bloggers, yet not to comment much myself. But now the real tournament has begun, in the second round. I’ll be blogging regularly from here on in. It’s hard to give a comparative assessment […]

World Cup diary #2: the end of the beginning

June 16, 2010

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Every team has now played one game — and more often than not, rather cautiously. We are a long, long way from the beginning of the end now; though to paraphrase Churchill, this is a convenient place to mark the end of the beginning. With two games left for each team in the opening round, […]

World Cup diary #1

June 15, 2010

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I love everything about the World Cup. I love even the things I hate about the World Cup. Since these things — the gamesmanship, the aristocratic governance of the sport, the nationalism, the ridiculous narratives people map onto the results, the over-looming factor of luck that seals fates, and the resulting “unfairness” and tragedy of […]

The players like it imperfect

June 15, 2010

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Here’s a quick follow-up to the Imperfect Game controversy I followed over far too many posts, starting here. ESPN The Magazine conducted a (let us say, rather unscientific) poll of 100 major-league baseball players about their views on the umpires and the use of replay. The brief survey revealed three interesting results: 1. Despite the […]

A few thoughts on the NHL playoffs

June 11, 2010

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The NHL playoffs wound up a couple of days ago, and the World Cup starts in about an hour. Here are a few thoughts on the former, as we move from the season of the fastest “flow” sport to that of the slowest. 1. The Broadcasting. I whined at length about why hockey broadcasting was […]

“Perfectly unfair”

June 10, 2010

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A five-part series of posts on what we learn from a bad call in a regular-season baseball game is more than enough. There will be no Part 6. But I can’t help adding a shout-out to a terrific little column by Robert Wright in The New York Times which I discovered too late. For Wright, […]

The imperfect game, Part 5 of 5: The irrational quest to tame chance

June 10, 2010

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Are the businessmen in charge of baseball trying to manage their precarious pre-modern brand by preserving its quaintest features? Or is there a recognition by the high-priests in charge that we have to reconcile ourselves with the essential element of luck and chance that is shot through the game of baseball. Those who passionately want […]

The imperfect game, Part 4: Do umps really need to be part of the game?

June 10, 2010

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The Imperfect Game debate has revived a long-standing debate about how to treat umpires and their fallibility as “part of the game.” Everything we know about human perception and cognitive psychology informs us that umpires will  blow calls. Most of the blowable calls, including Joyce’s call last week, involve “judgments” that have to be made […]

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