Bernard Suits’s Legacy: special journal issue — deadline for abstract 30 October 2017

August 28, 2017

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Here is an announcement with an looming deadline, snipped from the Philosophy of Sport blog. Submit your abstract then dress up as a grasshopper for Halloween. (In-joke. The academic philosopher, the late Bernard Suits, wrote the most widely discussed philosophical book on the definition of “a game” — The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia — […]

Posted in: announcements

This Sporting Life is about to come to life again!

August 28, 2017

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This blog has had a long off-season. Like, five years. It began as a set of reflections on sport over the course of a full calendar year in the world of sport — a year at the beginning of the second decade in this century, which included a Winter Olympics and a FIFA World Cup. […]

Posted in: announcements

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

1

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

2

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

2

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 […]

Posted in: baseball, moral luck

“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.

Posted in: Uncategorized

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 […]

Posted in: cognitive bias

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 […]

Posted in: cognitive bias

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

2

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

2

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

2

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

2

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

1

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

1

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

2

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 […]

Posted in: what is a sport?

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

0

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

1

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

2

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

1

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, […]

Posted in: World Cup

World Cup diary #1

June 15, 2010

0

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

1

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 […]

Posted in: broadcasting, hockey

“Perfectly unfair”

June 10, 2010

0

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

1

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

4

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 […]

The imperfect game, Part 3: The end-game bias

June 10, 2010

1

It is significant that the perfect game was denied at the point of the last out. If the incident had happened in the 4th inning and Galarraga had gone on to pitch a one-hit complete game would anything like the same controversy have ensued? (That was a rhetorical question.) There is a pervasive, but surely […]

The imperfect game, Part 2: The paradox of changing the rules to award the perfect game

June 10, 2010

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The passionate debate shows how much we all interpret baseball players as competing against all of their baseball ancestors as much as they are against their rivals this season. The blown call made absolutely no difference to the result — that is, to the result of a relatively meaningless game in the midst of a […]

The imperfect game. In our imperfect world. Part 1

June 10, 2010

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Writing and traveling for my day job have distracted me from the blog for a busy three weeks in the sporting world. And in particular, other deadlines and a trip abroad kept me from weighing in on The Imperfect Game: when Armando Galarraga earned the 27th consecutive out, but was denied his perfect game when […]

Life imitates sport…and gets life: three strikes and you’re really out

May 24, 2010

1

One of the themes of this blog is that sports are a lot like life. Or more specifically, the way we engage with sports tells us a lot about how we engage with other parts of our social and political lives. But sometimes these other parts of life seem to draw from our sporting culture. […]

Posted in: baseball

Root, root, root for…the underdog

May 16, 2010

1

In the previous post I began with the intention of quickly introducing a link my colleague David Wong sent me to a fun article in Slate called “The Underdog Effect: why do we love a loser?” But before I could think about why some of us cheer for underdogs, I couldn’t help pausing to worry […]

Root, root, root for…some team or other

May 15, 2010

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An uncharitable, but not wholly inaccurate, line on This Sporting Life is that it’s all about how to be a sports snob while still being a genuine sports fan. Of course, nobody wants to admit they’re a snob. (“Connoisseur” is so much more urbane.) If you’re into the themes of this blog, you really like […]

Posted in: aesthetics, partisanship

The dreaded 2-goal lead

May 12, 2010

1

I’m watching my beloved Montreal Canadiens trying to defend a 2-goal lead in a game 7. As Andrew Potter observes, the worst cliche in hockey is the idea that the 2-goal lead is the most dangerous lead to defend. Now I know what [they’re] getting at: With a one-goal lead, a team keeps its focus, […]

Posted in: hockey, punditry

Why is hockey analysis always so lame? Part 3: It’s hard

May 10, 2010

2

I’m obviously making this up as I go along; but if you’ve read Why is hockey analysis (almost) always so lame? Part 1 and Part 2, thanks for bearing with me. So far I have talked mostly about the ways in which hockey analysis (on TV, in the daily press) is so frustratingly superficial. I […]

Why is hockey analysis always so lame? Part 2: The Broadcasters

May 7, 2010

4

I don’t remember a world without instant replay; although I was born into such a world. After clever but misbegotten attempts to use instant replay from the mid-1950s on, it is generally conceded that the first “modern” use — and not yet slow-motion — was in the broadcast of the Army-Navy football game in December […]

Student essay competition on Ethics, Business, and Sport

May 5, 2010

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Do you buy into the mission of This Sporting Life and want to earn some cash explaining why? And are you a student? The International Pierre de Coubertin Committee and the UK-based Institute for Business Ethics are offering £2,000 for the best student essay on “Olympic ideals applied to business.” The competition’s overarching aim is […]

Ernie Harwell, legendary baseball broadcaster dead at 92

May 4, 2010

0

One of the last of the legendary (and I think that word is appropriate here) baseball broadcasters dies last night after a year-long bout with cancer. He is most famous for covering Tigers’ games, from the late 1950s until 2002; but he already had a decade of big-league broadcasting under his belt before he arrived […]

Why is hockey analysis almost always so lame? Part 1

May 4, 2010

4

My friend Andrew Potter (author of the sizzling new book The Authenticity Hoax) tweeted a link on Friday [when I began writing this post] to a compelling contrast between the two biggest stars in the world of ice hockey, the Russian Alexander Ovechkin and the Canadian Sydney Crosby. The column in question was by Steve Simmons, who has covered hockey […]

Does watching the NFL draft qualify as watching sports?

April 26, 2010

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3.7 million people tuned into live coverage of the NFL draft this past weekend. And that figure surely doesn’t include my father, since he was watching in Mexico. My dad never really stops following the NFL during the calendar year. The official end of the season with the Super Bowl just slightly alters his ratio […]

Why the NCAA basketball Tournament is the “American Idol” of sports

April 25, 2010

2

[Warning: What follows is an overly long post, even by the standards of this rambling blog. It is summarized over the last 3 paragraphs or so.] At some point during the month-long March Madness gabfest on sports talk-radio Mike Greenberg (on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning”) was railing against proposals to expand the tournament […]

More on what makes golf great. And not so great.

April 11, 2010

1

In the last post I sketched out some of the reasons why Tiger fans (and some Tiger haters) like golf. And by “like” in sports I don’t mean merely “enjoy” it or have a “revealed preference” for it. A true sports aficionado likes sports in the way an art-lover or wine-lover likes their thing. As […]

What can we learn from Tiger?

April 11, 2010

1

Tiger Woods could be the poster child for This Sporting Life. When I began this blog I identified four broad areas of interest for me at intersection of sports-philosophy-sociology. Thinking about sports can tell us a lot about punditry, institutional design and ethics (or sportsmanship), cultural identities, and what it is that we find beautiful […]

Meet David, the new Goliath: Butler’s victory over Duke marks the dawn of a new era in college basketball

April 6, 2010

3

Move over Gonzaga, Villanova, George Mason, and the Western Texas Miners. There’s a new Cinderella in town. Take that, Goliath: there’s a new David. Butler’s unlikely run all the way to the National Championship last night was like cotton-candy-for-breakfast in the sports media this morning. Many in the American sports chattering class routinely profess their […]

Evaluating proposed rule-changes in sports: is there a word for this kind of enquiry?

April 5, 2010

0

There is nothing I love more in sports punditry than a spirited debate over a controversial rule-change for a major team sport. There is no better way to get people to reveal what they value most in the experience of watching and following sports. And at the moment there’s a lot of this going around: a new […]

Why the new NFL overtime rule is an improvement

March 26, 2010

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Real NFL fans should like the new overtime rule — especially once it gets applied to the regular season — for the same reason that most of the real NFL coaches hate it. It holds out the promise of more high drama of the kind the NFL does best: where the coaching staff have to make […]

The old NFL overtime rule was not unfair

March 23, 2010

5

On Tuesday the owners of the NFL franchises agreed to change to the rules for how to deal with playoff games that end in a tie after “regulation” time. (On average, about one of the 11 games each post-season is tied after 60 minutes.) The old rule was simple: a coin toss gave one team […]

Are women’s sports “separate but equal”?

March 19, 2010

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We are rightly suspicious of arguments that justify institutional arrangements that promise to be “separate but equal.” These three conjoined words have had a unique ring in American culture ever since the landmark unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education case (1954). The Court declared that “separate educational facilities are […]

How do women’s sports measure up?

March 18, 2010

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You’d hardly know it watching ESPN these days, but there are actually two NCAA D1 college basketball championships going on now: one for men, and one for women. In general there is a pretty sharp line in “official” sporting competitions between men and women, or men’s and women’s teams. In fact, it is probably a […]

Posted in: gender, NCAA, punditry, ranking

Will the NCAA Tournament become the next asset bubble? The case against 96

March 14, 2010

1

In the previous post I suggested that a 65-team tournament could be justified not because it was more likely than a more exclusive tournament to crown a worthy champion, but because it helped the NCAA meet a number of its reasonable objectives — which include providing a great experience for the student-athletes, growing the sport, and […]

Meta-bracketology, part 2: Madness by design

March 12, 2010

1

I am willing to defend the NCAA’s current system for selecting the 65 teams in the national championship Tournament. But first a confession. I am also willing to admit that I know very little about basketball. I guess I know as much as most casual fans: I can follow the ball with the best of […]

Meta-bracketology: is there method behind March Madness?

March 11, 2010

1

There’s a 24-hr sports cycle in America, with several sports networks available on my cable menu any time of the day or night. ESPN alone gives me at least six, not including their virtual on-demand channels on the web. And yet most of the time no sporting matches are being played live. By even the […]

Bob Knight on How Good UConn Women’s Coach Gino Auriemma Is

March 9, 2010

0

Question on SportsCenter today: “He has 6 national titles, what are your thoughts on what Hall-of-Famer Gino Auriemma has done with this program?” Bob Knight: “I’ve said in the past, that if I were an athletic director looking for a basketball coach — I don’t care whether the team was going to be made up […]

Why Medal Counts Don’t Really Count

March 4, 2010

3

You have to wonder what the ancient Greeks talked about after their Olympic games finished. (I mean, we know what the modern Greeks talked about, or should have talked about, after their Olympics: how the hell are we ever going to pay for this?! Does anybody here have any connections at Bear Stearns?) After all, […]

Who Lost the Vancouver Olympics?

March 2, 2010

0

The Wall Street Journal may not have won any journalism medals for its failure to foretell which financial institutions on its eponymous street would crumble first. But they have spared us the leg work necessary to figure out which countries did the worst at the Olympics. They have handed out lead, tin, and zinc medals […]

Posted in: Olympics, ranking

Who Won the Vancouver Olympics?

March 1, 2010

4

I suppose the official answer to this question is, “The World,” which according to the IOC mission is supposed to be made “peaceful and better” by “educating youth through sport practised in accordance with Olympism and its values.” But of course anybody who asks the question “who won?” really wants to know which country won. The IOC […]

How to Broadcast Curling: notes for 2014

February 28, 2010

1

Most sporting events I watch on TV are broadcast exactly the way they were when I was a kid and TVs were small, square, and mostly black-and-white. And even worse, games on TV are still “called” the way they were on radio when my dad was a kid, with the play-by-play guy (yes, in the […]

Chess on Ice; Chess Board on Pants

February 28, 2010

6

There’s an irresistible cliché for broadcasters of many sports: the “chess match.” Often an announcer is simply pointing out that there’s a tight back-and-forth battle going on. But to make sense of the metaphor there has to be some strategic rationality, where player A tries to predict what B will do before A makes her […]

How Good is Women’s Hockey?

February 26, 2010

3

Pretty good, that’s how good. The gold-medal game, like all of the games I can remember between the only two consistently-elite women’s teams — Canada and the USA — was certainly a thrill from start to finish. But when we ask, “how good is it?” we usually mean, “how does it compare to men’s hockey?” […]

Posted in: Olympics, ranking

The Russians Weren’t Coming

February 26, 2010

0

What happened to the Russian men’s hockey team in their much-hyped showdown against arch-rivals Canada last night? On paper the teams were evenly matched, and clearly the most talented two teams in the tournament, with 7 of the top 8 NHL goal-scorers between them. And yet the Canadians dominated every facet of the game, including […]

“Sports are holy”

February 24, 2010

0

Surely what most of us Olympics skeptics react to is not the Games themselves, but the way they are packaged and presented. And I found at least part of the explanation for this on the flight home in Esquire magazine's Olympic preview by Stephen Marche, which asks in its title, Are the Olympics Ruining Everything?

Kitsch as the natural aesthetic of nationalism

February 17, 2010

1

Again, I can’t claim to have watched carefully all of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in recent years. Even the highlights are usually painful. But this quote from Michael Ignatieff in 1993, with Yugoslav civil wars and a recent visit to an exhibition of Nazi “art” fresh in his mind, clarifies a few things: “There is […]

We are more. And less.

February 16, 2010

5

As a Canadian expatriate — some might say, ex-patriot — I have to say, those opening ceremonies in Vancouver were brutal to watch. If I’d watched them in a room full of friends here in North Carolina, I would have been apologizing on my native country’s behalf. And, of course, my friends here would have […]

Putting American football to bed for awhile

February 13, 2010

1

(Originally posted 10 Feb. 2010) It’s always kind of surprising how quickly a sport disappears from our minds within a day or so of its championship game. For many true fans of the sport — i.e. not simply fans of a particular team, who lose interest as soon as their team is eliminated from the […]

Posted in: identity, moral luck, ranking

Of balls and brains

February 13, 2010

0

(Originally posted 8 Feb. 2010) In a world steeped in traditions and wives’ tales, it takes courage to be sensible. Prairie women of my grandmother’s generation were sure that the best way to kill germs in milk was to boil it. But it turns out this also kills “good” bacteria, which makes milk more susceptible […]

Posted in: Uncategorized

Thus Spake Football Outsiders

February 13, 2010

0

(Originally posted 7 Feb. 2010) If you don’t think you have the stomach (figuratively and, perhaps, literally) for several hours of pre-game hype on TV today, but would actually like some useful pre-game analysis, spend some time with this lengthy breakdown by the stat-inventin’, amateur play-chartin’, number-crunchin’ wizards at Football Outsiders. If you don’t know […]

Posted in: Uncategorized

Football fallacies

February 13, 2010

2

As I begin typing these words, the NFL season has 25 hours and one game to go. I have listened to about 13 days of chatter about who will win that one game and why. And in general, a season’s worth of prognosticating is fresh in mind. Brian Burke argued, in a NYT blog post […]

Posted in: Uncategorized

Art follows life

February 13, 2010

0

Some of us like sports for the same reason we like, say, movies. For the drama. I am often mildly troubled by the fact that spoiler-alerts are even more important in sports than they are in movies. Why does the drama depend so heavily on our ignorance of the outcome? I typically record games rather […]

Posted in: Uncategorized

The sporting soul

February 13, 2010

2

David Brook’s column today is one of the relatively rare ones on those two pages of The New York Times to fall right into the wheelhouse of this blog. The fact that it popped into the NYT’s current “top-10 most popular” list gives me some hope there could be an audience for This Sporting Life. First, a […]

Posted in: Uncategorized

Prognosticating big games

February 13, 2010

1

Brian Burke’s explanation of his skepticism about his own Super Bowl predictions in a NY Times blog is the best thing I’ve come across over in this fortnight between the NFL conference championships and the Big Game. This is a period of time when the ratio of chatter-to-football approaches infinity. What’s most interesting is not […]

Posted in: Uncategorized

Some-stars game

February 13, 2010

0

I can’t remember the last time I watched the NFL’s all-star game, which is mysteriously called the “Pro Bowl.” My dad watches it every year. But he’s an NFL junkie, and coming a week after the Super Bowl, it was always his only available hit of football methadone to ease him into a long winter, […]

Posted in: Uncategorized

This sporting life = This life

February 12, 2010

2

I hope this will be the last “programmatic” post for a while. And the last time I ever post the word “programmatic.” How is the sporting life like the life life? Here is a quick list of four themes I’m often drawn back to. Punditry. We live in the world of the 24-hour news cycle. In […]

Play ball!

February 8, 2010

1

This is a blog about politics, philosophy, sociology, and punditry. But it will talk exclusively about sports; usually spectator sports. My working hypothesis is that the way we think and talk about sports isn’t just analogous to the way we think and talk about some other important things in life – like business and politics. It […]