Play ball!

Posted on February 8, 2010


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 is exactly like it. I’m not trying to be dogmatic. Many aspects of life are not like sports, and thinking about the sporting life sheds no light on them. That’s fine with me. But I am drawn to debates about sports that do help us think more clearly about other important things in life. I hope that ideas and events worked out here will lead to a book a couple of years down the road. But that book will not be called Everything I Know About Life I Learned While Sitting on My Couch Watching Sports and Drinking Beer. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

I have always been interested in the way certain near-exact parallels between our feelings and analyses of sports and (e.g.) politics can help us think more clearly about the latter. Often this is a matter of being able to see more clearly what is misleading or fallacious about our perceptions of sporting events, and then seeing that we do the same thing as social and political pundits.

I am a philosophy professor. And like many other academics I know, I spend far too much time watching sports, reading the sports section and sports blogs, and watching sports “debating” shows like (the at times brilliant) PTI on ESPN. The book I may write someday to justify this research investment will probably not be an academic book. I’m not trying to intellectualize sports. But I do think that reflecting on sports – or really (I apologize) reflecting on how we reflect on sports – can help us reflect more clearly on other things.

This inaugural post will sit at the bottom of this blog for anyone curious enough to see where it began. To use a gaming analogy, it is me laying my cards on the table. I hope that most of the subsequent posts (perhaps after the next one) will read much more like debates you, as an intelligent reader, tend to have with other folks who are as passionate about sports as you are.

My favorite columnist/blogger in recent years has been King Kaufman, who had a regular sports column at from 2002-9. His tagline for that column was “Like talking to the guy on the next barstool, if the guy on the next barstool were pretty smart and not drunk.” I’ll aim for a similar vibe. And I’ll be happy if the blog finds the kinds of readers who can convince me that certain posts were stupid enough to raise questions about the blogger’s sobriety.