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

Posted on September 23, 2010


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, for better or worse, who he is. And then yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting a distinguished panel discussion at the Kenan Institute for Ethics on the “Global Production and Marketing of Athletes.”

You can find quick report on the short four presentations by our distinguished panelists in the Duke Today story by Geoffrey Mock. There is also a link to an audio version of most of the 90-minute event at the end of that story. (I say “most,” because I forgot to click “record” before I began my own introductory remarks.) There may be streaming video available soon, and if so, I’ll amend this post to provide the link.

While I have the floor, I might re-insert one remark of mine that did not make it into Geoffery’s story. My colleague Laurent Dubois (who runs the excellent Soccer Politics blog you will find on my blogroll) noted that the celebrated philosopher Albert Camus once claimed that everything he knew about ethics he learned from football (i.e. soccer, for he was a goal keeper). As an “Anglo-American” philosopher, and a fan of a huge range of sports that raise their own special ethical challenges, I cannot resist the thought that Camus’ remark says a lot more about the sorry state of French philosophy in the mid-twentieth century than it does about soccer.

And I shudder to think what he would have learned about ethics from soccer had he been raised in the early 21st century.