The Sports Ethics Show: Reviewing The Matheny Manifesto

In The Matheny Manifesto, Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, lays out his diagnosis and solution for youth sports. Mike Perry, a long-term Cardinals fan and frequent Sports Ethics Show guest, joins Sports Ethicist Shawn E. Klein for a discussion of some of the books main themes. They discuss the problem of over-involved parents, the lack of adult-free play spaces, and Matheny’s view of leadership, authority, and faith in the context of coaching and sport.

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4th Annual Sport Studies Symposium: Sport Studies: The State of the Art

Sport Studies Symposium 2015
Rockford University is hosting the Fourth Annual Sport Studies Symposium on Friday, April 24, 2015 from 1:00pm to 5:00pm (CT) in Severson Auditorium, Scarborough Hall. The conference is free to attend and light refreshments will be served.

Panel One: The Study of Sport

“Breaking Down Binaries: Considering the Possibilities of a Dialogue Between Science Studies and Play Studies”
– Matthew Adamson (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

“The Long, Slow, Tortured Death of Sport Studies in American Colleges (And the Possible Path Toward Resurrection)”
– Stephen D. Mosher, Ph.D. (Ithaca College)

“Conceptualizing the Nature of Sport”
– Synthia Sydnor, Ph.D. (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Panel Two: Sport Studies as Interdisciplinary

“Interpreting Interpretivism: A Legal Realist Account of Cheating in Sport”
-Aaron Harper, Ph.D. (West Liberty University)

“Then and Now:  Sport and Spectacle in Ancient Greece and Rome”
– Stephanie Quinn, Ph.D. (Rockford University)

“’Theology of Sport: Mapping the Field”
– Zach Smith (United States Sports Academy)

Symposium Flyer (PDF)

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Guest Post: The Top 10 Principle

The author of this guest post is Christopher Robinson. Dr. Robinson is a professor at the Ringling College of Art + Design (FL).

Baseball encourages a certain delusion present in all groups that breed fanatics: the belief in the best. This error is reasonable. We can, after all, count the times a player bats and the number of times they hit and compute a simple “batting average” and then objectively rank players. It makes sense to conclude that including more traits will continue to produce objective rankings. This, however, is a fallacy. While including multiple traits may get us better rankings, they typically produce multiple valid rankings.

For this post, I will focus on a single sport: baseball. I will present what we can call the Top 10 Principle: While there are better or worse Top 10 lists, there can be no authoritative ranking of baseball’s best players. Indeed, when we rank entities along more than one dimension, we will often be able to produce more than one valid ranking.

As we construct our list of 10 Men, there are certain names that are obvious candidates, such as Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson. As we refine our lists, we will have to move beyond “a player’s hitting skills matter” to quantifying what it means to be a good batter; we won’t just say someone is good, we will count the number of hits or home runs. We will also judge each player by position specific statistics, including catches, throws, or ERA. We will break players down into statistics and then select specific players with the best mix of statistics.

A Top 10 based on the number of home runs would differ from one based on batting average; one based on stolen bases differs from one based on fielding percentage; each attempt to combine traits would produce a different Top 10 list. Indeed, this is a general rule: when we rank entities on more than one trait, we will produce more than one valid ranking of entities.

It is quite common to phrase ethical choices as “either/or,” as absolutism or relativism, as if something had to be universally, necessarily, and certainly good or it was no good at all. In this case, people might argue that there must be one authoritative Top 10 list or any list is valid. This is a false alternative. Even if there is not a single authoritative ranking, some rankings will be better than others. A Top 10 list based on the number of home runs would be more valid than one based on who happened to play in the first game I saw as a child. In a similar way, while I cannot say with certainty who will be in someone’s list of Top 10, I can reasonably predict that it will not be Ray Chapman or Fred Merkle. The world is full of uncertainties, such as whether Babe Ruth called his shot or whether Pete Rose or Mark McGuire will ever be elected to the Hall of Fame, but some explanations and predictions are more reasonable than others.

In life, as in sports, we are constantly ranking entities, ranking options, ranking people, ranking ideas along multiple value dimensions. Not only will there not be an authoritative list of values, but different values will often conflict. A good pitcher will not usually be a good batter. We value clean air and water, but we also value economic growth; we value novelty and stability; we value justice but we also value mercy. When we value all these things, it is impossible to arrive at a single authoritative ranking of people, economic policies, countries, or religions that embody those values. We should expect some conflict and tension as we determine what solutions resolve the various conflicts between values. It is a measure of how far we have come that owners conspiring to keep blacks out of baseball is as offensive as people used to think it was justified.

While there are some universal truths, they appear to be more in mathematics than in ethics. In ranking values in the world, some lists are more reasonable than others, even if there is no authoritative ranking. With this, we are aware that there are many possible Top 10 lists, and this encourages us to ask, “How should one determine a Top 10 list,” before we pick 10 people and then justify those choices.

By discussing the reasons for their decisions, people can have a more reasonable discussion and disagree without ill will. The “Top 10 problem” encourages people to think about the reasonableness of the reasons one gives, and whether one would accept those reasons from other people. It also encourages us to see our limitations, such as in an implicit bias among people to ignore players like Satchel Paige who didn’t play in the white major leagues during his prime years.

Any Top 10 list will contain choices based on objective data, personal preference, and one’s sense of how to integrate the relevant variables. While there’s not one objectively correct one, it is worth taking the effort to understand the principles involved in selecting one’s top choices.

[Sports Ethicist: I would love to see people’s attempts at a Top 10 baseball player list. Please post in the comments. I will get it started with my own list and explanation.]

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The Sports Ethics Show: Blown Calls and Technology

Seth Bordner of The University of Alabama talks with Shawn E. Klein on The Sports Ethics Show about the problem of officiating mistakes in sport and how technology can and should be used to prevent and correct these mistakes.

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The Sports Ethics Show: College Basketball and Freshmen Ineligibility

With March Madness around the corner, our attention turns to college basketball. But with players going to the NBA sooner and with athlete compensation looming, many fans are concerned about the future of the college game. The rule for most of the 20th century was that college freshmen were not eligible to play varsity sports. This changed in the 1970s but the idea has recently been making a bit of comeback. Is it a panacea for the problems plaguing the NCAA or is just window dressing that fails to address the real problems. Professor Chad Carlson of Hope College joins The Sports Ethics Show to discuss this and other NCAA issues.

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Jackie Robinson West Little League Eligibility Violations

I was quoted in a Chicago Tribune article on the Jackie Robinson West Little League eligibility violations. These violations led Little League International to strip the team of its 2014 US Championship. JRW was the hit of the summer with their great run in the Little League World Series. The team’s wins are being vacated for having “knowingly violated Little League International Rules and Regulations by placing players on their team who did not qualify to play because they lived outside the team’s boundaries.” (Little League International)

“Sports, boundaries and eligibility: a persistent issue” by Philip Hersh

Update: an earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Mo’ne Davis played for Jackie Robinson West.

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Deadline Today: Sports Studies: The State of the Art

DEADLINE TODAY

“Sports Studies: The State of the Art”
4th Annual Rockford University Sports Studies Symposium
Date: April 24, 2015
Rockford University
5050 E. State. St.
Rockford, IL 61108

Along with its general popularity, sport as an object of academic study has been steadily growing for decades across disciplinary boundaries. As such, this year’s Sports Studies Symposium seeks to explore the state of the study of sport.

We invite papers that examine the current state of the study of sport; for example:

  • High-level descriptions of the current methodologies in a specific discipline as it relates to sport;
  • Analyses of the main active questions on which a specific discipline focuses when looking at sport;
  • Discussions of cross-disciplinary research or approaches to the study of sport.
  • Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list; a myriad of approaches are welcome and encouraged.

We invite and encourage contributors from any discipline.

Each presenter should plan on 20 minutes for his or her presentation. There will also be time for Q&A.

Abstract Submission:
Abstract should be 300-500 words. Send via email (as PDF) to sklein_at_rockford_dot_edu.

Deadline: 2/9/2015
Notification of Acceptance: No earlier than 2/16/2015

If you have any questions, please contact Shawn Klein: sklein_at_rockford_dot_edu or Michael Perry: mperry_at_rockford_dot_edu.

PDF: Call for Abstracts

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IAPS at Central APA: Additional Commentator Needed!

The IAPS session for the Central APA meeting in St. Louis, Missouri is scheduled for Thursday, February 19 at 5:30.

Aaron Harper of West Liberty University is presenting: “‘You’re the Best Around’: Reconsidering Athletic Excellence in Seasons and Playoffs”. Craig Carley of Phoenix College is scheduled to provide comments.

Craig, however, might not be able to attend for personal reasons. I am looking for anyone who would be willing to comment as either a replacement or in addition to Craig.

Maybe you are already attending the APA and would like something else to do? Maybe this topic interests you and this is a quick way to jump into the discussion?

Please contact me ASAP sklein@rockford.edu if you are interested and I will send you the paper (you can also check out Aaron and I discussing some of the ideas from the paper in my Sports Ethics podcast with Aaron on the Value of Playoffs and Championships).

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Deflate Gate Media Appearances

Who knew under-inflated footballs would cause such a stir! Over the last week, I’ve had a number of media appearances related to this issue. I’m trying to get a post out soon (this coincided with the first of class so I’ve had to attend to my ‘real’ job). Here’s the list of my ‘deflate-gate’ appearances (I will update as necessary):

Reed, Phillip. “Sports Ethics Expert From Rockford University Discusses ‘Deflate gate'” FOX WQRF 39 & ABC WTVO 17. Air Date: January 30, 2015. Web: http://www.mystateline.com/fulltext-news/d/story/sports-ethics-expert-from-rockford-university-disc/25822/NciecHQbjESjevINxOKlTA

Lothian, Dan. “Sports Ethicist Sees Honest Lesson in Deflategate” Heartbeings.com January 26, 2015. Web: http://www.heartbeings.com/sports-ethicist-sees-honest-lesson-deflategate/

ESPN The Classroom, Marist College Center for Sports Communication. 1220 ESPN. January 24, 2015. Web (podcast): http://espntheclassroom.podomatic.com/entry/2015-01-24T09_33_16-08_00

Huffpost Live “The Latest on Deflate Gate” January 23, 2015. Web: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/deflate-gate/54bfe93078c90a13b500019f

CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello. January 23, 2015. Transcript: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1501/23/cnr.04.html Video Archive: http://archive.org/details/CNNW_20150123_150000_CNN_Newsroom_With_Carol_Costello#start/2040/end/2100

Maese, Rick. “Patriots, Bill Belichick walk, sometimes cross, line between competitiveness and cheating” Washington Post, January 22, 2015. Web: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/patriots-bill-belichick-walk-sometimes-cross-line-between-competitiveness-and-cheating/2015/01/22/e4152bf4-a271-11e4-91fc-7dff95a14458_story.html

Spewak, Danny. “Science Claims Deflategate Was No Accident!” WGRZ, Buffalo, NY. January 22, 2015. Web: http://www.wgrz.com/story/sports/2015/01/22/sports-science-for-the-patriots/22184649/

Alesia, Mark. “Sports ethics experts analyze Belichick, ‘DeflateGate’” Indianapolis Star, January 22, 20`5. Print (January 23, 2015) A1; A6. Web: http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nfl/colts/2015/01/22/sports-ethics-deflategate-bill-belichick-new-england-patriots-indianapolis-colts/22153199/

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The Sports Ethics Show: Pushing the Line: How far is too far?

New Sports Ethics Show Episode

How far is too far in the pursuit of victory? Great athletes push on the norms, rules, and boundaries of their games. This is part of what allows them to achieve excellence, but it also sometimes leads to crossing the line. Jack Bowen, blogger at the Santa Clara University Institute for Sports Law and Ethics blog, and Shawn Klein discuss several cases at the boundaries of the rules of sport: icing-the-kicker, non-traditional formations in the NFL, and “Deflation-gate.”

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Filed under Cheating, games, podcast, rule-violations, sportsmanship