Sport and Society

This week in Sports Ethics we look at some questions about the relationship of sport and society. Such questions could encompass a whole course on its own, my focus is more specifically on two main questions:

  1. How has sport influenced society? Specifically, how does it unite people, bringing them together in positive ways? How can it, on the other hand, be divisive and negative?
  2. Assuming sport does impact society and social relations, how should it be (and should it be) used for social goals?

To spur the discussion we watch the documentary The 16th Man about the South African Rugby World Cup in 1995 and we read selections from Jane Leavy’s biography on Sandy Koufax and Jonathan Eig’s Opening Day about Jackie Robinson. We also look at Pam Sailors’ journal article: “Zola Budd and the Political Pawn.

When I first start teaching Sports Ethics, the tone of this discussion was always much more positive. Sport was seen by my students as nearly universally a positive force. More recent instantiations of the class have been more divided (particularly during the peak-Kap era). I am curious how this year will be.

I am excited to rewatch (again) The 16th Man in preparation. It’s a great documentary: it is emotional moving and informative, while also entertaining and compelling. I think the fact that it is focused on South Africa and on rugby, gives my US students some distance that helps think more critically about the questions regarding sport and society. With Koufax and Robinson, since it’s about baseball, it is much more familiar. That helps too, in a different way. The mix of these –with their contrasts and comparisons –helps underscore the ways sport influences society.


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Filed under Arizona State, Classes, Movies, Sports Ethics

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