Category Archives: Rockford College

The Sports Ethicist Show Episode One: What is Sport?

Air Date: March 25, 2013, 6-7pm (Central)

In this episode, Professors Shawn Klein and Mike Perry try to answer the question of what sport is. Everyone agrees that football and baseball are sports, but what about figure skating, cheerleading, competitive eating, or the WWE? How essential is competition or physical abilities to our understanding of sports? Is it even important to know what the definition of sport is? Klein and Perry also discuss the difference between play, games, and sport.

Listen on Rockford College Radio: (Click on the Listen Live button)

Will also be available after the airing as a podcast at:

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Filed under RadioShow, Rockford College

Sports Ethicist takes to the airwaves

Sports Ethicist ShowI am very excited to announce that The Sports Ethicist is starting a radio show/podcast.

The Sports Ethicist Show will air on Rockford College Radio each Monday at 6 pm (Central).

The first episode will air March 25 at 6 pm (Central) and features my colleague English Professor Michael Perry as we tackle the issue of “What is Sport?”

If you have questions or issues you would like The Sports Ethicist to answer or discuss on the air, send them to me:

*I may read your email/tweet/facebook message on air, so if you don’t want me to say your name, please let me know in your message.

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Filed under RadioShow, Rockford College, Site Announcements

CFA: Fandom, Fantasy, and Fitness: Rockford College Sports Studies Symposium

Call for Abstracts

Fandom, Fantasy, and Fitness
The 2nd Annual Rockford College Sports Studies Symposium
Date: April 19, 2013

Grace Roper Lounge
Rockford College
5050 E. State. St.
Rockford, IL 61108

Fans play a central role at all levels and within various aspects of sport, so any study of sport would do well to consider their influences in connection to fandom, fantasy, and fitness. A specific and growing area of fandom, fantasy sports, illustrates a concrete and complex way fans relate to and even affect sport. Moreover, the implicit and explicit connection of sport to fitness offers another important way that fans interact with sport. This year’s symposium seeks to explore and examine these aspects of the relationship between fan and sport.

We invite scholars from all disciplines to submit an abstract on these themes. This symposium will then bring together several panels of scholars to discuss these themes. The focus of each panel will depend, in part, on the submitted abstracts. Each presenter on a panel will have 20 minutes for their presentation. This will be followed by 30 minutes of a combined Q&A.

Abstract Submission:
Submissions are welcome on this theme of Fandom, Fantasy, and Fitness, or other related issues arising in the study of Sport. Abstract should be 300-500 words. Send via email (as PDF) to

Deadline: Friday, January 25th, 2013. Extended Deadline: Feb 1st, 2013
Notification of Acceptance: Monday, February 4th, 2013. Extended to February 11th, 2013.

If you have any questions, please email, contact Shawn Klein (Assistant Professor, Philosophy Department) at 815-226-4115, or Michael Perry (Assistant Professor, English Department) at 815-226-4098.

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Filed under Conferences, Rockford College, Sports Studies

Sports Ethics: Five Years Running

School starts up again this week, and for the fifth Fall Semester in a row, I am offering my course on Sports Ethics. This semester, I have two sections totaling almost 50 students! By rough guesstimation, 200 students have taken my Sports Ethics class while at Rockford College. I thought I’d post a little bit about the course.

I like to start the course with Heather Reid’s article “Socrates at the Ballpark” from Baseball and Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Batter’s Box
. It is a fun, quick introduction to philosophic thinking by way of comparing it to baseball (though much of what she says is applicable to sport in general).

From there I usually have gone directly into a definitional exercise of what sport is and then into the concept of sportsmanship. This semester, I am shaking things up a bit and moving up to the front the unit on how sports affect society. Through Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, and Nelson Mandela (ESPN Films 30 for 30: The Sixteenth Man
), we discuss many of the positive ways sport has influenced society. I think this helps get the students thinking about the moral and social implications of sports. After that, we move into the nature of sports and sportsmanship.

Then we discuss sportsmanship in action: is running up the score unsportsmanlike? What about intentional or strategic fouls? Students tend to get the most engaged in these units because many of them have direct and personal experience with the subject matter. Every athlete (and fan) has been on both sides of a blowout. The unit on intentional fouls is always fun because it is the first time in the semester that I typically see the students begin to think outside of their own experiences. The athletes have experience with strategic fouls, especially if they play basketball. But they have not usually asked whether these kinds of fouls are ethical; merely accepting them as part of the game. Watching many of the students begin to rethink aspects of their own play and life is what teaching is all about.

After this, we examine the nature of competition and winning itself. This raises important questions about the relationship of cooperation and competition, and on the moral value of winning and achieving.

Next in line is a new unit on violence in sport. I have long planned to include a unit on violence, but with “Bounty-gate” and concussions in the news so much, it seemed the right time. We are going to watch ESPN Films 30 for 30: Muhammad & Larry
which is about the controversial Muhammed Ali and Larry Holmes title fight in 1980. This raises important questions about the propriety and value of dangerous, violent sports (Note: I am going to be posting a blog on that very subject in a few days).

It wouldn’t be a sports ethics class without a discussion of PEDs; and so, we will spend some time discussing the various arguments for and against PED prohibition in sport. This is followed by a discussion, focused on Oscar Pistorius, about disabled athletes competing against able-bodied. I find this juxtaposition worthwhile because many of the arguments against PEDs seem like they could apply to Oscar. This encourages a more critical analysis of these arguments.

Then one of my favorite units: the ethics of fandom. I am not an athlete. I am a fan (Go Patriots!!), so I connect most personally to the questions here. The main question we focus on is whether partisan fandom—your typical die-hard fan of a team (Go Red Sox!!)—is morally acceptable. Since most people, including myself (Go Bruins!!), are partisan fans this discussion is usually fairly heated (Go Celtics!!).

We close out the semester with several discussions on ethical issues that arise around economics and sports. We discuss the ethical justifications of salary caps in professional sports leagues as well as the high salaries of elite professional athletes. And, if time, we discuss the issue of paying elite college athletes.

Below is a short video produced in 2008 for promoting the first version of Sports Ethics. I mention some topics here that I no longer directly include, but thought people might still find it interesting.


Filed under Classes, Rockford College