Don’t Apologize for being a Patriots Fan

I was recently interviewed for The Outline by Ann-Derrick Gaillot about the morality of watching the Super Bowl. The article focused on four ethicists and their responses to three questions:

  • Ethically speaking, which team should people root for in the Super Bowl?
  • Is it ethical to watch the Super Bowl at all?
  • Is it ethical to watch Super Bowl commercials?

You can head over to The Outline to read all of our responses.

In this post, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the first question. Here was some of my response that they published:

(Full disclosure: I grew up in New England and root for the Patriots) In general, there isn’t a “should” here. Morality, for the most part, is just not the place to look for a rooting reason. We root for teams that we have a connection to — through family, regional connections, style of play. Those are all good reasons to root for one team over another. Assuming one is a neutral, flipping a coin is just as moral as choosing the Eagles because you like the color green.

There are, though, two other direction one could to take this question.

One might be the claim that one should root against the Patriots because of the scandals around so-called Deflate-gate and Spy-gate. But that seems based on some inaccurate beliefs about these scandals. Science has largely exonerated Brady and the Patriots of any wrongdoing regarding football deflation, and Spy-gate is also widely misunderstood. It was a violation of a policy regarding where a team is allowed to tape the activity of a game. In other words, the problem was where in the stadium the videographer stood — not that he was taping. It was a violation of a policy and the Patriots were wrong to do it (and they were harshly punished). But that seems a thin reed on which to rest one’s moral disapprobation.

A second is that if one admires and respects excellence, then they have a good reason to root for the Patriots. For nearly two decades, the Patriots have excelled in a way no other NFL franchise has or arguably ever will again. Tom Brady is getting ready to start his 8th Super Bowl. Since an NFL season is 16 games, Brady in essence will have played half a season of Super Bowls. The work, effort, and discipline that goes in to that level of sustained excellence is worth admiring and rooting for. Along similar lines, one might value the tenacity and perseverance of a team playing at a high level after losing their star quarterback and so choose to root for the Eagles.

Almost all of the ethicists, myself included, in the piece said something along the lines that whom you root for isn’t really a focus of ethical analysis. Notice, though, I couched my response in terms of “in general” and “for the most part.” This was not an academic’s attempt to weasel out of saying something definitive.

The standard case of fandom is not one where one choice is morally better than another, but that doesn’t mean that rooting for a team with a history of abuse or wrongdoing is beyond the scope of ethics. Unfortunately, because of subpar media reporting and general ignorance many think this applies to the Patriots. That is why I thought it necessary to explain why the two major Patriots scandals are based on misinformation. Deflate-gate was a joke and Spy-gate was overblown. All the other “questionable” deeds often attributed to the Patriots are either blatant and exposed lies (e.g. the illicit taping of other teams practices) or rumors without evidence.

If it were true that the Patriots were a corrupt and cheating organization, it would be wrong to root for them. But it is not true, so that cannot be a reason to root against them. And Patriots don’t need to apologize for being Pats fans (not that many of us actually feel the need to).newenglandvseveryone



I also thought it important to discuss another way in which ethics might guide one’s fandom. Ethics is too often treated as all about wrongdoing. The focus is exclusively on people behaving badly and why that is bad. Without denying the importance of such inquiry, it is also just as, if not more important to focus on value. Ethics should also be about understanding value creation, what it means to be good (beyond just not being bad), and how to live well.

pat-patriot-helmet-evolution
In this light, ethics can guide one to root for a team based on the values it represents or exemplifies. As I said in the interview, it can lead you to root for the Patriots because of the unparalleled, historic excellence and achievement of the nearly twenty-year period of the Kraft-Belichick-Brady era. It can also lead you to admire the perseverance and tenacity of the Eagles this year.

Lastly, there is something disturbing about rooting against the Patriots because they have been so great. I am not talking about Buffalo fans or Pittsburgh fans who are surely rooting against the Patriots this Sunday. I get that. I’d root against their teams in reverse situation. That’s just sport rivalry and its part of what makes being a fan fun. I’m talking about the ugly envy that targets the Patriots just because they are so good; just because they achieve at the highest level. Resentment and spite is not psychologically or morally healthy. Let go of the hate!

I’m sure there are many reasons for non-Pats fans to root against the Patriots: ignorance or envy shouldn’t be one of them.

Go Pats!

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Examined Sport: James Keating, Sportsmanship

What is sportsmanship? We all know we are supposed to be good sports but how do we know what that means in practice? To answer such questions, we need an account of sportsmanship. In this episode, we are going to look at the classic account of sportsmanship given by James Keating in his “Sportsmanship as Moral Category,” published in Ethics in 1964.

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Examined Sport Podcast

A preview of the planned upcoming episodes of Examined Sport Podcast

  • January: James Keating, “Sportsmanship as a Moral Category”
  • February: Randolph Feezell, “Sportsmanship”
  • March: Peter Arnold, “Three Approaches Toward an Understanding of Sportsmanship”
  • April: John Russell, “Are Rules All an Umpire Has to Work With?”
  • May: Nicholas Dixon, “Canadian Figure Skaters, French Judges, and Realism in Sport”

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Archive of Examined Sport.

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Video: Sports and Popular Culture Panel

If you were not able to attend the Sports and Popular Culture Panel, here’s the video.

Sports and Popular Culture; Faculty Panel Discussion from Arizona State University on Vimeo.

 

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IAPS at Central APA: Nature and Value of Play

The IAPS meeting at the next Central APA (in Chicago) features Stephen Schmid. In “Reconsidering Autotelic Play” (JPS 36.2)  and “Beyond Autotelic Play,” (JPS 38.2),  Schmid challenges the view that play necessarily is an autotelic activity and presents his own view of the nature and value of play. The APA panel will revisit and discuss the arguments and ideas raised in these papers. Hope to see you there!

Time: Thursday, Feb 22, 7:40 pm – 10:40 pm.

Topic: The Nature and Value of Play

Chair: Shawn E. Klein (Arizona State University)

Speaker: Stephen E. Schmid (University of Wisconsin–Rock County)

Commentators:

  • Adam Berg (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)
  • Colleen English (Penn State Berks)
  • Francisco Javier Lopez Frias (Pennsylvania State University)

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ASU: Sports and Popular Culture Panel

Sports and Popular Culture FlyerWhat is the moral and philosophic value of sport?

Does sport provide, even in its competitive construction, an essential space for social cohesion in the modern world?

How does sport provide a means to explore the broader ideas and institutions in society?

Discussion about these questions and more at ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies Sports and Popular Culture Panel.

Moderated by Jason Bruner (School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies).

Panelists:

  • Terry Shoemaker (School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies)
  • Shawn Klein (School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies)
  • Victoria Jackson (School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies)
  • Lindsey Meân (School of Social and Behavioral Sciences)
  • Luke Brenneman (Global Sports Institute)

Date/Time: November 16, 12 pm.
Location: SCOB 210 (620 E Orange St, Tempe, AZ 85281)

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New ASU Course: Philosophy of Sport

I’m excited to announce a new online course being offered in Session A of Spring 2018: PHI 394: Philosophy of Sport.

PhilSPortFlyerCourse Description:

An inquiry into philosophical ideas and issues in sport. Topics and readings will vary, but may include: the nature and definition of sport, the mind-body relationship in sport, the effects of technology on sport, epistemological issues in officiating, and the aesthetics of sport. Since our “Sports Ethics” course examines ethical issues in sport, this course will not deal with primarily ethical issues.

 Likely Topics:

  • The Nature and Definition of Sport:
    • Can we, should we, define sport?
    • How does sport relate to: play, games, art?
  • The Mind and Body in Sport:
    • What can we learn about the mind/body relationship from sport?
    • What does sport presupposed about mind and body?
    • What can we learn about epistemology and metaphysics through sport? Does sport presuppose particular theories about reality or knowledge?
  • Technology and Officiating
    • How does technology change the ways we understand and engage in sport?
    • What role should technology have in officiating sports?
    • How do referees, umpires, etc., relate to the rules? What parallels are there to how we might understand law?

This course counts an upper-division elective credit. Talk with your advisor if you are interested in taking this course.

 

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The Sum Less Than the Parts: A Review of The Ethics of Sport: Essential Readings

Idrottsform.org, Nordic Sport Science Forum, published my review of The Ethics of Sport: Essential Readings, edited by Arthur L. Caplan & Brendan Parent (Oxford University Press).

Here’s the opening of the review:

Most of the papers collected in The Ethics of Sport are interesting and informative. They provide insight into many different aspects of the study of sport and of sport itself, and they do so from different disciplinary perspectives.

Nevertheless, this collection as a whole is a disappointment.

Writing a critical, negative review is difficult. There are many things I liked about the book, and I tried to highlight these even as a point out the book’s many flaws.

You can read the rest of the review here: http://idrottsforum.org/klesha_caplan-parent170906/

 

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IAPS: “The Value of Play and the Good Life”

The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport(IAPS) is holding its annual conference in Whistler, BC, Canada, September 6-9, 2017. I will be attending and presenting. The title of my presentation is “The Value of Play and the Good Life”.

Here’s the abstract:

The dominant conception of play in sport philosophy is that it is must be autotelic. This conception, though, is the subject of some important criticisms. Stephen Schmid argues that the concept of autotelicity admits of many interpretations all of which fail to provide a clear and accurate picture of what play is. Randolph Feezell argues for a pluralistic conception of play, calling for us to acknowledge the variety of meanings and usages of play when we theorize about it. This pluralism seems to push back on the idea that play must always be autotelic and non-instrumental. Additionally, it is worth noting that the empirical literature on play focuses primarily on the external and instrumental benefits that play provides.

With these and other criticisms in mind, my paper seeks to move the discussion of play beyond the dichotomy of autotelicity and instrumentality. Even though most theorists acknowledge that players have mixed-motivations, purposes, and goals, there still is a tendency to treat autotelicity and instrumentality as exhausting the options for categorizing play. The underlying implicit assumption is that it must be either autotelic or instrumental: done for its own sake or done for the sake of something else. This assumption ignores or downplays a third possible category: an activity that is chosen for its own sake and at the same time chosen for the sake of something else.

Drawing a parallel to the role virtue and friendship have in a broadly construed (neo-) Aristotelian ethics, I argue that play is an important part of the good human life. Like virtue and friendship, play is chosen both for the sake of its importance to the good life and for its own sake. It is partly constitutive of the good life and thus chosen as part of and for the sake of the good life. At the same time, however, play is chosen for its own sake: for what it is distinct from any further ends it might bring about. Thus, play is not autotelic, but nor is it instrumental.

Recognizing play as a constituent value of the good life will allow us to integrate the internal and external, the autotelic and instrumental, and gain a better understanding of the value of play.

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Examined Sport: Bernard Suits, “Words on Play”

This episode looks at Bernard Suits’ classic paper “Words on Play,” in which Suits attempts to provide a definition of play. While sport and play are not the same thing; examining one yields insight for the other.

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