Podcast: The Tully Show

I had the great pleasure of joining Mike Tully on his podcast: The Tully Show. We had a wide-ranging conversation about sports ethics and the ethics of sports fandom. Check it out:


Leave a comment

Filed under Fandom, podcast, Sports Ethics

Examined Sport: Leslie Howe “Gamesmanship”

In this episode of Examined Sport, I examine Leslie Howe’s “Gamesmanship.” Published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport in 2004, this article quickly became a classic, the go-to article on the topic of gamesmanship. In the article, Howe defines the concept of gamesmanship and analyses the ethical dimensions of gamesmanship in sport.

Subscribe on iTunes:


Available where ever you get podcasts, including Amazon Music and Spotify.

Listen Here

You Tube: Watch Here

Related Links and Information:

  • Leslie A. Howe, “GamesmanshipJournal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 31, 2004, pp 212-225.

Opening and Closing Musical Credits:


Leave a comment

Filed under Examined Sport, gamesmanship, podcast

Post IAPS Conference Reflections

I recently returned from the IAPS annual conference. This was a special one: the 50th anniversary of the organization. Founded in 1972 as the Philosophic Society for the Study of Sport, it has grown to be the premier philosophy of sport organization in the world. It changed its name to the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS) in 1999 to reflect its international stature. In addition to the standard philosophy panels, there was a wonderful celebration of one of the central founders of the society, the late Warren Fraleigh.

My talk went, I think, really well. I got a lot of great feedback from folks with suggestions for developing the paper further. I was honored to be paired with two great philosophy of sport scholars, Jeff Fry and Nick Dixon. Jeff spoke about free will and Nick about immoral attitudes in sport. Both talks gave me lots to think about.

I chaired a session on ancient philosophy that was really wide-ranging and interesting. The first paper, by Oh-Ryun Kwon and Jeong-Hyo Kim drew some fascinating comparisons between Plato and Confucius on mind-body issues. Breanna McCoy then discussed the interrelations between the concepts of democracy, sport, and philosophy. Lastly, Jenny Schiff examined Aristotle’s virtue of bravery and its application to sport.

I few other highlights:

  • John Russell critique of Suits utopia of games showed many pitfalls in Suits’ otherwise brilliant account of games.
  • Adam Copeland and Tom Rorke examined the idea of athletic citizenship as a way to understand athletic role models. I don’t agree with them, but their paper raises important issues.
  • Mitchell Berman laid out a robust framework for thinking about transgender participation.
  • Jo Morrison and Eric Moore presented some really compelling evidence about placebo performance enhancing that calls into question a lot of the assumptions about PED. In particular, Jo Morrison was exciting to listen to: I’d love to have taken some science classes with her.

There were many other terrific talks, and many more I wished I could have attended.

Next year’s conference is in Split, Croatia. It looks to be another great one; the location is amazing. Alas, it’ll likely be too far and too expensive for me to go. But the year after that is in Nova Scotia, so that is much more doable for me.


Filed under Conferences, IAPS

New Book: Sport Realism: A Law Inspired Theory of Sport

I’m thrilled to announce the publication of the newest book in the Studies in Philosophy of Sport Book Series.

Sport Realism CoverIn Sport Realism: A Law-Inspired Theory of Sport, Aaron Harper defends a new theory of sport—sport realism—to show how rules, traditions, and officiating decisions define the way sport is played. He argues that sport realism, broadly inspired by elements of legal realism, best explains how players, coaches, officials, and fans participate in sport. It accepts that decisions in sport will derive from a variety of reasons and influences, which are taken into account by participants who aim to predict how officials will make future rulings.

Harper extends this theoretical work to normative topics, applying sport realist analysis to numerous philosophical debates and ethical dilemmas in sport. Later chapters include investigations into rules disputes, strategic fouls, replay, and makeup calls, as well as the issue of cheating in sport. The numerous examples and case studies throughout the book provide a wide-ranging and illuminating study of sport, ranging from professional sports to pick-up games.

Table of Contents:

  • Chapter 1: Interpretivism
  • Chapter 2: Hard Cases for Interpretivism
  • Chapter 3: Legal Realism and Sport Realism
  • Chapter 4: Cheating
  • Chapter 5: Sport Realism and Ethics

About the Author:

Available now at AmazonLexington, and other book sellers.

Studies in Philosophy of Sport Book Series

Series Editor: Shawn E. Klein, Ph.D. (sklein@asu.edu // sportsethicist@gmail.com )

The Studies in Philosophy of Sport series from Lexington Books encourages scholars from all disciplines to inquire into the nature, importance, and qualities of sport and related activities. The series aims to encourage new voices and methods for the philosophic study of sport while also inspiring established scholars to consider new questions and approaches in this field.

More on the series.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, law, Philosophy, Sports Studies

Conference: IAPS 2022 @ Penn State

I will be attending and presenting at the IAPS conference at Penn State in August.

The 49th IAPS 2022 Meeting celebrates the organization’s 50th anniversary. The meeting will be held from Sunday, August 14, 2022 to Wednesday, August 17, 2022 at Penn State University. More info about the conference here.

I am presenting my paper: “Gamesmanship as Discovery Process”

Here’s the abstract:

In her classic article, “Gamesmanship,” Leslie Howe argues that gamesmanship is wrong when it “subverts excellence in favor of wining” (216). She also acknowledges that certain forms of gamesmanship are compatible with the ideals of sports and excellence. Subsequent work on gamesmanship has explored what kinds of gamesmanship fit into this latter category.

In this presentation, I argue that a more permissive view of gamesmanship, of even the subversive type, is important for helping to discover essential features of sport. I will do this through an analogy to entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is often described as a process by which individuals discover information about the needs, desires, or plans of market participants. This information is not known to anyone a priori; it has to be discovered. This entrepreneurial discovery process is one of speculative trial and error, daringness, imagination, and alertness. Acting from a place of imperfect and necessarily incomplete information, entrepreneurial discovery is essential for identifying the kind of knowledge needed for market success.

The entrepreneur is not primarily motivated to act in order to create this knowledge. She is first and foremost looking for profit opportunities. But through the discovery process of searching for and acting on such opportunities, this knowledge about our needs and desires and how to better satisfy them is identified.

By analogy, gamesmanship can also be a discovery process. This process is not, of course, about discovering anything about market participants. Instead, the process helps to discover the meaning of the rules and other central elements of our understanding of sport. It is widely recognized that the meaning, extent, and application of the rules of sport are underdetermined. We cannot foresee every possibility or relevant case. We also never have an authoritative or complete understanding of the underlying principles or norms of the sport. Gamesmanship can help to discover and form this vision.

Through trial and error and imagination, gamers, seeking mainly competitive advantage, push the boundaries of rules, discovering loopholes that were not intended or foreseen. This allows us to reflect: do we like what was done by the gamer? In so doing, we discover new things about the underlying vision, norms, and principles of the sport. More than that, this process helps us to form that vision.

For example, Coach Belichick lines up the running back as a receiver but has him declared ineligible. This confuses the defense and the Patriots score a touchdown. Is this a creative or cynic use of the rules? Is this the way we want NFL offenses to operate? Since the NFL later changed its rules, their answer seems to be no. But we didn’t know that until Belichick’s “artful manipulation of the rules” (Howe 213). His gamesmanship allowed us to discover something new about the rules and the underlying vision of the sport. In this presentation, I will argue that permitting such manipulation is valuable for discovering how to understand and evaluate sport.


Howe, Leslie A. “Gamesmanship.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 31, no. 2, 2004, pp. 212–25.

Johnson, Christopher, and Jason Taylor. “More Than Bullshit: Trash Talk and Other Psychological Tests of Sporting Excellence.Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, vol. 14, no. 1, 2020, pp. 47–61.

Kirzner, Israel M. “Entrepreneurial Discovery and the Competitive Market Process: An Austrian Approach.” Journal of Economic Literature, vol. 35, no. 1, 1997, pp. 60–85.

Morgan, William J. Sport and Moral Conflict: A Conventionalist Theory, Temple University Press, 2020.

Russell, J.S. “Are Rules All an Umpire Has to Work With?” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 26, no. 1, 1999, pp. 27-49.

Simon, Robert L. “Internalism and Internal Values in Sport. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, vol. 27, no. 1, 2000, pp. 1–16.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conferences, gamesmanship, IAPS, Philosophy

IAPS @ Pacific APA 2022

IAPS is hosting a session at this year’s Pacific APA. The Pacific APA is being held in Vancouver, BC Canada , April 13-16, 2022.

The session is Friday April 15, 2022, 7-9 pm

Chair: Shawn E. Klein (Arizona State University)


Christopher C. Yorke (Langara College)
“Bernard Suits and the Paradox of the Perfectly Played Game”

Comments by: Jack Bowen (Independent Scholar)

Jeff Fry (Ball State University)
“Is Anyone on First? Sport, Agency, and the Divided Self”

Comments by: Nathanael Pierce (Arizona State University)

More Information about the Pacific APA 2022.

1 Comment

Filed under APA, Conferences, IAPS, Sports Studies

Examined Sport: Cesar Torres and Peter Hagar, “The Desirability of the Season Long Tournament: A Response to Finn”

In this episode of Examined Sport, I look at Cesar Torres and Peter Hager’s article: “The Desirability of the Season Long Tournament: A Response to Finn.” Published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport in 2011, this article, as the title suggests, is Torres and Hager’s response to Stephen Finn’s “In Defense of the Playoff System.” While Finn defended a playoff system, in their article, Torres and Hager challenge that defense and offer arguments for superiority of the season-long tournament model over the playoff system.

Subscribe on iTunes:


Available where ever you get podcasts, including Amazon Music and Spotify.

Listen Here

You Tube: Watch Here

Related Links and Information:

Opening and Closing Musical Credits:

Leave a comment

Filed under Examined Sport, playoffs, podcast

Pay to Tank in the NFL

Brian Flores has alleged that Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, offered the then Dolphins head coach $100,000 per loss in a tanking scheme for a better draft position. (He’s also accusing NFL teams of hiring discrimination, arguably a more important and serious allegation, but also out of the main focus of this blog: I leave that to legal scholars.) Former Brown’s coach, Hue Jackson, has also come forward alleging that the Browns paid him to lose in a similar pay-to-tank scheme.

Captain Renault Casablanca I'm schocked!On one hand, the media and sports pundits sound a lot like Captain Renault. Tanking? What? How could that be? Not in the NFL! On the other hand, owners paying coaches to intentionally lose does seem somehow worse than just Suck for Luck.

So, what, if anything, is wrong with tanking?

The basic argument is that sport is a competition. It is, as the late Robert Simon described it, “a mutual quest for excellence.” Winning may not be everything, but the attempt to win, to play hard, to give one’s maximum effort seems to be essential. To lose on purpose, to throw the game, undermines the very point and essence of the activity.

Secondly, sport is open-ended. The outcome is to be determined by the play of the game. For a team to commit itself to lose means the activity is no longer a contest. It becomes something akin to a scripted performance, rather than sporting event. As Simon has argued elsewhere, this cheats everyone involved.

But it is also not quite that simple. Why, after all, are the teams (allegedly) tanking? Why did the Colts purportedly Suck for Luck? It was to get Andrew Luck, a QB with the potential to carry the Colts forward to many winning seasons after they parted ways with Peyton Manning. Isn’t this, then, attempting to win over the long haul? That is, by losing now, a team has the potential to sign players through the draft who will hopefully allow them to win more later. Maybe, then, this Tanking-As-Delayed-Gratification is ultimately compatible with the ideal of sport as a mutual quest for excellence. After all, the concern is not excellence in this one play, this one quarter. We strive for overall excellence. If the scope of ‘overall’ extends beyond any one game to multiple seasons, it might seem rational and justified to lose now so that you have better chance of being excellent over a longer term in the future.

I think there are two main objections to this argument.

First, it doesn’t address the core argument that intentionally losing a given contest is incompatible with it being a contest. The seasons are made up of individual contests. These individual contests need to be valid contests for the season to be valid. And the same reasoning applies across seasons. Therefore, if tanking undermines the contest itself, then this undermines the losing now for winning over the long term.

Second, it is false and deceptive. The team presents itself as engaging in a contest, when they know they are not. It would be more honest to just forfeit. It is an affront to the pride and integrity of the players that take the field.

So what about the pay-to-tank scheme? It certainly looks worse than your average tanking scenario. It just tastes and smells yucky. But that’s not a moral argument. If tanking were morally appropriate, I wouldn’t have any issue with paying for it. But since I’ve argued above that it is not morally appropriate, it is also wrong to pay for it. Paying for it also adds more formality and intentionality. A team might not be good and might not put all its effort forward in each contest. It might look like it is tanking, but then again maybe they just suck. But put a payment schedule on the losing and that removes any question.


Filed under competition, NFL, Sports Ethics

Sport as Humanity

Two story lines getting attention in the sporting world are Novak Djokovic’s deportation from Australia prior to the Australian Open and the recent legal changes to COVID vaccine requirements in France that seem likely to impact the Champions League.

I’ve resisted writing about sport and vaccine mandates or related topics. Partly this is because I am always reticent to step into (overly) politicized topics (see my An Argument against Athletes as Political Role Models for more on why). But mainly it’s because it is not really about sport. It’s about health, it’s about policy, it’s about the limit and role of government. It is not about sport as such.

But there is an angle I think worth looking at. COVID-19 has affected all of us, throughout the globe. Certainly, some much more significantly than others, but everyone has been touched by it. And from very early on in the pandemic, sport has been a focal point (and a flashpoint).

It was the cancellation of sporting events in March 2020 that signaled to the wider public the seriousness of this new illness. It was the return to play that offered a mix of hope and trepidation. As sports came back, there were questions about testing: who should be tested? How often? What do the test means? Then as the vaccines become available: who should get vaccinated? When? And how should an athlete’s vaccination status affect testing, playing, quarantining, etc. And now we see many sport leagues revising their COVID related polices to reflect the shift to the impending endemic nature of the virus. Some view this as some kind of surrender and a path towards greater illness, while many others see the need to adapt the norms and rules that we live by to reflect the reality that the virus is here to stay.

Each of these questions raised in regard to sport are the very same questions and concerns throughout society. Should we cancel schools? How should we deal with testing in schools?  Should vaccines be mandated in school children, college students? And how do schools adapt (should schools adapt) to a future with endemic COVID? Or switch to any industry. Or to religious institutions. To restaurants and movie theaters. And so on throughout society. These same questions and concerns are raised in each and ever one of these domains.

But sport is not just another domain, one among thousands, that is dealing with all these issues. Sport is the closest thing we have to something universal. Not everyone has a kid in school or attends religious services. Almost no one pays attention to what is going in industries beyond their own. Few people pay attention to policy fights on the municipal level. But almost everyone, everywhere in the world, cares about sport in some fashion. It could be as fans. It could be as parents with children in youth sports. It could be as a player at any level, from pick-up games to the pros. Our (near) universal interest in sport makes it impossible to ignore these questions.

To be clear: I’m not at all suggesting that sport is leading the way or that we should take the policies of sport and apply them writ large or use them as guidance in our lives. My point is that sport carries with it, exposes and reflects all the major trends, issues, topics, concerns, etc. of society. The pandemic has highlighted that to a degree I am not sure we have seen before. However, we can see the same thing in race relations, in gender issues, in drug policies, in parenting, in governance, in questions of access and opportunity, and so many other areas.  It is hard to come up with some societal issue that doesn’t find its way into a sporting context.

Why and how is sport so interwoven with our lives? There are many philosophical, psychological, and sociological reasons why this might be.

Let me just suggest one path. Sport is fundamentally about the pursuit of goals and the development of personal and social excellences to strive for and achieve those goals. And since sport is embodied, it requires, more or less, our whole being: our mental, physical, emotional processes and skills are united in sport. Sport does this in a repeatable, yet limited, context such that we can focus in on, analyze, and thoroughly examine each aspect of these skills and means towards the goals. In this way, it essentializes and concretizes what is so central to being human: we are goal-directed beings who have to develop habits, characters, relationships, and norms of conduct to achieve our goals and flourish. We only have one life to do this in: and hopefully it takes many, many decades to pan out. Sport, though, allows us to experience, in a stylized way, the whole of life in 90 minutes; and to then do it again the next day.

This is in part what makes philosophy of sport (and the study of sport more generally) so important. Sport shows us humanity. To study sport is to study human beings; how we live and interact with each other: what we strive for, what we love, what we hate, and what we are.


Filed under Philosophy, Sports Studies

IAPS 2022: Call for Abstracts

IAPS 2022 is scheduled for August 14-17, 2022. I hope to be there!

Below is the Call for Abstracts that has just gone out to the Philosophy of Sports distribution lists:

Call for Abstracts

International Association for the Philosophy of Sport Conference

August 14 – 17, 2022, Penn State University, University Park, PA, USA

The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport invites the submission of abstracts to be considered for presentation at the 49th annual IAPS meeting and essays for the 2022 R. Scott Kretchmar Student Essay Award. The conference will celebrate the 50th anniversary of IAPS and will be held on August 14 – 17, 2022 in State College, PA, USA on the Penn State University campus, co-hosted by Francisco Javier Lopez Frias and Colleen English.

The conference is being planned as an in-person event, though there are plans for virtual components for those who are unable or unwilling to travel. Due to uncertainties about the global COVID-19 pandemic and availability of vaccines, alterations to this plan will happen as necessary and be communicated to attendees at the earliest opportunity.

Abstracts are welcome on any area of philosophy of sport (broadly construed), including metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics, and from any theoretical approach, including analytic philosophy and critical theory. While IAPS recognizes, values, and encourages interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies, acceptance is contingent on the philosophical content of the project. Emerging scholars are encouraged to submit works in progress.

Deadline for abstract submission is 25 March, 2022. Contributors will be notified about the status of their abstracts by 6 May, 2022.

Proposals for round table and panel discussions, including a tentative list of participants, are also welcome and should be directed towards the IAPS Conference Chair, Emily Ryall (eryall@glos.ac.uk).

About IAPS

The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS) is committed to stimulate, encourage, and promote research, scholarship, and teaching in the philosophy of sport and related practices. It publishes the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, which is widely acknowledged as the most respected medium for communicating contemporary philosophic thought with regard to sport. IAPS members are found all over the world and constitute a growing and vibrant international community of scholars and teachers. More information on IAPS can be found at www.iaps.net.

2021 R. Scott Kretchmar Student Essay Award

IAPS is proud to support the “R. Scott Kretchmar Student Essay Award.” Interested undergraduate and graduate students who will be presenting their paper at the conference should submit a full paper by 25 March, 2022 (in addition to an abstract, both through easy chair, see below).  A separate announcement is posted at the IAPS website (http://iaps.net/conference/r-scott-kretchmar-student-essay-award/). The selected winner shall present their paper and receive the award at the annual IAPS conference. Previous winners are not eligible to receive this award. Please indicate on your abstract submission if you plan to apply for the essay award and/or student travel grant.

Conference Requirements

All conference presenters shall register for and attend the conference to have their paper included on the conference program. Presenters must also be members of IAPS (either student or full). New members may register for IAPS membership at the following www.iaps.net/join-iaps/

Abstract Guidelines

IAPS will be using the “Easy Chair” conference management system. Submitted abstracts should be 300-500 words long, in English, and must be received by 25 March 2022. Abstracts MUST follow the template (which can be found here) and include:

  • A brief summary of a philosophical research topic
  • Keywords (three to five)
  • At least three references to relevant scholarly publications that contextualize the topic.

Submission Instructions

To submit an abstract, go to https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=iaps2022. New users for Easy Chair must create an individual account login. Please complete the submission information and upload your abstract.

Social Program

The organizers are planning for a social program throughout the conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of IAPS. Additionally, a pre-conference social program will be arranged.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conferences, IAPS, Penn State