Should gamespersonship be accepted as part of sport?

It already is part of sports. I can't imagine how it could be excluded from the world of contests in that gamespersonship implies that you will do whatever you can WITHIN the rules to triumph. However, someone who practiced gamespersonship would seem to me to lack sportspersonship -- and that would be worse than unfortunate. Though play, sport participation is a serious business. Rituals are vehicles of meaning in our society and sports is one of the last of our rituals. I am sad to say that I have, of late, been to a few funerals of people in their twenties and thirties who died long before their time. From the videos and photos at the services, it was very clear that their identities as athletes was such an important of who they took themselves to be. Sports were at the core. And there is a level of pushing the limits of the rules that violates the spirit of sports. I train boxers and once in a while in a bout a boxer slips on water in the ring that has been left there from cornerwork between...

In sports (especially boxing) fans love to rank the best boxers, players or teams. So when ranking the Greatest Boxers of All-Time -- is it ethical to include boxers you or anyone else (alive) have never seen before (for no footage exists of them - e.g., Harry Greb)? (Provided that you put in as much research as possible - e.g., books, news archives, boxing historians writings.)

I am a professional boxing writer who has to vote on who gets into the Boxing Hall of Fame so this question certainly resonates with me. With your mention of Harry Greb it is clear that you know your boxing because based on his record and opposition there are many of us who believe he is one of the greatest of all time. But is it legitimate to rank fighters from different eras-- or teams. Not if you imagine "legitimate" implies that there is some science behind it. But I think it is legitimate if you take your ratings with two grains of salt -- maybe 3. You look at a boxers overall ledger and whom he or she competed against. Fighters from the modern era such as Floyd Mayweather, will end their careers with 1/4 -1/3 the contests of a Sugar Ray Robinson - is it legitimate to compare them? Yes and no, but if no, it can be great fun. And perhaps from a Pragmatist vantage point that makes it legit. Thanks.

Seeing the devout passion of sports fans I've often wondered if sports today are a substitute for war. People root for their hometown team and despise people from other towns because of their sport teams. This also isn't just an American thing and it seems as if this is the case all around the world. Since most people in non-third world countries at least are not constantly at war and fighting traditional country against country wars I've wondered this. My question is this: do we use sports as a substitute for war?

It depends what you mean by "substitute." If by that you mean function symbolically than yes, I think sports can work as a substitute for war. Just consider some of the lingo in football. The long pass is the bomb and we talk of an offense as having a lot of weapons and of the qb as a general. I suppose that sports might also be considered as a way of sublimating aggressions and reinforcing communal bonds. For instance, when I lived in central Florida many people who seemed to share very little else in common, thought of themselves as "Gators" and could always relate to each other along those lines. And they got hyped up for certain games as though it were a kind of symbolic war. In thinking about the uses of sport, we should also consider that famous soccer game that took place between enemies during a cease fire. The men played together, embraced, shared food etc and the next day went back to bayoneting one another.

As far as I know, it's not illegal in football (soccer) to kick the ball really hard at someone's face if they are in the way of goal. Throwing dummies and gamesmanship are also treated as acceptable. So how exactly does agreeing on rules of a game remove normal moral constraints? I know people wouldn't be happy if I started blasting a football at their faces, but would it be morally ok?

It's not illegal but practitioners of the game would certainly be judged to be immoral if it was done with the intention of hurting someone. It is true though that we can do things in sports that would be judged to be immoral in other contexts and on this point I agree with Douglas Burnham that it is a matter of giving consent - accepting the rules of the game.

Why is academic genius valued more highly than sporting genius? This seems pretentious to me.

I'm not sure that this is so in the general public. But the reason would be that some great good can come from "academic genius" e.g. cure for a disease, whereas only entertainment can come from athletic brilliance.

Should boxing be banned?

I am a boxing trainer so I suppose that is my answer to your question. Boxing should be much more carefully regulated at the professional level of that there can be no doubt. But amateur boxing is quite safe and has been a lifesaver to many young people who are perhaps on the edge- and are often not involved in other sports. While the physical demands of wrestling and boxing are similar, ask anyone who has done both - boxing offers some different challenges. I argue in a forthcoming article in the NY TIMES (Philosophers Stone) that the sweet science provides some unique exercises in dealing with fear - and I think that can be incredibly valuable. Also, while there are of course exceptions, the objective in boxing is not to harm the other person - but instead just to win the contest.

I find that a very common discussion that I have with friends and family is about which sport (baseball, football, soccer, etc.) is the "best" or which sport is "better." As my quotations may indicate, I find this discussion rather fruitless. For instance, I love baseball (watching or playing) but dislike soccer. But I do not know of a way--and am skeptical that there even is a way--to objectively measure the quality of a sport. Although they may share the common, but rather vague and general, attribute "sport," they nonetheless seem incommensurable with one another. At the same time, I am always wary of becoming a full-blown relativist, no matter the topic. So my question is whether or not there are fruitful ways to have an inner-sports dialogue that attempts to answer the question as to what sport is "better," "more praiseworthy," "more sophisticated," and so on? Or is our conception of what makes a sport good so tied up with our culture and (perhaps) our own athletic abilities that, in this case, we...

I cannot imagine an objective criterion that would enable us to decide what sport wins the tournament of sports. And yet - always have to have an "and yet" in this business-- and yet I personally feel that a sport that engages more physical and mental capacities is more a sport than say, flipping baseball cards at a wall. However, this inclination leads me to the conclusion that --and here I have to prepare to duck- that golf is not a sport or at least not as much a sport as say boxing which involves - courage, intelligence, endurance, quickness, coordination, tenacity, and I could go on - but then I am also a boxing trainer and writer.