Are Sports Political?

We have all heard someone say it at one point or another. Sometimes, it’s when their kid doesn’t get any playing time, and the parents want something to blame. Sometimes, it’s when a call is made by a referee that is highly challenged and makes half of the gym rage with anger. Sometimes, it’s true. “Sports are political.”

Sports have a history of being linked with politics, and political gestures. Max Weber wrote “Politics as a Vocation” during the after effects of WWI on Germany and the Bymar Republic. At this time, Germany was experimenting with democratic sorts of governments, whether it be living for the government, or living from the government. Merriam-Webster defines “vocation” as a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action. Behind all political decisions is the possibility of force. So, we come across a question. What makes a good politician? Well, often three things are looked at:

  1. Judgement – This is not sterile excitement (rather, excited about an issue). It is commitment.
  2. Passion  – This is not sterile excitement (means-ends rationality). It is the ability to be strategic.
  3. Responsibility – This has no good intentions. There is concern for the future and what comes next.

With a good politician comes political ethics. First of all, the ethics of conviction (what Weber does not want in a politician). These are absolute and act-oriented (ex. “under no circumstances will I do…”). On the other hand, however, are the ethics of responsibility (what Weber wants  in a politician). This focuses on being flexible and future-oriented.

Many athletes have learned to us their athletic platform to take political stances. For example, NFL quarterback Tim Tebow uses his platform to express his faith and love for God. While he was a collegiate football quarterback, he would paint bible verses on his face. When he reached the NFL, however, they did not give him this freedom.

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In an article called All Sports Is Political:The Dave Zirin Interview, Dave Zirin (one of the most famous sports writers in the world of sports) spoke on sports and politics. His views on the mix of the two are very different than most sportswriters. “I think there are many cases where owners and head coaches make it clear that politics are divisive in the locker room, it undermines the idea of team, and that sports and politics should not mix. Also, in much of the mainstream sports media, the message is often contradictory. [The media] tend to decry the modern athlete who just says “We play one game at a time,” because that athlete doesn’t give them good copy, but they’re also the first to jump on an athlete if they dare say anything political or out of the mainstream. Now not every sportswriter does this by any stretch, but that is the general overriding ethos.”

Sports are more often than not related to politics, whether it is something Weber would agree with or not.

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(Video Game) Play and Nature

Video games are very popular in today’s society. While they are often blamed for being one of the reasons America’s youth is obese, and causes of violence—there are many positives to video games .

Last semester, I took a class here at the University of Michigan called EDUC 222. This class focused on the educational elements often implemented in games—sometimes without gamers even knowing. At the beginning of the semester, we each had to pick a game to play and study over the course of the semester. I chose a game that appeared rather simple, seeing as I am not a very experienced gamer. Continue reading

Sports Through Collective Action

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Collective action is commonly defined as, “Any action taken together by a group of people whose goal is to enhance their status and achieve a common objective.”

College sports are often more popular then professional sports in America, and have gained tremendous respect due to the student-athletes participating on them. Student athletes play for their team. In an excerpt from Bo Schembechler’s famous “The Team” speech, he said, “You can go into professional football, you can go anywhere you want to play after you leave here. You will never play for a Team again. You’ll play for a contract. You’ll play for this. You’ll play for that. You’ll play for everything except the team, and think what a great thing it is to be a part of something that is, The Team.” Bo is very right. College athletes play for their school and their team—not money, not a contract, not fame.

Last winter, Student athletes at Northwestern University have taken a bold stance, asking to be represented by a labor union. Northwestern football players, who are pushing to be thought of as “employees” rather than “student-athletes.” This push started with Northwestern quarterback, Kain Colter. He and many of his teammates believe that college athletes deserve and equal voice when it comes to their protections, whether it be physically, academically, or financially. Colter made it very clear that this movement is not due to any particular mistreatment at Northwestern, “We love Northwestern. The school is just playing by the rules of their governing body, the NCAA. We’re interested in trying to help all players — at USC, Stanford, Oklahoma State, everywhere. It’s about protecting them and future generations to come.”

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Walter Hobbes had a rather simple solution to collective action problems. Hobbes believed that you should seek peace, and follow it. In Hobbes’ excerpt about the fool, he said to break the covenant, because there really is no reason not to break the covenant if it’s in your best interest. However, it sometimes does make sense to do those things that are in a covenant. With the current NCAA agreements and rules, student-athletes are often not protected as much as they should be—especially football players, physically. “It’s become clear that relying on the NCAA policymakers won’t work, that they are never going to protect college athletes, and you can see that with their actions over the past decade. Look at their position on concussions.” Ramogi Huma, NCPA president, clearly sees the points being made by the Northwestern football players.

Depending on your view, the NCAA could be seen as the fool, but so could the student-athletes fighting for change. Whatever your view may be, Hobbes believes that both parties of the argument should seek and follow peace. Kain Colter and his teammates are still fighting for athlete representation to improve the conditions that they play under in the NCAA.

Athlete and Coach Contract?

What good are contracts for? What relationships use contracts? Are contracts really beneficial in the long run?

A coach will always expect a lot out of his athletes

A coach will always expect a lot out of his athletes

Contracts are great for all sorts of things. Many use them for business relationships, landlord and tenant relationships, employer and employee relationships, teacher and student relationships, and so on.

On the other hand, there are plenty of relationships that do not use contracts. Some of these include family relationships, friendships, and dating/romantic/marriage relationships.

In my life, one of the most important relationships that I have is with my coach. The relationship between an athlete and a coach is very special. There are actually many similarities to an employer and employee relationship. While my coach “owns” me in some sense, I work for him to the best of my ability to bring success to my team (or company, in the comparison). Having a contract between a employer and an employee is very important, because as an employer, you need to know that your employee will work their tail off at all times, will be trustworthy, respectful, and responsible.

Another relationship that can be compared with a coach and an athlete is a family relationship. In our gym, our coaches are almost seen as parental figures in our life. Being away on our own, we each (my teammates and I) lack the guidance that our parents once gave us. This, however, is nothing new to the college student. College is a time to find out who you truly are and make decisions for yourself. But, with the extra responsibilities as a student-athlete, it has made all the difference to have them supporting us each and every day. The relationship between family members normally does not have a contract—only in cases such as divorce or adoption, perhaps.

So where exactly does the relationship between an athlete and their coach fall? Should there be a contract, similar to the one in an employer/employee relationship? Or would a contract be unnecessary, like in any family relationship?

While these are all good questions, I turned to the experts on social contracts. Others (Hobbes, Locke) have looked at social contracts and exposed their findings/opinions, but I specifically looked at Jean Jacques Rousseau’s State of Nature and Critique of Civilization.

Rousseau

Rousseau

His anthropological theory states that in the state of nature, we are born free and people were by themselves—we were happy, not rational. Rousseau made it clear that once we started thinking, everything will begin to go to hell if we start comparing to one another, and if we are dependent on others’ opinions. Out of that, the part that stuck out most to me regarding the athlete/coach relationship was being dependent on others’ opinions. As an athlete, if I am dependent on my coaches’ opinion, I will never be satisfied. They will always want and expect more, because they can see the potential that I can’t.

This is why I believe that the coach/athlete relationship should remain without a contract.

Thinking about your life, what relationships would you like to use a contract for?

Citius, Altius, Fortius.

Citius, Altius, Fortius; Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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These three Latin words officially became the slogan of the Olympic movement in 1894, long before women were competitors athletically. This Olympic motto has created quite a stir over the years, seeing as men are generally dominant over women in all three of those categories. Instead, the Olympic Creed has been favored by many more people, encouraging everyone to do their best; “The most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight ; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.” Together, the two of these are heavily promoted so that we apply them in our everyday life, not just sports. Continue reading

Work Hard, Play Hard

What is a ritual? A ritual is preforming a series of actions in a prescribed order religiously. Closely aligned with tradition, rituals are done throughout campus each and every day by Michigan students. In 1932, a large piece of Canadian limestone became known as “The Rock”. In the mid 1950’s, some of those green people from the west painted a large, repulsive “S” across “The Rock”. Almost immediately, a group of Michigan students gathered to paint over the Spartan’s art with some school pride (School, 2014). This inspired the ritual of painting “The Rock”. The beauty of this ritual is that everyone has the power to express him or herself; you see Greek symbols for the frats, advertisements for athletic matches, works of graffiti and art, and even the occasional political opinion. Continue reading