The Magic Circles of Basketball and Hockey

The basketball court of Crisler Center is the magic circle during a Michigan basketball game (from wikimedia.org).

The basketball court of Crisler Center is the magic circle during a Michigan basketball game (from wikimedia.org).

I remember being woken up early Saturday mornings as a kid to prepare for my basketball tournaments. Giving up my precious sleep was unfortunate, but being able to compete and showcase my skills made it more than worth it. The games were always fun and exciting for all involved. It felt like I was in a different world which is governed by new rules, this is also true for college athletes. I attended the Michigan basketball game against Syracuse as well as the Michigan hockey game against Penn State this year. These players compete on one of the highest stages in sports and prepare for these contests every day. Every second of the contests the student-athletes give it their all and fight for the victory. This is the same as my experiences in sports, these players lie in a different realm where putting a puck in the net is scoring a goal. This is because of what is called the magic circle, as proposed by Johan Huizinga in his book Homo Ludens. Continue reading

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The Proletariat Athletes

Michigan Stadium brings in over a hundred thousand spectators every game, generating millions in revenue (from wikimedia.org).

Michigan Stadium brings in over a hundred thousand spectators every game, generating millions in revenue (from wikimedia.org).

Saturday mornings in the fall, millions of people flock to collegiate football stadiums across the United States to watch their favorite teams compete. This is an American tradition which benefits the spectators, players, university staff, and sponsors. Children dream of one day being able to run onto he field in front of a crowd of thousands as student-athletes. These student-athletes, who represent the university in their respective sports, play on a level most could never dream of being on, which generates profit for the university. Here lies a difference between collegiate sports and high school sports, collegiate athletics generate large profits for universities in contrast to menial amounts for high schools. Where does this money go? Well it goes to the university and sponsors, not the players. Applying the viewpoints of Karl Marx, one could argue the athletes are much like the proletariat, while the university and patrons are the bourgeoisie. These two groups would therefore be in a class struggle.  Continue reading

Changing for Pace

Pitches in the MLB are sometimes separated by minutes, taking away from the action (from wikimedia.org).

Pitches in the MLB are sometimes separated by minutes, taking away from the action (from wikimedia.org).

Everyone has routines, or practices which they perform everyday. The same can be said for athletes in sports, such as in baseball. Baseball is, at least in my opinion, a game known for its history. Changing the game itself changes that history into something new and not necessarily better. I remember loving baseball as a game and something which always brought me job. I absolutely loved going up to the batter’s box and being able to use what I have learned and practiced in my years, only to be obnoxiously stalled by a pitcher taking too long to throw or be walked. In case you are not familiar, walking is intentionally throwing four “balls” or unhittable pitches to allow the batter to go to first base and stalling is self-explanatory. The process of these delays took away from the game and made it seem much slower. These were unnecessary parts of the game and thankfully Major League Baseball (MLB) has proposed limiting the time these practices consume and other changes to make the pace of the game faster. These rule changes are welcome to me, unlike the National Football League rule changes commented on by Marc Tracy in his article “NFL Rules Changes: When Is Football No Longer Football?“. Continue reading

The Underlying Contract of Professional Sports

The Detroit Lions were not a very good team so attendance for games was often low (from wikimedia.org).

The Detroit Lions were not a very good team so attendance for games was often low (from wikimedia.org).

Growing up in Michigan, I am a devout fan of the Detroit Lions football team. When I was younger, I remember being so excited to go to the Lions football games with my family. My excitement made the hour and a half car ride feel like a mere minutes. Unfortunately, most of the games I attended ended in a loss since the Detroit Lions were not what one would consider a great team. During this time the stadium, Ford Field, was not anywhere near capacity. As the team has progressively improved over the past few years, I have noticed a dramatic increase in attendance. In regards to the business aspect of the Lions, a well-performing team will increase attendance, leading to an increase in revenue. This observation has brought me to an interesting conclusion: there exists a form of social contract between the fans and the team. Fans benefit the team by generating revenue, which increases or decreases depending on the performance of the team. This is an application of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea of a social contract, originating from his book On the Social Contract.

Continue reading

The Doping Dilemma

Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season for using performance enhancing drugs (from wikimedia.org)

Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season for using performance enhancing drugs (from wikimedia.org).

Imagine you have an important exam coming up and are currently freaking out about it. The class itself is curved on a bell. In order to earn a high grade, you must outscore other students which obviously raises the stress caused by the exam. Then you hear from a friend in the class someone stole the answer key and supposedly many students have it. The friend offers to give them to you which would undoubtedly help you in your efforts to get a good grade. Obviously, this would not be a moral decision, but everyone else could be cheating and it is in your best interest to even the playing field. A very similar situation to this is faced by athletes everywhere, especially in Major League Baseball. Players face the pressure to use performance enhancing drugs. In contrast, there are moral reasons not to partake. This predicament is an application of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, to which Thomas Hobbes acknowledges the existence. Continue reading

Do the Ends “Arm-Strongly” Justify the Means?

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(from wikimedia.org)

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(from wikimedia.org)

Have you ever heard of a man named Armstrong? No, not the astronaut, the cyclist, Lance Armstrong, who won seven straight Tour de France competitions.  These titles were later revoked due to him being charged with using performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong was the most decorated cyclist in history and arguably one of the greatest athletes of recent times. I say ‘was’ because in light of recent events he is rarely given respect. Armstrong used a generous amount of his winnings and fame to found and run his own charity, the Livestrong Foundation. This charity in the years following its creation, managed to greatly further cancer research and raise awareness. Armstrong’s accomplishments through the use of performance enhancing drugs, in a sense, led to substantial cancer research and the saving of lives. There is an argument whether Armstrong’s use of illicit substances is justified through the works of his charity. This idea would be supported by the philosophies of Niccolò Machiavelli as shown by his writings in The Prince. Continue reading