11.07.11

On steroids, sports, play, and the meaning of everything

From the vaults come this 2008 New Republic piece by Leon Kass and Eric Cohen on the Roger Clemens Steroids controversy. The whole piece is a marvelous read for its treatment of subjects like cheating, athletic prowess, and what it means to play games. Anyone interested in not just the legacy of the Steroide Era, but also in a grander exposition of on play should read the whole thing:

Play is different from mere amusement or entertainment, other activities that are also “ends in themselves.” A game, though a pastime, does more than pass the time; and though sport entertains us, its meaning is independent of the pleasure we derive from it. A structured activity, governed by rules and filled with risk and uncertainty, sport invites and rewards not only game-specific skills, but also the indispensable virtues of determination, discipline, courage, endurance, enterprise, perspicacity, and mental toughness. For those who play the game seriously, virtues such as these, once acquired, can be transferred to other realms of life: many a well-coached college athlete in later years praises his coach most for helping him to become a man—responsible, honorable, devoted to making something of himself. For those who watch the game seriously and over the long haul, virtues such as these, once witnessed, can be ratified and admired more generally. Because sport is gratuitous, it is a field of grace: the gracious display of beautiful form, the gracious appreciation of worthy opponents, gratitude for native gifts and efforts rewarded.

-Jamin Warren

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