Thursday, November 01, 2007


The point has been brought up in recent sporting events in which a certain Boston area football team would continue to pummel its opponents even after victory was long secure. Is this a lack of sportsmanship? What exactly is sportsmanship?

The historical roots can be put simply: When you cannot literally kill your opponent, when you can only defeat them temporarily until the next contest, sportsmanship is a way to not anger and motivate the opposition for when that time comes, and also for the maintenence of a cooperative adherence to the established "rules." Its part of a broader strategy to prevent winning from becoming more difficult in the future. In sporting contests such as these, power is fleeting, and so a team must seek long-term solutions to maintaining its strength. Sportsmanship is a means of individual survival in a collective environment, an agreement between teams for the sake of a lasting co-existence. Once war followed the same code, until it was figured that this method only favored the weak, allowing them to use the range of subversive, unorthodox tactics, avoiding the gentlemans war followed by heretofore established powers.

The objection to the tactics of said Boston team basically stems from the violation of this long established status-quo, this standard method of operation that teams abide by. It must be made clear that this is not the rule, but simply accepted practice between teams. Though it became this way for very functional reasons, it can also evolve [i]from[/i] this for functional reasons, as history already shows. Opposing teams have the option of reacting to this deviation with a measure of repercussions, injuring one of the star players, which may force the team to return to the accepted practice. The question revolves around what is sustanable practice. Going into football details, though, there are a couple of significant functional reasons the team can have for these questioned tactics:

a) Defeating a team in such overwhelming fashion affects the confidence and mind-set the opposing team may have for the next meeting. In a sense, one and a half games have been won from that single outing: crushing the team in the present, and their optimism in the possibility of a different outcome for the future.

b) You may call it running up the score, but you can also call it maintaining a single level of play from beginning to end. To establish a clear, uncluttered objective for each player, whenever on the field, promotes a sense of fixed responsibility: a stable, consistent individual purpose that translates to a unified team play that perpetuates under any circumstance. The job always remains the same. The influences that can alter that state are minnimized, whether it be weather conditions, or the score of the game. Note that this applies whether the team is leading or behind; the commitment, the intensity of play among all eleven players has been made singular. This can be seen as an attempt to extract the true potential of a team, and that avenue is simply greater unification. Under this analysis, running up the score is then a mere side effect to the unchanging objective.