This sample Sportsmanship Essay is published for informational purposes only. Free essays and research papers, are not written by our writers, they are contributed by users, so we are not responsible for the content of this free sample paper. If you want to buy a high quality essay at affordable price please use our custom essay writing service.
Fair play in sport, more commonly referred to as sportsmanship, is demonstrated through ethical conduct by athletes during competition and a positive attitude toward the game by players, officials, and spectators. Advocates of sportsmanship consider the game worth playing only if all athletes have equal opportunity to win, if they use only their physical or strategic prowess to overcome their opponents, if they treat others as they would like to be treated, and if they refuse to accept a tainted victory. Many sportsmanlike behaviors have been abandoned of late, including congratulating opponents after defeat, personally checking on injured players, thanking referees for a job well done, refraining from use of profanity, and shaking hands, smiling, and moving on when the game is over, regardless of the score.
Sportsmanship ideals can be extended from individual in-game behaviors to the behaviors of sports organizations. Are uniforms made in compliance with labor and human rights standards? Is the game available for all people to play regardless of classes, gender, age, sexual orientation, or race? Does the organization respond to the personal needs of the athletes and fans and reward or promote respect for self, others, and the game? All of these aspects of sportsmanship should be taken into consideration.
Sports Construct Ethical Character
A broadly held assumption is that participation in competitive games prepares athletes for success in a cutthroat society. Athletes may learn to strive for excellence, persevere, sacrifice, follow orders, be selfless, work with others, and to be fair. With this assumption sports have gained a prominent place in school and community programs, and both amateur and professional sports are usually well supported by the media. D. Stanley Eitzen (1999) recounts many examples of outstanding ethical behavior on the part of coaches and athletes. For instance, a month or so after Rockdale County (Georgia) won the state basketball championship in 1987, the coach, Cleveland Stroud, found that he had unknowingly used an ineligible player in a game. Although the player in question was in the game only a minute or two and had not scored, Stroud notified the authorities of the infraction. As a result, the school forfeited the only state championship it had ever won. In a similar vein Andy Herr of Bloomington, Indiana, chose to hold up and finish second in a 10-kilometer race in Toledo (Ohio), because the leader had accidentally taken a wrong turn. In these examples sports competitors showed respect for each other and for the game when they strictly adhered to rules set out by governing bodies, no matter how minor, in an attempt to maintain a “level playing field.” They acted as role models for many, teaching that a tainted victory is no victory at all.
The essence of sports is competition governed by specific rules that structure and define the practice. Rules are designed to place constraints and conditions upon the competition in order to make success more difficult to achieve. Therefore, in order to “win” in a sport, a competitor must adhere to an illogical framework. In European handball players are restricted to carrying the ball a maximum of three steps before they must bounce or pass it. Slalom skiers are required to cross with both skis the imaginary line between the two poles of every gate of the slalom course. These strict rules demarcate sports from other activities and present a challenge to competitors.
Historically, in sports that have maintained much of their amateur credo (i.e., golf, baseball, tennis, and cricket) an emphasis on fairness, recreation, and personal challenge has prevailed. Although these sports can be played at a highly competitive level and for considerably large purses at the professional level, scandals involving unethical behavior by athletes in these sports are rare in comparison with scandals in sports that are driven by the tenets of professionalism, and in particular those sports that highlight physical strength and physical domination over opponents. In sports such as association football and gridiron football, ice hockey, rugby, and basketball, the goal of gaining an advantage over rivals has prevailed, and in many cases a spirit of fair play and a respect for rules and personal well-being have been forsaken.
Sports Deconstruct Ethical Character
According to Beller and Stoll (1993), although sports do build character if character is defined as “loyalty, dedication, sacrifice, and teamwork,” they do not build character if character is defined as “honesty, responsibility, and justice.” All levels of all sports, from youth leagues to professional ranks, are becoming more and more “professional,” with children as young as six years old adopting a “no place for second place” attitude. As the salaries and status associated with winning have increased, some athletes, coaches, and even spectators have accepted a “winning-at-all-costs” philosophy, which has led to the dehumanization of athletes and their alienation from their bodies and competitors. Under these conditions we should not be surprised that research reveals consistently that sports stifle moral reasoning and moral development.
When coaches, athletes, and fans corrupt the ideals of sportsmanship in their zeal to succeed, they are likely to employ or condone similar tactics outside sports. They might accept the necessity of dirty tricks in politics or misleading advertising in business because the overall goal is to win even if winning requires moving outside the established rules. Rule violations that serve efficiency and team interests are widely accepted in many sports; however, problems arise when both teams have not consented to certain “interpretations” of the rules. The negative values learned in sports may include selfishness, envy, conceit, greed, hostility, and brutality. Athletes cheat, use profanity, performance-enhancing drugs, and violence to gain a competitive edge and see these unfair tactics as “strategy” rather than cheating.
Cheating in Sports
Some illegal acts have become so commonplace that they are now accepted as part of the game. In basketball, hockey, and association football, for example, a player commonly pretends to be fouled or injured in order to receive an unmerited free throw, power play, or penalty kick with a relatively high certainty of scoring. In fact, these “penalties” are built into the structure of the game, and the concept of no contact, which is in fact, written into the rules, is completely ignored. Pitchers in baseball sometimes achieve an illegal advantage by scuffing the ball or by putting a foreign substance (i.e., saliva or Vaseline) on it so that it drops suddenly when pitched.
Batters, such as Billy Hatcher of the Houston Astros in 1987, Wilton Guerrero of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1997, and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs in 2003, countered by illegally corking their bats in order to hit the ball farther. On 3 June 2003, Sosa, known for hitting explosive home runs, grounded out but knocked in a run, breaking his bat on impact. The home plate umpire discovered the cork in Sosa’s bat, and Sosa was subsequently ejected from the game. Although Sosa denied the intentional use of an illegal bat, he and all players caught cheating instantly cast doubt on their entire prior sporting success.
Profanity in Sports
Profanity is creeping into youth sports as a result of the antics of professional athletes in televised sports. The media continue to show adults out of control because to do so increases ratings. Television close-ups display college athletes and coaches mouthing obscenities in reaction to an official’s call. Cameras zoom in on athletes who lose their cool and provide intense interviews liberally interspersed with “bleeps.” Coaches who release streams of four-letter words to anyone within earshot are guaranteed to be featured in prime time. Bobby Knight, formerly of Indiana University, is the most infamous coach known for verbally abusing officials and his own players, throwing chairs, and even kicking his own son. Equally loved and hated by many, Knight was known for his vulgarities and his winning record. He acted as a role model to athletes and other coaches alike. Unbridled profanity can also be found in car racing. In 2004, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) president Mike Helton threatened to fine drivers and crewmen for “inappropriate” language and issued stern warnings for drivers to watch their mouths.
Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports
The history of athletes using drugs to enhance their endurance, power, or strength is a long one, dating back to the Greek athletes who raised their testosterone levels by eating sheep testicles during the ancient Olympic Games. British cyclist Tommy Simpson died on a hill climb of Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France. A vial containing an amphetamine was found on his body. In 1988 Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for anabolic steroid use after winning the Seoul, South Korea Olympics men’s 100-meter race. His medal was revoked, and subsequently the International Amateur Athletics Federation banned him from competition for life. Despite the fact that drugs are illegal and cause harmful side effects, elite athletes in many sports, in particular sprinting, weightlifting, bodybuilding, and weight throwing (shot put, discus, hammer, javelin), are almost required to take steroids if they want to be successful and meet international standards.
Violence in Sports
Violence has become a prevalent feature of contemporary sports, both in its instrumental and hostile forms. Instrumental violence helps an athlete to achieve the goal of winning a competition. Sports are one of the few settings in which acts of aggression are not only tolerated, but also enthusiastically applauded and even required from athletes. Hostile violence is intentionally harming another person, whether that person is a player, referee, or spectator, and its incidence is on the rise. In the past National Football League coaches (contrary to league rules) gave monetary awards each week to players who hit their opponents the hardest, and at least one, Kansas City Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer, offered to pay off any fines his team incurred for breaking the jaws of opponents or knocking down adversaries. This emphasis on intimidating violence is almost universal among gridiron football, rugby, and hockey coaches, players, and fans. The objective is not just to hit but to punish and even to injure. Sociologist Michael Smith has argued that violence in hockey, as in war, is a socially rewarded behavior. The players (and fans) are convinced that aggression (body checking, intimidation, and the like) is vital to winning.
Spectators have been known to assault opposing spectators and players. In 2000 Los Angeles Dodger backup catcher Chad Kreuter was sitting in the bullpen when a fan hit him in the head and stole his cap. Kreuter and several other Dodgers went into the stands, and a mob scene ensued. Sixteen players and three coaches were given suspensions. The most notorious cases of fan violence have occurred in European football. In 1909 a riot that even today would warrant headlines internationally broke out in Scotland after officials declined the fans’ demand for extra-play time to settle a draw between Glasgow and Celtic. The riot involved six thousand spectators and resulted in injury to fifty-four policemen, serious damage to the grounds and emergency equipment, and the destruction of virtually every street lamp in the area. At Euro 2000 Brussels police arrested 850 fans during a street riot that erupted before a match between England and Germany. Fans of both nations began with chanting and taunting before throwing chairs and beer bottles at each other in the city’s main square. Riot police armed with a water canon eventually quelled the violence; however, European fans continue to bring the sport of association football into disrepute.
Lacking Ethics at the Organizational Level
Immorality is not a matter of just breaking or bending the rules—the rules themselves may be unfair or even immoral. Powerful organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Inter-national Olympic Committee (IOC) have denied equality to women and have exploited athletes. During the 1960s the National Organization for Women (NOW) gathered data at the national and local levels on discrimination against girls and women in neighborhood and school sports. Armed with this data, the organization lobbied Congress, which ultimately passed Title IX, the 1972 education amendment that prohibits discrimination against women in U.S. federally funded education programs. Until that time, compared with men’s sports, women’s sports received less funding, fewer scholarships were awarded to women athletes, women had fewer opportunities to play, and coaches of women’s teams received lower salaries. Although much progress has been made, more than thirty years later gender equity has not been reached. The NCAA has not effectively implemented the law and continues to uphold rules that exploit athletes.
NCAA regulations require that athletes commit to a four-year agreement with a school, yet schools make only a year-by-year commitment to athletes. This fact means that athletes can lose scholarships at the whim of their coaches, yet they cannot move to another school without sitting out a year. Meanwhile, coaches who break their contracts can coach immediately at another school. Coaches have physically assaulted and publicly belittled their players, but if their teams win, they are rewarded handsomely. “Big-time” college sports in the United States have corrupted academe by engaging in recruiting violations, waiving academic requirements, and actually preventing student-athletes from studying and attending classes. As more schools are seduced by the potential profits (several million dollars in revenue) from successful intercollegiate competition, they are treating athletes more and more as investment capital; many have forgotten that college athletes have been promised an education in exchange for their sports participation. Intercollegiate sports have become big business; athletic programs seek to remain competitive to maximize profits and not only deny athletes access to an education, but also increasingly pervert the educational value of sports.
The emphasis on sportsmanship by the leaders of the IOC tends to be nullified by questionable practices condoned by administrators. During the 1990s eleven International Olympic Committee members resigned or were expelled as a result of scandals over vote buying. IOC members demanded bribes of up to one million dollars from cities bidding to host the games. Marc Hodler, a member of the International Olympic Committee executive board at the time, claimed abuses in voting occurred for the 1996 Atlanta games and the 2000 Sydney games before unscrupulous IOC members were caught taking cash bribes, medical expenses, travel expenses, gifts, entertainment, and college tuition payments for their children during Salt Lake City’s successful 2002 Winter Olympics bid. During this same era, while other international sports organizations such as the International Amateur Athletics Federation were eliminating gender testing, the IOC continued to require all women competitors to “prove” their femininity, much to the chagrin of many women Olympians.
Returning to Ethical Sports Behavior
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world governing body for soccer, has recognized that the world’s top teams and players have a responsibility as role models for young people taking up the game and fans in the stands. FIFA now obliges all players in the World Cup finals and other FIFA events to sign a “fair play declaration.” The number of occurrences bringing football into disrepute in European countries has been reduced as a result of close cooperation with the respective authorities and strict guidelines for match organization and “no standing room” stadium design. As well as rewarding its various world champion teams with cups and diplomas, FIFA also recognizes special acts of fair play by presenting individual and team FIFA Fair Play Trophies.
The Citizenship Through Sports Alliance (CTSA) is the largest coalition of professional and amateur athletics organizations in the United States concerned with character in sports. CTSA promotes sportsmanship at all levels of sports to reinforce the positive values that sports can teach. Since 1997 CTSA has been building a sports culture that encourages respect for self, others, and the game. Fair Play for Children (FPC), an international organization based in the United Kingdom, promotes every child’s right to play with fair attitudes and activities worldwide. The United Nations has declared that every child has a right to engage in age-appropriate play and recreational activities, and FPC works to ensure that each child has equal opportunity for full participation, free from discrimination, brutal training tactics, and cutthroat competition.
The Future of Fair Play
It has been said that unless we remind ourselves of the essentials of sportsmanship it will gradually fade, as have other traditional societal values. To return to a more ethical sporting ethos (distinguishing character, moral nature, or principled guiding beliefs), what is most important is the change that fans can bring about. Sports fans pay the costs of big-time college and professional sports, spending $100 billion a year on sports equipment, memorabilia, tickets, and the like. If enough fans withdrew their financial support of professional sports in protest, refusing to forgive and forget the irresponsible behavior of players, coaches, and owners, meaningful improvements might occur. Sports enthusiasts may also work within the system, volunteering to coach youth sports teams or serve on the board of directors of a sports league. Teachers and professors can become coaches, move into athletic administration, or serve on athletic committees. As people become insiders and move into positions of increasing power, they must fight against the status quo.
Thousands of games are played worldwide every day without incident. Players and fans act appropriately, coaches and referees behave beyond reproach. Unfortunately, incidents of immoral behavior are more likely to make headlines, and professional athletes are always on display. The problems in sports are not solely the result of “a few bad apples.” Society demands that athletes remain drug free and, at the same time, honors only those athletes who win and break records. For those who triumph, the rewards for them (and perhaps their families and their coaches) are substantial, so instead of privileging sportsmanship, winning at any price has become the prevailing code of conduct. Sports psychologist Charles Banham put it simply: “Good sportsmanship may be a product of sport, but so is bad sportsmanship.” Examining issues such as trash talking, cheating, flagrant fouls, doping and athletes as role models will provide coaches and educators with effective tools for promoting sportsmanship.
- Beller, J. M., & Stoll, S. K. (1993). Sportsmanship: An antiquated concept? Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 64, 74-79.
- Eitzen, D. S. (1999). Fair and foul: Beyond the myths and paradoxes of sport. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
- Gough, R. W. (1997). Character is everything: Promoting ethical excellence in sports. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.
- Loland, S. (2002). Fair play in sport: A moral norm system. London: Routledge.
- Ruskin, H., & Lammer, M. (2001). Fair play: Violence in sport and society. Jerusalem, Israel: Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Smith, M. D. (1983). Violence and sport. Toronto, Canada: Butterworth.
Free essays are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to order a custom essay, research paper, or term paper on any topic and get your high quality paper at affordable price. UniversalEssays is the best choice for those who seek help in essay writing or research paper writing in any field of study.