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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sportsmanlike Conduct

In general, sportsmanship refers to virtues such as fairness, self-control, courage, and persistence, and has been associated with interpersonal concepts of treating others and being treated fairly, maintaining self-control if dealing with others, and respect for both authority and opponents. (Source:

One of the most difficult concepts to realize in practice is sportsmanship. To demonize our opponents is easier and far more fun than to humanize them. I think of Churchill calling the Nazi dictator every pejorative term in the book. His disdainful contempt of Hitler expressed over national radio may have well helped secure victory. Would it have been anyway right for Churchill to meekly plead for charitable understanding and sympathy for hapless, misguided men and not roar blatant contempt at a pack of depraved jackals?

Yet civilization clearly depends upon belief in what Hitler plainly did not – that respect for the individual widely observed secures the long-term integrity of the group. That is, the understanding of democracy that individual respect is inalienable derives from appreciation that such a belief is in the long-term best interest of the nation. Once exceptions to individual respect are made, the practice quickly becomes carcinogenic with broad and lethal implications for the state itself. It is not an overstatement to say that the integrity of the state depends upon its unfailing commitment to individual respect.

Sportsmanship is characterized by goodwill consistently exercised even in competitive situations. Its central attribute is acknowledgment that nothing is more valuable than the worth of an individual (even when that individual is a flat-out competitor). Sportsmanship in the end depends upon envisioning the hellhole human affairs would become without it. Thus, the democratic state goes to great expense and effort to secure due process of law—a conviction that even the sometimes contemptible are due a fair trial not only for their benefit, but for society's long-term survival as well.

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