An Athletic Prejudice?

One of the “delicate balance” issues in schools involves the role of sports. Few elements “ignite” so well as do athletics, but there’s always the danger, especially at a boys’ school, that athletics will dwarf the arts, service, and at times, even academics programs. I’d like to think that’s not the case at UCC, and that the school’s intentionally broad focus on the “whole boy” ensures a more balanced approach to education.

That said, I recently stumbled upon “The Metaphysics of Sports,” in which Michael Novak offers this observation about men and athletics:

“Those who have a contempt for sports, our serious citizens, are a danger to the human race, ants among men, drones in the honeycomb. There are many reasons for not participating in sports, or even for not liking certain sports. No one can do, or like, everything. Still, those of us who love sports are obliged to hear many taunts about the human inadequacies of “jocks.” We disregard many taunts because of their transparent base in envy. The human body was meant to aspire to excellence, and the spirit to perfection. So when some refer to sports as an “animal occupation,” they cause us to become aware of biases of our own. Allow me to mention one…

I have never met a person who disliked sports, or who absented himself or herself entirely from them, who did not at the same time seem to me deficient in humanity. I don’t mean that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy… I mean that a quality of sensitivity, an organ of perception, an access to certain significant truths appear to be missing. Such persons seem to me a danger to civilization. I do not, on the whole, like to work with them. In their presence, I am on guard, often unconsciously. I expect from them a certain softness of mind, from their not having known a sufficient number of defeats. Unless they have compensated for it elsewhere, I anticipate that they will underestimate the practice and discipline required for execution, or the role of chance and Fate in human outcomes. I expect them to have a view of the world far too rational and mechanical…”



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