January 17, 2012
In an essay in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Edmundson, once a football player and now a Professor of English at the University of Virginia, says it’s complicated. He concludes:
Do sports build character? Sports are what Derrida, in an essay on Plato, associates with something called the pharmakon, a substance that is both a poison and a remedy. Sports can do great good: build the body, create a stronger, more resilient will, impart confidence, stimulate bravery, foment daring. But at the same time, sports often brutalize the player—they make him more aggressive, more violent. They make him intolerant of gentleness; they help turn him into a member of the pack, which defines itself by maltreating others—the weak, the tender, the differently made.