Cricket and Moral Commendation

Sport and Society 10 (5):802-817 (2007)
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As evidenced in recent literature in moral philosophy, commending actions on their propensity to develop enduring moral traits is not the province of the virtue theorist alone. For however we understand the moral goals of human beings and the nature of right action we recognize that a temperate, just or beneficent person is more likely to conform to the demands of morality than one lacking in these virtues. If this idea is used as a standard for assessing the worth of activities generally and engaging in sporting activity particularly it becomes clear that the highest level of athletic engagement, that is, professional sports, is often morally problematic. The not uncommon phenomenon of athletic underperformance once a sizable, secure contract has been achieved, the expanding quantity and severity of verbal abuse directed at officials and other athletes, as well as the increasing incidence of on-field violence, raise concern that developing moral virtues is no longer a goal of professional sporting activities. This conclusion, however, is not a result of the concept of sport itself or even the idea of professional sport. Both amateur and professional sport are capable of promoting moral development in their participants by making possession of certain virtues a condition for success in that activity. So the problem lies not in the conceptual details of sporting activity but rather in the formulation or prosecution of the rules and expectations governing the sport in question. The essay argues that not only is sport capable of being a worthwhile activity but that there is a sport that in fact generally meets the conditions for being a worthwhile activity, namely professional cricket. In defending this claim it is shown that it is not an essential feature of professional cricket that garners our moral commendation but rather a complex set of contingent features: the Laws of Cricket, the enforcement of those laws and the historico-social context in which the game is set.
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