Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sports and Character

Sports does not build a life characterized by prudence, fortitude, self-discipline, and humility in pursuit of what is good, or "moral excellence," in other words. That is the claim by Anthony Bradley of Covenant Theological Seminary and the Acton Institute. He cites a litany of recent examples from the high-profile sports world to support his case, including Travis Henry, the Duke University lacrosse team (What were they doing ordering a stripper in the first place?), cycling’s Patrik Sinkewitz, NASCAR's Michael Waltrip, and, of course, Michael Vick. No doubt Bill Belicheck’s recent attempt to videotape the opponent’s sideline in violation of league rules would have made the list and possibly OJ Simpson, too. Unfortunately, it’s not an argument that holds together for various reasons. Nevertheless, despite its flaws, Mr. Bradley swerves into a truffle quote at the end that is on the mark:
Sports do not build character in young people but virtuous adults do. In one
sense youth sport is simply a medium for adult mentoring within the context of
challenging situations. Character is bestowed—or not—from one generation to

Until adults in the world of sports are willing to commit their
own lives to virtuous character, until they are willing to pair a valid desire
to make money with an equally powerful concern for the true welfare of athletes,
the cycle of young “professional” adults ruining their lives will continue. In
athletics as elsewhere, we reap the moral character we sow.

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