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December 15, 2011



Very interesting. But how do we know that sports participation is causing the mindset rather than vice versa?


One piece of evidence is that Celse found that people who play sport for longer have stronger anti-social attitudes.
That said, it's hard to completely control for selection effects.
But then, is it necessary? Even if people select into sport because they are envious and vicious types - rather than sport causing such attitudes - this is worth knowing.

 Luis Enrique

in other settings I have seen a willingness to punish others when presented with an unfair outcome, even at the cost of hurting oneself, presented as a desirable trait.

Here punishing the other is misplaced - they weren't responsible for the initial allocation - but "being exposed to unflattering social comparisons" sounds like spin to me, you could equally say they have a higher preference for fairness, which sounds nicer.

Jacques René Giguère

It has also been reported ( the exact source eludes me) that when students active in sports give to their alma mater, it is to sports activities only, while others alumni spread their contributions .


Your history's a little off, i.e., First Leutenant Eugene Luther Vidal, Gore Vidal's father, was a quarterback at West Point. Gore never attended university.


Mens sana in corpore sano as they said in the old public schools, and probably still do.

The motto of the Army PT Corps.

How about the other American slogan form one of the Olympic Games, I can't remember which one - You don't win Silver, you lose Gold.

Tom Addison

So does this explain why sportsmen are more likely to act like nobheads when in the company of non-sportsmen?

"Don't you know who I am?" etc


So sports-oriented folk have the 'killer instinct' so sought-after in sales people - you only get one shot - make sure you win it. The Jane Austin enthusiasts are more likely so say - whatever! - and try again to understand more deeply the problem at hand.

Small wonder the sporty types get the top jobs within a capitalist system. A consequence is that senior managers are seldom cerebral - something one can see every day.


This is Chris' excuse for being a lardy arse and never taking exercise.

Plenty of sportsmen are perfectly civilised. My fav Tennis ace Rafa is very nice as you can see from his respectful "acktitude" with his opponents and his bromantic interludes with Pico and the Armada. You need to get out more; and exercise.


I've only skimmed it, but the paper doesn't seem to say whether the athletes (the author's term) are perform in solo events or in team sports. In solo events (sprints, boxing, javelin, tennis) it's easy to see how a zero-sum mentality could be advantageous and would be encouraged in order to boost performance. It's less obvious that this is true in relation to team sports, which do at least admit of the possibility of players whose main role is to support others. A certain selfishness is useful in a footballer, but it can be taken too far (Steven Gerrard springs to mind as someone who sometimes crosses the line) and at some point this makes them less useful to the team and less likely to be picked.

It seems intuitive to me that solo athletes might be more selfish than team sports players; an interesting test would be to compare, say, darts or chess players with footballers or hockey players.


I flatly refused all sports at the dozen 5-18yrs schools in which I was incarcerated - and I had to work harder at it than any sporty type pupil ever worked at his sport. Endless confrontations, threats, alternative "punishments" (days of maths - yippee and yee-frigging-hah as far as I was concerned), supposed "shamings" in front of the gathered school and appearances before the Head.

The teachers never won and I taught them the meaning of a flat refusal - it seemed to puzzle them!

Some schools just gave in and appointed me Official Watch & Keys Holder. Others tried ridicule and every punishment on the books. Had they been able to think of a way to get around the legalities, would have had me flogged. The sporty types don't like it when you won't play with them.

Is it possible to be rabidly non-competitive or was I just (and still) desperate to be the best at being non-sporty?


Small point but let's not get things mixed up here. It was embarrassingly late in life before I realised you could keep fit without playing these stupid competitive sports they made us do at school. I blame the PE teachers...


"Even if people select into sport because they are envious and vicious types - rather than sport causing such attitudes - this is worth knowing."

It certainly is, but it may lead you to draw rather different conclusions about the social value of sport - i.e that it provides a healthy pro-social framework for people who might otherwise express these impulses in more anti-social ways.

Niklas Smith

Very interesting, I have to say your argument sounds very plausible to me.

And yes, the "sharper elbows to climb the greasy pole" was a mixed metaphor worthy of Jim Hacker :)

Laban Tall

Martin Sorrel was on Desert Island Discs the other day, talking about his time with the Saatchi brothers.

"It is not only necessary that we succeed", a brother told him, "it is necessary that others shall fail".

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