I’ve recently gotten back into some amount of geekdom; it all started with a trip to California, a place where males are singularly unapologetic about the stuff. My brother moved there about a year ago and it was not long before a young cousin of ours had him attending Comic-Con and weekly Magic: The Gathering tournaments.

I’m currently in the process of writing a scene-specific article about sportsmanship, the very idea of it.

Think about it: why and how does sportsmanship apply to board games, or collectible card games, or even live action role-playing events?

More than the idea of fairness is at stake.

Sportsmanship—containing that all important “man” at its heart—adds a bit of masculinity to hobbies that are generally considered fey at best. So it’s no wonder that pundits of the various hobbyist communities have been so keen on using the word, invoking on behalf of their pastimes.

Sportsmanship, like Christianity, is a moral code. It’s a top-down one: the sort where the same rules apply to kings and paupers. Fairness is emphasized, yes, but displays of vulnerability (femininity) are abhorred as much as excessive displays of masculinity. Complaining about a blow-out match is thus an equal affront to the rules as bragging about one or mocking one’s opponent. Displays of masculinity can obviously be much more damaging, but under this morality, being damaged, understanding it as damage, is seen as an equal crime, disrupting the decorum of the idealized world of “sport” itself.

Consider the currently most idealized moment of “sportsmanship,” when competitors are most likely to be hailed for their sportsmanship by third parties, as if it constitutes a vital part of their athletic performance:

The moment when two, most often dark skinned, fist-fighters embrace after a match. This is usually pointed out by white announcers who act affirmed by the display.

Sportsmanship, as a morality, hasn’t come very far since the mythical “Morituri te salutant” (“We who are about to die salute you”).

George H. Sage, a professor at the University of Northern Colorado, wrote an interesting article about sportsmanship for WorldAndI.com.

While he only touches upon a feminist analysis of sport as an agent of patriarchy, the article as a whole challenges assumptions that many “professional-profeminists” (the sort who make a living lecturing athletes on sexual violence and the like) have not adequately addressed.

Sage merely asks: Does sport really “build character?”


I encourage you to read the article in its entirety.