1-4 | The Erosion of the American Sporting Ethos: Shifting Attitudes toward Competition

Book Review

The Erosion of the American Sporting Ethos: Shifting Attitudes toward Competition

Joel Nathan Rosen
Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007. Figures, appendix, notes, bibliography, and index. x, 294 pp. $35.00 paper. ISBN: 9780786429172

by Cesar R. Torres

First Paragraph:

Reflecting approvingly on the ancient Greek gusto for antagonism in On the Genealogy of Morality (1994, first published 1887), Friedrich Nietzsche affirmed that "if we take away competition from Greek life, we gaze immediately into that pre- Homeric abyss of a gruesome savagery of hatred and pleasure in destruction" (p. 193). For Nietzsche, competition, athletic and otherwise, was a practice that led humans to flourish. As he clarified, without "competitive ambition, the Hellenistic state, like Hellenic man, deteriorates. It becomes evil and cruel" (p. 194). In spite of Nietzsche's praise, ancient Greek athletics were criticized by their contemporaries. Xenophanes, for one, thought that successful athletes received a disproportionate number of honors and rewards.