Friday, September 01, 2006

Odysseus & Sports

Great piece in the New Yorker (September 4, 2006) by Peter J. Boyer. The article is ostensibly about the Duke lacrosse team--"Big Men on Campus: Lacrosse vs. scholarship at Duke"--but it's not just a rehash of that story, it delves into sports and society.

“If you go back and read the Odyssey, who is Odysseus? ‘Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending.’ And his ways of contending are intellectual, and they’re strategic, and they’re political, and they’re athletic. And so it seems to me that that would actually be at the foundation of it—it’s the image of excellence. I’m not saying that I would embrace athletics on any terms. But that’s its relevance. And then you have to couch it in the right terms, to have it be consonant with the other values of the university. There are other things as well. It’s about working in teams, about learning to do things together that people can’t do alone. The metaphorical value of sports is actually quite deep, when you stop and think about it. Our culture doesn’t ask us often enough to think about it.”

-- Richard H. Brodhead, President, Duke University


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