Sport: a scientific experiment?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSport in Society. 2018, 22, 1501-1511 10.1080/17430437.2018.1435003
Science plays an increasingly important role in sport. Innovative high-tech equipment and research-based exercise regimes are vivid examples. In more subtle forms, scientific ways of thinking impact how sport is understood and practiced. I examine the possibilities and limits of scientific rationality in the set-up of competitive sport. Standard requirements on reliability and validity make sense when it comes to the quest for equal opportunity, and for fair and impartial evaluation of performance. However, whereas the instrumental aim of science is ‘certified’ knowledge, I argue that sport has primary meaning and value in itself. In further analysis of the normative structure of sport, an alternative ludic rationality emerges with elements of merit, chance and luck. I argue that sport is structured to cultivate not only athletic but human excellence. I conclude that upholding ludic rationality, operationalized in norms for fair play, is crucial for realizing sport’s characteristic values.
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