Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 47, 2008

Philosophy of Sport

William J. Morgan
Pages 11-17

Liars, Bullshitters, and the Privitization of Public Discourse about Sports

The question I want to pursue here is one that I have lifted from Harry Frankfurt’s recent surprising best-selling book, On Bullshit, in which he asks why there is so much bullshit today in Western cultures like the U. S. The scope of Frankfurt’s charge was deliberately broad. It’s not just that people bullshit about how much money they make or how important their jobs are, but that public discourse about just any topic of consequence in American culture is filled with, one is even tempted to say consists of, such unseemly speech. Such is the case, I want to claim here, about public discourse about sport in the print and visual media, in everyday life, and even, as I will shortly comment upon, in so-called academic and civic forums. So I don’t think it is a stretch at all, nor do I believe Frankfurt would regard it as such, to include sport among the topics about which bullshit abounds. He might, however, quibble with my claim that the preponderance of bullshit in and outside of sport circles has mainly to do with the incursion of the market into most of the social practices that people hold dear in our culture. This despite the fact that Frankfurt does recognize that one primary reason why bullshit dominates so much of our contemporary discourse is that people are frequently called upon to speak about things that exceed their grasp, their knowledge of the subject. What he seems not to appreciate in this regard, however, is that one especially important reason why people’s grasp of what they say and do leaves much to be desired is because more often than not it is market actors that are doing all the talking here, whether the topic be sports, or politics, or even science. And the reason they are doing all the talking is the same reason they are mostly responsible for what actually goes on in these disparate spheres, namely, they hold and control the purse strings. So I’m persuaded, more than Frankfurt apparently is, that it is because the money-changers dominate sports, as I have insinuated they dominate most everything else, that what gets said in and about sports is mostly bullshit. Convincing you that I’m right about this will be my aim today, and that’s no bullshit, I think.