Sep 14, 2023

an enabling form of limit

Steve Connor, in A Philosophy of Sport:

All sports involve some kind of disabling impediment, in the form of rules that restrict the ways in which one can achieve the object of the game. [Philosopher] Bernard Suits has identified this kind of restriction as an essential feature of all sports, in his assertion that “playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” One of the oldest games of which we have knowledge, the ball game played by pre-Columbian peoples, forbade the use of any other part of the body to move the ball but the hips, with a Mayan version of the game requiring the players to propel the ball with their chests. The objects of sport are often the signs and vehicles of these prohibitions. The restrictions offered by the particular forms of projectors and projectiles, like all the other strictly limiting circumstances of sports, such as times, places, and rules of behavior, are not mere background conditions for the exercise of freedom. They are, like the body itself, both a restricting necessity and an enabling form of limit that is necessary for me to be able to assert my freedom…

My freedom can never itself be free of conditions. The objects and instruments of sport are the means both of imposing and surpassing disability, of imposing disability in order for it to be possible partially to overcome it. It is for this reason that there is no real difference between able-bodied and disabled sports, since all sports are means towards the exertion of freedoms through the imposition of impediment. Disabled sports deserve our interest and support, not just in order to give us an opportunity to be condescendingly generous with our attention, or because they solicit our respect for the spirit of striving they exemplify, but because sport is not possible without the assumption of disability, which means that disabled sports are the only kind there are.

I’m writing a short essay about disability and sports, but mostly I’m anticipating the new season of Unified Basketball for young Graham, 17, shown here poised under the basket. He misses most attempts. But we got the miracle of a buzzer beater he made as a freshman on video and it is — just, well, pure joy.

smaller graham unified.jpg