Whatever It Takes to Win

Netherlands’ Arjen Robben, center, goes down to win a penalty during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and Mexico at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Sunday, June 29, 2014. Netherlands won the match 2-1. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Dostoyevsky thought nihilism was the main problem with his contemporary Russia. Today, the philosophy of Pragmatism is the scourge of contemporary America and is so prevalent throughout all aspects of society. In sports, it rears its ugly head in just about every play, no matter what the particular sport.

Pragmatism is the philosophy that demands that “the practical” rule without absolute principles and standards. The only thing that matters is “whatever works.” In the context of sports, “whatever it takes to win” is the mantra of the pragmatist. On the surface, this seems like an innocent or innocuous. In fact, it can be one of the most vicious statements ever made. It is the notion that the end justifies the means.

Under a philosophical microscope, whatever it takes to win means exactly that, whatever or anything and everything. This means, in football, tripping, interfering or downright dirty play is acceptable, if it allows one to achieve their goal: winning. In baseball, the Ty Cobb high spikes works, if it achieves that extra stolen base that leads to a game winning run. An elbow to the gut of an opponent in basketball becomes practical or a flop in soccer that helps secure a win becomes highly regarded. On the ice, it’s the dive to secure an opponent in the penalty box.

What is missing in all of this? Moral principles are left on a milk carton. Yes, winning is important, but it is not the most important. In fact, without principles, winning becomes fleeting at best and vacant at worst. In the end, winning with Pragmatism leaves one losing in real life, especially when that lack of moral principles crosses over into other aspects of everyday life. “Whatever it takes to win” should be stricken from the minds of every coach and player in every sport.


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