Sport Report

by Phil Johnson

Motto: The real game is the game you’re in.

Text: “Bodily exercise profiteth little.” —Paul of Tarsus

Play Ethic

Whenever I hear an announcer speak about an athlete’s “work ethic,” I grimace. I have a hunch that I know what the speaker means by this abstraction, but I don’t think it is apt.

I know that becoming a good player requires discipline and hard work. Walther Peyton ran up sand dunes to build his legs and condition himself. Larry Bird shoots baskets an extra couple hours a day. Many more examples of athletes working hard are readily available. The problem is not that the word “work” is inappropriate but that the distinction between a player and a worker is overlooked. The ethos of sports is the ethos of play. What I want to see is a game that is played hard by players—not workers.

Next time an announcer reports that Kirby Puckett, for example, has a terrific work ethic, I think I’ll give the announcer a call and encourage him or her to use the term play ethic because it is the ethos of the game, of play, by which I am pleased, renewed, and entertained.