Spectatorship – Watching and Following Sport

Authored by: Carwyn Jones

Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Sport

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415829809
eBook ISBN: 9780203466261
Adobe ISBN: 9781134119141


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According to Santayana “Athletic sports are not children’s games; they are public spectacles … Spectators are indispensable, since without them the victory, which should be the only reward, would lose half its power” (in McNamee 2008: 49). Goods like glory and honour in sport seem to depend on the presence of spectators. Spectators themselves might be watching sport for a variety of motives. One might think of spectatorship from a subjective and objective point of view. The first might consider the personal experience of the spectator, the psychological states of mind such as enjoyment and excitement which motivate them to watch sport. The latter might consider what role spectators play in sport more generally, what contribution they make to the practice of sport, how their behaviour affects our experience of sport. In this chapter, I discuss some token spectator types and pick out some key conceptual and ethical ideas therein. After briefly exploring the gambler, perhaps the original spectator at sports contests, who watches to see if his/her wager is successful, I discuss different conceptions and manifestations of the sports fan. The sport fan comes in various guises, but I focus on two types commonly referred to in the literature, namely the loyal and dedicated partisan whose allegiance is to a particular team and the purist who is looking to enjoy the spectacle of sport without a particular allegiance. I discuss the conceptual and ethical dimensions and interrogate the relative ethical merits of both types. Finally, I discuss the sporting patriot and the vices of excessive partisanship.

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