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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 28, 2006 / 4 Elul, 5766

Ethics and sportsmanship

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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Good sportsmanship is meant to ensure that the original, constructive goal of competition remains foremost


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: If I know my opponent deserved a point and lost it due to the referee's error, should I rectify the injustice by throwing the next point?


A. In order to answer this question, we have to examine the role of sports in our culture, and of sportsmanship in sports.


In sports, more than in any other area of life, the ostensible objective is completely artificial. If our true objective were to sink the ball into the basket, we would just get a ladder. If we really wanted to circle the course as fast as we could, we would doff our running shoes and hop on a motorcycle. The entire object of sports and games is to establish a conventional and artificial task, which we then "pretend" is real in order to develop our physical well-being, sharpen our skills, improve teamwork, provide an outlet for competitive desires, and so on.


The problem is that we may get so carried away with the charade that we forget the original aim. Spitballs, steroids and the like advance the fake objectives but irreparably harm the real object of the game. The solution is the ethical ideal of sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship is meant to ensure that the original, constructive goal of competition remains foremost. Someone who puts winning before earnest competition is unsportsmanlike, and ruins the game for everyone.


I think this approach solves your question. A sincere but mistaken referee's call is good luck for you, bad luck for your opponent. Luck is an unavoidable part of life, and of sports. Blowing a point in response would promote the ostensible goal of the game, equitable allocation of points, at the expense of the real goal, which is to have all participants give their best at all times.


This seemingly trivial bit of "sports ethics" has a more serious message. The dual nature of sports has a parallel in economic life. The competitive market system is based on competing for money, but this is a fake objective. The true objective is to organize the productive resources of society for the benefit of all. Business ethics is meant to ensure that the original, constructive goal of economic development doesn't get swallowed up by the wholly artificial goal of making money.


This parallel was eloquently expressed by the original theorist of markets, Adam Smith, who wrote in "Theory of Moral Sentiments" that "in the race for wealth and honors and preferments, every man may run as hard as he can, and strain every nerve and muscle, in order to outstrip all his competitors. But if he should jostle or throw down any of them, the indulgence of the spectators is entirely at an end. It is a violation of fair play, which they cannot admit of."


This message is exemplified in a fascinating and very famous story in the Talmud. When the Roman Empire conquered the land of Israel, they brought with them an impressive degree of economic development. The Talmud tells us that three leading sages sat down to discuss Roman-style progress:


"Rebbe Yehuda opened by saying, How worthy are the acts of this nation: they built marketplaces, they built bridges, they built bathhouses. Rebbe Yossi kept silent. Rebbe Shimon replied, saying: All that they built, they built only for themselves. They built marketplaces as a place for prostitutes; bathhouses, in order to pamper themselves; bridges in order to collect tolls." (1)


The kind of selfishness Rebbe Shimon is protesting is not that the marketplaces and bridges were built for utilitarian purposes, and not out of purely philanthropic interest. Judaism doesn't condemn people for advancing their self interest. He doesn't say, the Romans are not worthy of praise because they built marketplaces to trade and bridges to provide convenient transportation for themselves. This would be understandable.


Rebbe Shimon's criticism is that even the underlying utilitarian goal was not foremost. The Romans were not interested in healthy trade, but rather in debauchment; they were not interested in transportation, but only in enriching themselves. They did promote economic development, but what really interested them was a mere side effect. Rebbe Shimon risked the wrath of the Roman authorities to emphasize that this is an illegitimate approach to development.


In business, like in sports, keeping score is a legitimate and valuable way of motivating people and inducing them to give their best. But just as sportsmanship in games reminds us that winning is not what's ultimately important, business ethics reminds us that we don't win the game of life by accumulating the most "monopoly money," but rather by doing the most good with our G-d-given talents.


SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Shabbes 33b.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


Previously:

The ethics of forwarding email
Must a supplier honor a discount offered by a rogue sales representative?
Should I boycott my daughter's fashion show?
Should you respond to all those annoying email pop-up requests?
Do I have to reimburse someone who tried to do me a favor?
Seeking credit card debt settlement
Can I threaten to spread the word about someone who cheated me?
How can the terminally ill tap into their life insurance?
Is there value in an unhappy marriage?
Where does the Almighty fit into your corporation's mission statement?
Does an expert witness have to be impartial?
Should I give recognition to a modest man who did a great deed?
In representing my firm, can I tell a white lie?
Defrauding insurance to save a life
Can top level management unilaterally give away money to corporate dollars to charity?
Loans to Family Members
How much worker supervision is too much?
Should I turn in a colleague for inappropriate acts?
Priority in charitable giving
Trolls and ogres
How many hours of work is too many?
Can I promote my product by having it unobtrusively written into a story?
He's not heavy he's my brother
All's fair in war?, II
All's fair in war?
Girth vs. worth
Is it proper to tax bequests?
Ethics of Being Overweight
Penalized for working swiftly
When is it a bluff?
'Rate and switch'
My paycheck is late!
Should schools cater to an elite?
All's fair in love?
Comfort and Competition
Do I need the caller's permission to put a call on the speakerphone?
Overtime for lost time
Is it unethical to play suppliers against each other to get the lowest bid possible?
Do family members have precedence in charity allotments?
What the world of business can teach us about our annual process of repentance and renewal
Are religious leaders subject to criticism?
Vindictive Vendor: How can I punish an abusive competitor?
Blogging Ethics: Is the blogger responsible for defamatory posts?







© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics