Ayn Rand in India
Friday, August 18, 2017
  Search 
Home
Opportunities
Ayn Rand - India blog
Quotable quotes
A Chronology
About this Initiative
 
 
Please enter your email here, we would like to keep you informed.
 
 
Connect With Us - Facebook RSS
<August 2017>
SuMoTuWeThFrSa
12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031
Sections
Calender of Events
About Ayn Rand
Writings of Ayn Rand
Objectivism in Perspective
Metaphysics: Objective Reality
Ethics: Self Interest
Politics: Laissez Faire Capitalism
Ayn Rand Institute
Essay Competitions
Resources
Popular References
 Objectivism in Perspective
 
Selfishness on the Sports Field
Liberty Institute, India Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Amar Gujral
Players who put their team ahead of themselves are considered ‘selfless’ and ‘heroic.’ However, those who pursue their own interests at the expense of their teams are branded ‘mean’ and ‘selfish.’ So, must we conclude that in certain circumstances in the sporting arena selfishness is not a virtue? The truth is that situations in the sporting arena where the success of the team depends on someone surrendering their personal glory, don’t at all conflict with the virtue of selfishness, as identified by Ayn Rand, writes Amar Gujral.

Those of us who follow team sports such as cycling, cricket, football or hockey, often hear commentators and experts admonishing certain players for being ‘selfish’ by seeking personal glory ahead of the team cause. If you are batting and have a chance to get a hundred but your team requires you to throw caution to the winds, you are supposed to follow the team’s needs. If you are in front of goal in a football match, but your teammate is in a better scoring position, you are supposed to pass the ball and let him score. If you are Lance Armstrong’s teammate in the Tour de France, your goal is to protect him and dedicate yourself to his victory over the three week race, not your own victory on the day. Players who put their team ahead of themselves are considered ‘selfless’ and ‘heroic.’ However, those who pursue their own interests at the expense of their teams are branded ‘mean’ and ‘selfish.’ So, must we conclude that in certain circumstances in the sporting arena selfishness is not a virtue? Then, must this type of conclusion be accepted for other kind of team pursuits, such as those in the corporate world? Does objectivism have any answer at all for the rare tricky situations where the pursuit of personal achievement may conflict with the interests of the team?

The truth is that situations in the sporting arena where the success of the team depends on someone surrendering their personal glory, don’t at all conflict with the virtue of selfishness, as identified by Ayn Rand. Remember, Ayn Rand defined selfishness as a man’s pursuit of his own rational self-interest. This definition of selfishness requires that a person first identify his own hierarchy of values and goals, then validate them by asking himself whether they are life-affirming values proper for a thinking, productive human being to pursue, and finally choose a course of action that will, in fact, help him achieve those values and goals. Let us apply this definition of selfishness to the context of an athlete in a team sport.

Consider a sport such as football, for example. If a rational, selfish person chooses to become a professional football player, it means he has chosen to dedicate himself to the highest level of achievement possible to him in that sport. This implies that he has to not only develop his own skill, but also thoroughly understand the requirements of the game where he chooses to express it. And essential to football or any other team sport are two basic facts. Firstly, every individual’s effort has to be coordinated with that of his other team mates, and secondly, the common goal towards which everyone coordinates their efforts is victory and success for the team. In fact, one doesn’t need to be a professional to understand this. Apply it to yourself: when India plays a game of cricket, is the performance of the team the first thing you would want to know, or the score of a particular individual? Imagine if all players were simply interested in displaying their own skill, without any concern for coordinating their efforts with each other – it would present an absurd sight on a sports field. History stands testament to the fact that whenever teams have been put together with several big stars not especially concerned with coordinating their efforts with one another, the result, without exception, has been failure for the team.

Achievement in a team sport is measured, first and foremost, in terms of the success of the team. This is what every individual works towards, and how well they do it is what eventually gives them glory, accolades and financial rewards. Putting it another way, the proper standard of value for a rational sportsperson is that which achieves success for the team. A selfish, reality-oriented athlete working towards his own eventual happiness would not accept any other standard.

If anyone acted in any way that was to the detriment of his team, even if it brought short-term personal glory in the bargain, he would be betraying the very requirements of the game he has chosen, and causing a loss to himself and the others associated with his team. Consistent behavior of this kind would show that the person has little respect for reality or his own rational mind. He would eventually be black-listed and his career would sink. This course of action would be anything but selfish. It might achieve momentary thrills for the athlete in question, but will certainly not bring him any consistent happiness in the long run.

However, by calling any athlete’s short-term, whimsical fancy of putting his own personal moment of glory ahead of the requirements of his team, ‘selfish’, and calling an athlete dedicated to proper teamwork, victory and the eventual success of his team as well as his own career, ‘selfless’, the pundits of team sports have simply followed in the footsteps of the rest of our culture and created a false dichotomy. A truly ‘selfless’ athlete would be someone willing to reject and surrender any pursuit of his own values, and that includes his own team. He would be willing to sacrifice his own eventual interest and the interest of his team, because they both matter to him. No team, coach or manager would ever touch such an athlete, and as sports fans we all hope never to see one such on the field.

This article was published in the Liberty Institute on Tuesday, August 04, 2009.
Author : Amar Gujral is working on the "Ayn Rand in India" initiative. He has been a student of objectivism for a nunber of years.
Tags- Find more articles on - team sports | virtue of selfishness

Post your Comments on this Article

Name  
Email    
Comment  
Comments will be moderated

Objectivism in Perspective
More Articles


Liberty Partners
 
  Atlas Shrugged
 
 
An Initiative of
LIBERTY INSTITUTE, INDIA
All rights reserved.