July 31, 2012
PASSION: Are athletes held to higher standards in the Olympics?

Tennis is known for being a gentleman’s sport, but that doesn’t always stop passionate temper tantrums on the court (see David Nalbandian). During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a controversy within a tennis match begged the question: Do the Olympics call for even more sportsmanlike behavior than other competitions?

American tennis player James Blake adamantly says yes. During a crucial point in a long match that determined who would move on to the gold medal game against Fernando Gonzalez, a ball Blake hit sailed long (giving Gonzalez the point). Blake claimed Gonzalez touched it with his racket (which would have given Blake the point). Gonzalez denied it. The line judge didn’t see it. Later, replays would confirm that Blake was right. (Read a full article on the Blake/Gonzalez controversy here.)

“Maybe I shouldn’t expect people to hold themselves to high standards of sportsmanship,” said Blake after the match. “But yes, I did expect it a little more so in the Olympics when we’re all competing under the banner of this event being to promote sportsmanship and goodwill among countries.”

What do you think? Does passion for winning overtake sportsmanship? Should athletes be held to higher standards in the Olympics?

In many cases passion is a very desirable characteristic. People need passion to get up in the morning and do what they love. But is there such a thing as too much passion? 

In July and August, Indiana Humanities is exploring the topic of “passion,” as part of its Spirit of Competition theme.

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