Christopher Hitchens comes down hard on international competitive sport, claiming that it exacerbates rather than reduces conflict.
In reply, Mike Labossiere gives a defence of sport more generally - emphasising its character-building nature and so on.
My verdict? Alas, I'm a bit of a fence-sitter with this one. I think that Hitchens' article is rather over the top and that, despite the existence of corruption, extreme rivalries, and so on, international sporting competition probably does do more good than harm. It does seem to create some international goodwill, overall, and to provide a relatively harmless outlet for nationalistic fervour. Glory on the sports field is a far preferable goal to glory on the battlefield. However, this is impressionistic. Just how anyone could be confident about the net effect is unclear. How do you measure it against the counterfactual alternatives?
While Hitchens may be over the top, Labossiere strikes me as a bit too Pollyanna-ish. Sure, most people in amateur athletics probably display ordinary human sympathy and courtesy when appropriate. So do most people at rock concerts or science fiction conventions or poetry readings or tutorials on ancient ceramics ... or in the supermarket, if it comes to that. So? There are also circumstances in which people may not be so "nice" (e.g. in prisons, or when arguing anonymously on the internet), but they are not the rule from which kinder behaviour is a special departure.
H/T Tauriq Moosa.
Edit: Some of the responses to Hitchens are hilarious. I like this one:
The athour must be a booksmart idoit who tries to bring down all athletles because they are better than him. To the athour: your a big softy who cant play sports, and sports does i lot of good i would know due to sports i care about school and iam healthly and more of a man, unlike the authour, who poorly attemps to bring down whoose who are great so you can sit alday typing ur dumb opion and acting like your cool and people care about your life. I know your somewhat smart though....but catch me on the mat of the football feild and i dont think youll have much to say