We like to say that school sports is “educational athletics,” but this does not mean athletics and academics should be treated exactly the same.
Competitive athletics is not like the composition or algebra classroom. Competitive athletics requires two opponents playing by the same rules that govern who can play and how they can play.
In 1907, William James put in writing a series of lectures he had given in Boston the year before titled “Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking.” Included in the third lecture is this gem:
“. . . the aim of a football team is not merely to get the ball to a certain goal (if that were so, they would simply get up on some dark night and place it there), but to get it there by a fixed machinery of conditions – the game’s rules and the opposing players;”
This to James was a given, cited to help him make a more profound point.
But the point here is profound enough for us. Without rules, and opponents playing by the same rules, there is no validity in moving the ball to the goal. Without rules, there is no value in sinking the putt, making the basket, clearing the bar, crossing the finish line. Without a regulatory scheme adhered to by all competitors, victory is hollow.