To be able to suggest a normative understanding of sport competitions as potentially meaningful and valuable human practices, we need a clearer grasp of what kind of practices we are talking about, and what traditionally have been their moral ideals. A focused normative analysis requires some conceptual groundwork.
What do we mean when we talk of 'sport' and of 'sport competitions'? McPherson et al.'s (1989:15) idea of sport as 'a structured, goal-oriented, competitive, contest-based, ludic physical activity' is quite representative of definitional efforts and captures common understanding and use of the term. 1 This definition includes a variety of activities. We talk of 'children's and youth sport', of 'recreational sport' such as leisure ball games in the local park, of 'amateur sport' such as college athletics, and of 'professional sport' and 'commercial entertainment sport' such as English Premier League football and the basketball played in the American National Basketball Association (NBA).
Moreover, activities we refer to as 'sport' develop, change, and sometimes vanish in relation to the social and cultural contexts of which they are parts. As Morgan (1994:213) says, sport is '…a social rather than a natural kind'. The term 'commercial entertainment sport' would scarcely have had any meaning to the founding members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. The rise of women's sport in the latter half of the twentieth century was probably unthinkable to most sport leaders between the two world wars. Snowboarding and beach volleyball are new sporting activities that have developed over the last couple of decades.
Therefore, in such a socio-cultural setting, quests for 'objective', ahistorical definitions make little sense. My pursuit of clarification here is more modest. I propose an interpretation of fair play in what are traditionally seen as the core of sport practice, the competitions. In what follows, the term 'sport' refers to