- The Bloomsbury Companion to the Philosophy of Sport ed. by Cesar Torres
I was present at the beginning of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS), though my first meeting was in 1976 at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. I was one month into my dissertation program and the PSSS conference papers were terribly interesting but, on three hot October days, difficult for a novice to follow. In fact, one presenter, who was to speak late Saturday, tore his prepared paper into shreds and lamented the Cartesian format for an organization that should know better. Our bodies and minds are not dualities. [End Page 457]
And that is the problem of what we suffer in the philosophy of sport. We write cognitively about this mystical, ethereal thing called play, and we attempt to help others understand the importance of the meaning of play, the aesthetics of play, the metaphysics, the ontology, the nature, the ethics, the reality, the idealism of play, and so forth. We make passionate arguments about this bodily experience of play, but we are relegated to the world of the mind to do so.
Unfortunately, our words are constantly questioned as to their legitimacy—and our words are not science—they are what they are: words—we do not bake bread.
With this being said, Cesar Torres, as editor, attempted to meet the scholarly challenge to compile the Bloomsbury Companion to the Philosophy of Sport, a volume of twenty-two essays and nineteen entries introducing key terms and concepts to supplement the study of sport philosophy. The Companion also has an annotated bibliography to “understand the historical development of the discipline.” On Bloomsbury’s web site, David Stewart notes, “The appearance of this book … confirms philosophy of sport as a mature discipline.”
To paraphrase Mrs. MacBeth, “I think Mr. Stewart doth protest too much.” Blooms-bury is an independent publishing house for the mass market; its claim to fame was choosing to publish J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, after twelve other marketing houses supposedly turned her down. Bloomsbury, in 2008, established its academic branch to grow professional revenues to match its trade because the academic stream is more predictable and less reliant on retail and has more digital opportunities. Yes, Bloomsbury is in the business to do good work, but the publisher is also in the business to make money—and that is the main purpose for its “companion” texts.
To his credit, Dr. Torres went to many current and important writers—R. Scott Kretchmar, Robert L. Simon, Gunnar Breivik, William Morgan, and Sigmund Loland—plus other rising and established younger scholars, including Sarah Teetzel, Carwyn Jones, Danny Rosenberg, and Alun Hardman, who wrote important pieces explaining what we do from the historical beginnings of the discipline to the current issues. I found each article informative, well written, but not necessarily easy to understand outside of discipline expertise.
This is not to say that Dr. Torres’ edited volume is not worthy of being a historical companion to understanding the study of the philosophy of sport. However, its strength is also its weakness—it is a companion text which should be used as a complement to other historical works or works in the discipline knowledge. Thus one needs some knowledge of the discipline’s body of work to be able to understand the depth and quality of the work to even use a companion.
This Companion, as all Bloomsbury Companions, is supposed to be a reference resource giving a general overview of key topics, research areas, new directions, and a guide to beginning or developing research in the field. However, each section is written by one contributor, rather than a series of contributors, thus it is limited and biased. The series is supposed to give practical guidance on advanced study and research in the field, including research methods and subject-specific resources, of which, I found scant direction to do so. However, in Part V, the Glossary of Key Terms and Concepts, a few authors including Greg...