Archive for June 18th, 2014

June 18, 2014

Gamesmanship

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Gamesmanship is the use of dubious (although not technically illegal) methods to win or gain a serious advantage in a game or sport. It has been described as ‘Pushing the rules to the limit without getting caught, using whatever dubious methods possible to achieve the desired end.’ It may be inferred that the term derives from the idea of playing for the game (i.e., to win at any cost) as opposed to sportsmanship, which derives from the idea of playing for sport. The term originates from British author Stephen Potter’s humorous 1947 book, ‘The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship (or the Art of Winning Games without Actually Cheating).’

Potter cites the origin of gamesmanship to be a tennis match in which he and the philosopher C. E. M. Joad competed against two younger and fitter men who were outplaying them fairly comfortably. On returning a serve, Joad hit the ball straight into the back-netting twelve feet behind the back-line. While the opponents were preparing for the next serve, Joad ‘called across the net, in an even tone: ‘Kindly state clearly, please, whether the ball was in or out.’┬áBeing young, polite university students, their opponents offered to replay the point, but Joad declined. Because they were young and polite, the slight suggestion by Joad that their etiquette and sportsmanship were in question was extremely off-putting, and distracted them for the rest of contest. Potter and Joad went on to win the match.

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