Thursday, 18 July 2013

#Ashes: Rules versus principles

Sporting contents do have important philosophical lessons to teach us.

After Australia’s failure in the first Ashes test, and with many Australians blaming English batsmen Stuart Broad for not “walking” when he knew he’d knicked the ball for a catch, this tweet was doing the rounds:

Stuart Broad walks into a bar...

Naturally, since the incident, sporting forums have been all ablaze debating the choice to walk, or not to walk when you know you’re out—and whether on that basis you're a cheat, or not a cheat.

I liked this comment that appeared on a post at the Footy Almanac. From the incident the commenter induced a wider philosophical point about the difference living by rules and living on principles:

Broad cheated. Maybe he’s not a cheat, but he cheated (differentiating the behaviour from the person).
We have these problems, as I wrote elsewhere, in rules-based societies. When societies live by strictly enforced rules, members of those societies seek advantage via loop holes/ boundaries to push (Broad, Hird, Armstrong, etc etc).
When societies [or individuals] live by principles-based philosophy however, these indiscretions disappear, or rather, fail to appear. We each know what is morally right & wrong. Our morals vary from person to person, resulting in three-thousand shades of grey around each issue. But the principles based life is one well led. The dubious behaviour of an individual will not be tolerated by the society. The message will be: Change your game or find a new game.
Broad cheated. Perhaps he only cheated himself. Perhaps he cheated the “spirit of cricket,” which until recently was a principles-based culture. (Now, regrettably, it is 100% rules based, with the DRS and whatnot). Perhaps he doesn’t even know it.
A fair question now is: how does any rules-based society get its principles back?

Good points. And an excellent question.

PS: To get ready for the Lords test, which starts tonight, here’s a Korean summary of the first game. Yes, really.


  1. "how does any rules-based society get its principles back?"
    Through humility and the knowledge of the value of ethical behaviour in a world which contains both good and evil. (JMO)

  2. Similar arguments are seen in the accounting world. GAAP and such. Principles? Rules? Ask Enron.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.