High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 7/23/2019: Tennis Players, Baseball Players, An Unethical Football Player, And Tarzan

Where did the morning go?

1. Men don’t matter, so apparently this isn’t worth worrying about or criticizing... The same kind of body dysmorphia that has had feminists and psychologists attacking the media and popular culture for warping women’s concepts of acceptable and desirable body types is affecting men just as negatively, it seems. It’s just that nobody cares.

From Barbie to “Baywatch,” the culture’s emphasis on absurdly proportioned and gorgeous, never-aging women has been blamed for poor self-image, anorexia, breast implants, botox, obsessive dieting and exercising, and weight loss scams. The culture’s relatively recent obsession with male physiques that once would have been regarded as freakish, however, is seldom criticized.

Where once he-men and heart throbs like Clark Gable, John Wayne and even Tarzan himself, Johnny Weissmuller, didn’t hesitate to appear in films looking fit but hardly muscle-bound, like this

and this…

and this…

..now even minor minor male characters on TV, in ads and movies have to show bulging pecs, swollen delts and a rock-like six pack, despite the fact that such bodies, unlike those of Gable, the Duke and Johnny, are impossible for most men to attain while maintaining a healthy and productive life-style.

A study published in June found that 22% of men aged 18-24 reported muscularity-oriented disordered eating. Lead researcher Dr Jason Nagata of the University of California says, “The drive for a bigger, more muscular body is becoming very prevalent. Their entire day is spent at the gym trying to bulk up. They may also be taking illicit supplements like steroids.”

Men, however, seldom seek treatment for the problem, and media and social critics continue to concentrate on the pop culture’s unhealthy effects on the body images of girls, not boys.

2. More reason to detest Tom Brady. Here’s father Tom Brady forcing his 6-year-old daughter to jump off a cliff:


Hey! I get to use three favorite Ethics Alarms terms in one mini-post! This is res ipsa loquitur for irresponsible parenting. It is signature significance as well, because no good parent would do this to so young a child, even once. And it is moral luck: if Brady’s daughter had been injured in the jump, and she easily could have been, Brady would be widely and justifiably condemned, and possibly charged with child endangerment. That she was not hurt was just moral luck: it doesn’t change the ethics verdict on his conduct at all.

3. Do you know who Bill Dahlen was? Of course you don’t. Dahlen was a great 19th century baseball player whom Bill James, the stats guru who changed the way the game  is analyzed and played, recently determined was the greatest player not to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He was  better than over a hundred current members, and with no other non-members (not counting special cases like Pete Rose) better than he was.

Then James, in his Hall of Fame essay in the 2019 Bill James Handbook, makes a series of ethically questionable statements. He doesn’t see what purpose it would serve to elect Dahlen now, he writes, The Hall exists to preserve memories, and, James reasons, there is no memory of Dahlen now to preserve.

It pains me to challenge one of my intellectual, ethical and philosophical heroes, but that’s nonsense. James is arguing that when the culture loses someone who is worth remembering, it’s waste of time and effort to resuscitate what has been lost. That’s literally a rejection of historical research and the ongoing process of cultural rejuvenation. Pioneering French film-maker Abel Ganz was forgotten, until his masterpiece “Napoleon” was restored and given a spectacular revival. Gettysburg’s Little Round Top hero,  Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, had even escaped mention in the Battlefield exhibits, until “The Killer Angels” rescued him, and his story, from obscurity. Here on Ethics Alarms, we discussed the recent resurrection of the amazing story of Julia Sand, the President Whisperer, and we are better for knowing it.

Bill Dahlen is no more obscure than Hughey Jennings, Tommy McCarthy or Candy Cummings, except that they are in the Hall of Fame, and he isn’t–and he is more deserving than they are. Like Julia Sand, Abel Ganz, and the less well known individuals in the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor, Dahlen did remarkable things in his life, shined in his chosen pursuit, deserves to be remembered. Our society should do what it can to try to keep his memory alive.

Here’s Bill Dahlen:

4. Tennis tries to deal with an endemic ethics problem. Here’s tennis’s dilemma: since it awards significant prize winnings to players who lose Grand Slam matches and tournaments, what’s to stop players from just entering to collect the money? Yes, yes, integrity, honesty and all that, except that these are athletes, a group that tends to have the ethical values of Mako sharks. Thus pro tennis installed the First Round Performance rule for the 2018 season, prompted by an epidemic of players quitting midway through first-round matches at major tournaments because of existing injuries. The rule allows injured players who enter Grand Slam events simply to claim prize money to be fined and sanctioned.

Anna Tatishvili was the first player to be fined under the rule who had finished a match. After a 6-1, 6-0 loss to Maria Sakkari in the first round of the French Open in May, Tatishvili was fined all of her first-round prize money, about $51,500, for failing to “perform to the required professional standard.” The player  filed a 40-page appeal to the Grand Slam board, and after reviewing it and video of the match, Bill Babcock, the board director, informed Tatishvili  that her prize money would be returned.  Babcock wrote that “there is no evidence that your movement was restricted [she had just returned from a serious ankle injury] or that you were not using your best efforts.”

Not so fortunate was Bernard Tomic, who was fined all $56,600 of his prize money after a  6-2, 6-1, 6-4 defeat against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round of Wimbledon. He also appealed, but was told only that he will get 25% of his prize money back two years from now if he can play eight Grand Slam events without receiving a single code violation.


20 thoughts on “High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 7/23/2019: Tennis Players, Baseball Players, An Unethical Football Player, And Tarzan

  1. 2. Yikes. I wouldn’t jump off that cliff. Presumably Tom Terrific will be charged with reckless endangerment, child cruelty, etc. That’s pretty darned traumatic. Wasn’t a black football player prosecuted for hitting his six year old on the calves with a switch? Will be interesting to see what the NFL does or doesn’t do.

  2. Item 2. I am not a Brady fan by any stretch, but whether it was unethical or even improper in any way depends on multiple factors. How high was the “cliff?” Was the water deep enough to sustain the jump? Does the daughter swim? Did the daughter want to do it? Frankly, I did many things like this with our sons and my grandson lives doing things like this with his favorite uncle. This is, I insist, not “res ipsa loquitor” by any stretch. It depends on answers to the questions I pose. If the “cliff” was a reasonable height, if the water was deep enough without obstacles les (like rocks), if the daughter wanted to jump with Daddy, then I say “Go for it. And may the force be with you”. (I wish I knew how to import a photo here).

    • In some of the videos, it is clear that the daughter does NOT want to jump. And she’s SIX. I don’t believe you would urge a reluctant child to make such a jump at that age. I don’t know where the line is, but it’s older than six

      • Counterpoint to Jack by anecdote:

        When I was 5-ish, 6-ish, probably under 7, I did swim lessons. One of the activities was jumping off the low diving board (not one a foot above the water; not the high dive, but that one that seemed like 6 feet (maybe not, as seen below)).

        You had to jump twice.

        There was an instructor treading water underneath to catch you.

        First jump: no problem. Jump. Catch. Swim to edge of pool.

        Second jump: BIG PROBLEMS! Hell no am I jumping 10 feet down there! At 20 feet, I could hit bottom and break my legs! That 50 fall could cause death on impact!

        To satisfy the requirement, one instructor lowered me from the diving board and dropped me into the arms of the other instructor (4 feet? 6 feet? 8 feet? I just don’t know because I was much shorter then.)

        In “safe” conditions (it is not clear what the known conditions are here), sometimes, kids need that push. I could not jump even after I already jumped once.

        Related: just took Baby-Jack (no relation) to a local fair. Unlike his older sister when she was the same age, he screamed bloody murder when put on certain rides, like the Motorcycle merry go round, but only after 3 revolutions of unmitigated glee. The attendant asked if we should stop it, amid joking looks and comments from other parents that we were torturing our child; he is 4. I said stop (not because of other parents; concerned about him and, of the 3 kids on the ride, 2 were mine (1 kid was short-changed on the ride)).

        Sometimes, we need to make our kids do what they don’t want to do, and even what they want to do, but can’t.

        And, if I am ever to jump out of an airplane, it will only be if one attendant drops me out of the plane into the arms of another attendant no more than 6 feet below. I have learned my lesson (or have I?). No parachute needed.


    • Agreed. He does pull her off, but to my eyes it looks like she’s preparing to jump along with him and hesitates just enough that he pulls her (as opposed to her not intending to jump and being forcibly taken along for the ride). Jack’s use of “to” as in “do this TO so young a child” assumes the child was opposed to the idea, while “do this WITH so young a child” is a different animal.

      I have a theory that any adult with a life fully lived has done at least one thing that COULD have killed them, and that if it HAD killed them people would have said “what was that idiot thinking?” Likewise, childhood is full of things that someone could hurt you, and someone would say “what were the idiot parents thinking?”

      Somewhere between “keep your child in a padded room” and “fling your child from a moving train tied to a kite” is a vast gray area where risks are part of growing up, and the injuries or lack thereof come down to moral luck. Jumping off a high thing, climbing a tree, biking really fast downhill, literally any sort of outdoor activity…

      • Possibly. But to my eye, that jump is TOO high and the daughter is TOO young. That cliff looks higher than any high dive in a public swimming pool I ever saw as a kid. (I doubt they even have high dives in swimming pools anymore because of the liability issues. Six is just too young. How much do you even remember from when you are six? That’s first grade. It’s not eleven or twelve. Plus, pulling her was really stupid. She could easily have landed really awkwardly and injured herself severely. I don’t see anything in that video that justifies his doing that to make her face her fears, etc. These things can be subjective but I’d argue this is over the line.

        • And I pretty much poo-pooed the story (Dads will be Dads) until Jack brought it up and I looked at the video. At which point it was: Caramba!

  3. Not knowing about the “cliff”, as Michael asks above, I wonder if the ownership of the Patriots (as well as fellow team members who might have dreams of one more ring) might have something to say about their major benefactor jumping off “cliffs” in Costa Rica.

  4. I’m going to disagree with the criticism of Brady. That drop was not dangerously high as long as the person jumping was a competent swimmer (which the little girl evidently was). Part of a father’s responsibility is to know his children’s capabilities and encourage them to try things that they will enjoy once they overcome their initial trepidation. Some fathers aren’t good at evaluating their children’s abilities or make decisions to live vicariously through their children and consequently force their kids into situations that are unsafe or unwise. I don’t think this was one of those situations.

  5. 1. Down with the patriarchy — by any means necessary.

    Soon, treatments for male ailments will receive less and less funding from Congress (Oh, wait, they already do!), because, well, women are more reliably Democrat and the woke Left prefers women to men. Because toxic masculinity, and don’t tell Megan Rapinoe she manages to embody just that without even being an actual man.

    2. Doesn’t seem safe to me. I agree with you.

    4. So then, the sport should not pay money to anyone who doesn’t reach the second round. Problem solved. Hurt but need money? Get a regional car dealership ad or something, or maybe sell that Turbo Carrera.

    They could reduce the complaints by slightly expanding the field.

  6. 2. I can’t be sure whether or not the height of the cliff is too high for a six year old but there is a big difference between encouraging your child to do something which may be scary and jumping first and holding her hand and dragging her so she has no choice in the matter. If a parent can encourage their child to do something that is scary all by themselves they would have a far better sense of accomplishment than if they were forced to where all they may learn is to distrust their parent.
    1. I agree that far too many times we see on film and tv men with unnaturally proportioned bodies but aren’t you also at fault when you criticise the man who was kicked by a horse for wearing speedos as his body was not good enough? After all the world is not or at least should not be just a beauty contest.

  7. Re: No. 2; The Brady Jump.

    For me, the video is inconclusive. Daughter seems to hesitate and Brady pulls her in. She lands awkwardly in the water. I don’t see fear; I see confusion and/or uncertainty. The reaction of the girl at the end of the video, though, lends one to conclude there is something amiss


  8. 1. and 3. Speaking of body types and body abuse, remember when ball players looked like Bill Dahlen? Kind of scrawny and scrappy. Quick hands, fleet afoot. Bill Mazerowski comes to mind. Now we have C.C. Sabathia. Am I the only one who can only think of an elephant when he’s depicted from the center field camera wearing his away uniform? Babe Ruth looks svelte compared to lots of today’s players. Maybe it’s mostly the Latin guys who seem to remain quick even though they pack on the pounds as they age. But man, so many are chub buckets.

  9. I disagree with you on #2. I used to jump off our roof (1.5 story) into my father’s arms. He taught me how to shimmy up the telephone pole to get to the pole steps and climb safely and not touch wires. He showed me how to safely stand on the edge of a cliff (check for loose stones and sturdiness) before getting to edge. We walked on train bridges over rivers and on top of freight trains. I passed some of these skills along to my son and taught him to be aware of his surroundings and that safety mattered. We don’t know what the conversation (if any) was between TB and daughter prior to the jump but I am relatively confident there was a conversation and she wanted to jump with daddy.

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