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Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Are Sporting Setbacks Penalties or Punishments?
Sportswriter Bill Simmons discovered Team Handball, which always has been my favorite off-the-beaten-path Summer Olympic sport.
Now here's one for Dan: A few years ago, he was trying to incorporate into his punishment scholarship some analogies to penalties in football and how those are calibrated (something economists have also begun exploring in earnest after the strange ending to the last Super Bowl). Like hockey, players in handball have to sit out of the game for some period if they commit a foul. But handball calls these "punishments," the only sport (as far as I know) to use this terminology--a player is "punished" by having to sit out for two minutes.
Is penalty v. punishment a useful distinction--both for sports and for law?
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Well, for law, I think the distinction is possibly helpful. In both cases, there's usually something irreducibly retributive or backward looking in that we would thing a penalty or a punishment can only be justified if there was some triggering bad event/action.
That said, one might only want a penalty to serve something like optimal deterrence or complete deterrence whereas a punishment should work more than just a stripping of gain but also an affirmative setback. That affirmative setback is meant to be condemnatory and serves the retributive function of communicating blame.
Presumably, sports could mimic this distinction, and the trick is how to handle the team vs individual sports, and the issues associated with whether sports have an independent competitive ethos that should govern distribution of penalties/punishments or whether such penalties/punishments should only serve the commercial/entertainment values of sporting enterprises.
There's no doubt more to be said, but i'll stop there!
Posted by: Dan Markel | Aug 1, 2012 12:31:14 PM
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