Home > Uncategorized > Agency and Determinancy as explained in Sports

Agency and Determinancy as explained in Sports

The goalkeeper takes a goal-kick, it hits a midfielder, he passes to the right wing-man who lobs the ball into the center where it’s headed into the goal by the attacking forward! The crowd goes wild!

This kind of scenario can be seen in any team sport, generally in basketball, football, american football, and basketball, assists are counted, but they only count the last player to touch the ball prior to the player scoring. The question then is, who gets credit for scoring the goal? It seems like the commonsense answer is that the last person to touch the ball is the one who scores it, but the role of the assist is so important that it is counted, and an award is given for most assists. But why do we stop there? Why not count the mid-fielder or even the goalkeeper who set all the events in motion as assistants as well. How much credit does the scorer really take? Had the goalie made a different play he would have never gotten his feet on the ball.

But why stop there? What if the goalie had had a particularly good morning, maybe his partner made him breakfast in bed, maybe the sun was shining, maybe something triggered a particular memory. The answer is that practically it becomes impossible to locate agency anywhere, so we just assume that all of the chaos cancels out and that only immediate factors are important, in football its the second to last touch on the ball.

What about larger things though, things like war, or crime, how can we hold anyone culpable and why? That’s why i don’t think it is practical or useful to discuss agency and perhaps even causation. It may be, as post-structuralists argue, that this is simply a problem of language, that the phrases we use are simply unable to cope with understanding a world in which “agency” is different. Or it may be that there really is a logical problem with agency and that out language though insufficient still captures a problem.

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