Sunday, August 3, 2008

An exercise in line-drawing

For the curious: I have settled into my apartment in Boise and will be unpacking over the next couple of days… well, probably weeks. If you're in Boise and you want to see me, let me know.

Now then, you lawyers in the crowd may remember the difference between malum in se and malum prohibitum in criminal law. The former are crimes that are inherently evil, such as murder and arson and what-have-you, and the latter are crimes that are just against the law and not necessarily evil, like public urination or impersonating a 4-H officer.

I wonder if the same distinction can be drawn in sports, with the former being "dirty" and the latter being "just smart play." Has a basketball player who flopped to draw a charging foul committed a "evil" act, or was he just bending the rules a little? Is a hockey player who likes to score with his skates in the crease a "dirty" player? I think that the line between "dirty" and "smart" can be drawn largely along the lines of whether the actions are likely to cause major injuries, although there are a few exceptions: for instance, a soccer player who falls over in the penalty box is a dirty player because his actions are so likely to change the outcome of the game.

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