“Tim Duncan Urges All-Stars To Use Inside Voice During Game”

The headline above was from The Onion last week. Like most articles in the satirical newspaper and website that calls itself “America’s Finest News Source,” the headline contains as much punch as the article that follows.

If you found it mildly funny (as, presumably, the 300 or so people who tweeted it directly from the site did), why? What is the underlying “truth” that the joke is riffing off?

Could it be that it’s playing on our instinctive, but usually inarticulate, understanding of the difference between ethics in “everyday” contexts, on the one hand, and ethics in “competitive” contexts, on the other?

In everyday contexts we teach children how to use “indoor voices” so they will not bother or annoy other people they are sharing space with. Like much of everyday ethics, it is designed to facilitate cooperation and solve collective-action problems (or in this case, collectively-sharing-space problems). You show respect for others, and make things go better for them, by piping down in their proximity.

But the last thing we want in a sports arena is for everyone to be using their indoor voices and sitting on their hands. Indeed, as discussed by student bloggers on this very blog recently (here and here), rowdy home-side spectators are part of the attraction and entertainment-value of sports for everyone. Even when that crowd noise is deliberately trying to help your team, and distract or demoralize the visitors, we all think that is perfectly acceptable from an ethical point of view. (Which is not to deny that there are limits to what kind of fan behavior is acceptable, as the previous posts emphasized.)

The great thing about satire is that it captures all of that in a headline or a caption. It takes a philosopher to spend 300 words sucking all the fun out of it.

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2 responses to ““Tim Duncan Urges All-Stars To Use Inside Voice During Game”

  1. Glad to see you understand your role as a philosopher. Really, it is the job of any academic to over-analyze something so that it is rendered boring.

  2. In reading this blog, which I stumbled on searching for the original Onion article, it seems that you don’t understand the joke in the article, and therefore don’t know much about the NBA or its players. Thus, the ethical debate is pointless, or if not pointless at least pretty far out of context. The joke has nothing to do with a sports arena or the all star game, children, adults, standards, ethics, codes of conduct in society, etc. It has to do with, and only with, Tim Duncan.

    Tim Duncan is nick-named, “the Big Fundamental.” He is possibly the greatest NBA player that is not a “star” in the same way other players are, (e.g. commercials, jersey sales, highlight plays, sneaker deals, etc). He is the opposite of flashy. He does everything right but never makes you say “Wow.” He is quiet, reserved, friendly, in a word – boring. He has no tattoos, no arrests, no suspensions, no fights in a game, no illegitimate children or multiple girlfriends. Nothing. He’s your perfect older brother. The apple polisher in your class. Perfect guy to have on a team or look up to but probably the least cool player in the league. He’s Ron Howard, not the Fonz. He’s Lisa, not Bart Simpson. Or better yet, he’s Ned Flanders. He’s a modest, sensible, yet effective Buick, while the other NBA players would be Lamborghinis.

    Just search his name on TheOnion.com and you get 28 similar articles: “Tim Duncan offers to do taxes for entire Spurs team” “Tim Duncan makes citizen’s foul call,” “Tim Duncan announces shoe deal with Florsheim,” Or the best, playing off of Wilt Chamberlain’s claim of having slept with 10,000 women, “Tim Duncan’s autobiography reveals he is friends with 10,000 women.”

    The jokes work by playing on what fans naturally assume about Duncan, which is that he’s probably well behaved to an almost child-like degree, and that in a group setting, (especially an All Star game with the many gregarious, fun loving, flashy superstars of the league) Duncan would naturally emerge as not so much the leader, but the “parent” of the group. Look at that picture in the article. Look at his face. Non-verbally scolding in a gentle way, as if to say “eh-hem, excuse me, you know better.” That’s the joke. That Duncan is a goody-goody, a dork, and a buzzkill in any situation, not just competition. The fact that his recommendation to the players is contrary to the norm of a competitive environment is merely an irrelevant, coincidental product of the true nature and fundamentals of the joke, which is a satire based on the public’s perception of Duncan’s personality.

    I originally wrote this post as a quick FYI but then read the “about” section on this blog. If you also write a sports blog and didn’t get the joke about Duncan, – a 2x MVP, 13x all star, and 4x NBA champion – a joke that’s pretty obvious if you know anything about one of the most famous and acclaimed players in the league, then I don’t know what to say. Either you don’t know what you’re talking about and clearly didn’t do any homework, or you deliberately misinterpreted the joke and left out any mention of Duncan in order to make a cheap ethical point about fan behavior, of which there are literally thousands of better and, more importantly, REAL examples to choose from in the sports world.

    If you want to write about ethical behavior in a sports setting, be my guest. But when you make your point using a satirical article from The Onion of all places instead of a factual story from a reputable source; then go on to misinterpret the joke, not understand the satire, and write an irrelevant article; then praise yourself as a member of the intellectual elite, a “philosopher” capable of “sucking all the fun out of (the joke),” well… I guess there’s nothing more to say besides, joke’s on you.

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