In lecture last week it was brought up that “the best way to be an outstanding athlete is to choose your parents”. Although this is perhaps not how we usually want to perceive athletic excellence, the merit within the statement is undeniable. The immediate instance that comes to my mind is that of the Manning family. Peyton and Eli Manning are not only brothers but also extremely talented and renowned NFL quarterbacks.
Eli Manning is twice a super bowl champion and MVP, and also holds the consecutive start record in the NFL. Peyton Manning is a five-time league MVP, a thirteen time pro-bowl selection, a super bowl champion and MVP, and just recently the holder of the new career touchdown pass record in the NFL. These boys definitely fall within the category of being a “freak of nature”. And one can argue it mostly originated from their luck of birth, to be born into a family in which their father was the talented Archie Manning. Archie was a beloved quarterback at Ole Miss, where he was named the South-Eastern Conference Quarterback of the Quarter Century. Even with a less than auspicious NFL career, he is still regarded as an extremely talented athlete, a trait that was doubtlessly passed on to his two sons.
This brings up our debate during discussion on equality, specifically the equality in competitive sports. Is there equality in professional sports if Peyton and Eli have these inherited genes for athletic prowess from their NFL father, whilst playing against guys whose parents’ athletic accomplishments amount to nothing more than middle school football teams? Does this really fit under the title of “fair”? This insinuates that perhaps there is more to talent that just some random distribution due to chance or luck.
But really what this all hinges upon is how we want to define equality. Is it the equality of opportunity? Maybe it’s the fairness of the game, that one player shouldn’t have any great advantage over another. But imagine if this “no advantage” idea was taken all the way down to the genetic and hormonal level. In the case of Caster Semenya, that would mean giving her hormone injections to boost her “femininity” or even in a more imagined sense, changing her genetic makeup to fit that of the average female. This would be equivalent to suggesting that every player in the NBA should be the same height because only then would it be completely equal.
Personally, I believe that equality of opportunity is the best we could hope for; that every child is given the same chances to improve or to try out for the next level. If they are blessed with some type of innate talent, well then that is just what makes our sports as interesting, diverse, and competitive as they are.