The Art and Science of Sport

Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 quarters

Taught by

theatre, opera, film, performance studies
mathematics, history of science

             "…through sport we can see the human condition cut to the bone.  Sport has 
            pace and stillness, drama, comedy. It conveys more vividly than any other 
             branch of everyday human activity the elation and despair  in every person's  emotional range."

                                -- Sebastian Coe, Olympic gold medalist
                                  and former Member of Parliament

Sport embodies an ideal of performance and meaningful action.  Since ancient times, we have engaged in spectacles of play, utilizing formal and complex actions governed by rules (or conventions), rituals and aesthetics, and the laws of physics.  As audiences, we derive meaning through winning and losing; we construct narratives and project values onto players and play. Through conflict, competition, and collaboration, sport reflects our deepest individual and cultural identities and desires. 

In its numerous iterations, sport is a singular form of human play where success and failure are by and large determined by numerical outcomes. In the last 100 years, statistical bookkeeping and quantitative analysis have played an increasingly important role in defining the quality of competiton and performance, of winning and losing. This trend points to societal values that displace human expression and cultural meaning in favor of outcomes drained of human involvement. The widespread intrusion of technology into sports training suggests that the athlete is increasingly viewed in part as a machine that can be retooled to achieve desired outcomes.

Participants in this program will examine the human condition “cut to the bone” and be challenged to re-conceptualize the way we experience and think about sport through the perspective of art and science. Sport is born of human imagination and embodies deeply held ideas including competition, conflict, and collaboration. Sport is played on a moral stage with scripts taken from our culture. We will develop statistical tools to engage in increasingly data-driven conversations about sports. We will use human movement to study basic scientific descriptions of the operations of our world. Through sport we will be able to examine the psychology of play and playing, constructions of time and space, and the intersections of aesthetics, science, and technique. We will also consider the ways we mediate performance (through film, television, and other media) to generate excitement, meaning, and profits.

Expect to engage through readings, films, discussions, writing and statistical assignments, and independent and collaborative work.  Active learning in the form of workshops, exercises, and field trips to sporting events and performances will be a central focus of the program.  

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

Sports Studies, Education, Media Studies, Physical Sciences, Performance Studies, Statistics

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Evening and Weekend

Advertised schedule: 6-9:30p Wed, 10a-5p five alternate Saturdays (Fall:Oct. 11 & 25, Nov. 1, 15, Dec. 6; winter: TBA)

Final Schedule and Room Assignment


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$40 each quarter for attending performance or sporting event

Registration Information

Credits: 8 (Fall); 8 (Winter)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (8 credits): 10041

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Accepting New Students

Course Reference Number

So - Sr (8 credits): 20027

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