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Several Corrections[edit]

I've gone through and edited out a lot of misinformation in this article. 1) "Methods to win a game, often a sport" - Gamesmanship applies almost exclusively to -games- not sports. Potter never wrote about ploys for soccer, rugby, or any other sport, only games, like golf, cricket or tennis. To quote page 40 of Gamesmanship, in discussing praising one's opponent's golf stroke so he'll over-analyze it and thus perform poorly, he writes, "I often think the possibilities of this gambit alone prove the superiority of games to sports, such as, for instance, rowing, where self-conscious analysis of the stroke can be of actual benefit to the stroke maker." 2) "Gamesmanship is unsportsmanlike conduct" - Maybe. But this statement is misleading, since, to quote page 19 of Gamesmanship, "The good gamesman is the good sportsman." 3) Spondoolicks' summary is basically close to the truth, though with the details off. Potter describes the scenario in the opening of Gamesmanship, and makes reference to it in almost every subsequent work. As Potter tells it though, Joad hit the ball out (the ball had landed six feet behind the back line), and while their opponents were readying their own serve, Joad prompted his famous question. Joad declined having the point replayed. 4) Potter usually writes with derision about the "feigned injury ploy", though it is gamesmanship, albeit sloppy. I touched it up nonetheless. 5)In billiards, intentionally standing in your opponent's line of sight, and then suddenly moving when you "realise" you're in the wrong place. - Potter actually cites this several times as an example of what Gamesmanship is -not-. Though he describes a technique similar to this, this example is misleading. To quote Gamesmanship pg. 19 again, "If your adversary is nervy, and put off by the mannerisms of his opponent, it is unsporting, and therefore not gamesmanship, to go in, e.g., for a loud noseblow, say, at billiards, or to chalk your cue squeakingly, when he is either making or considering a shot." The example I replaced this with is from page 24 of Gamesmanship. 6)Soccer- I have a big problem with this paragraph. Not only does Gamesmanship explicitly not apply to sports such as soccer, but the ploy described is incredibly unsportsmanslike. It is simply poor form, not gamesmanship. I have removed it. 7) Potter was being humorous - This line implies Potter thought gamesmanship was humorous, but sportsmanship came first. When in actuality he supports being sportsmanlike only because if you aren't it will upset an opponent. I think it's a minor point though, so I left it.

As Potter's books are nothing but examples of gamesmanship, I'll replace the removed and erroneous soccer example with one from Potter.

  • Although I think you're right to point out how the examples you deleted were not true to the spirit of Potter's idea, I think we need to start drawing a distinction between gamesmanship as Potter described it and gamesmanship as most people nowadays seem to understand it - see below. Also, please sign posts in future. Thanks. Lexo (talk) 11:46, 26 May 2008 (UTC)


Wouldn't that be the correct term-- 06:17, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

It may derive from playing to win the game instead of playing for sport. (18:33, 17 October 2005 (UTC))


I heard that Potter was inspired by an incident in a tennis match. He was partnering the philosopher C. E. M. Joad against two younger and fitter men who were outplaying them fairly comfortably. On one point the ball went past Joad and clearly landed inside the line. The opponents were already preparing for the next point when Joad queried whether the ball had landed out. The young men were confused and began to doubt themselves. A respectable professor surely wouldn't be querying it unless it was really in doubt. The point was replayed and the momentum swung the other way. Joad and Potter went on to win the match and Potter was inspired to write his book.

I would have put this into the article except I don't know if it's true. Shame that. --Spondoolicks 17:22, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

  • Potter's books on gamesmanship etc. are lightly fictionalised (e.g. they pretend to be brief summaries of the vast existing literature on the subjects in question), but there is no reason for supposing that this story is untrue, except that Potter's original book is the only source for it. Potter knew Joad (probably from the BBC, where Potter was a producer and Joad a popular radio pundit, cf. The Brains Trust). In the book, the story is retold as a road-to-Damascus moment in which Potter glimpses the possibility of making a coherent theory of gamesmanship out of just such a tactic as Joad employed. Lexo (talk) 11:27, 26 May 2008 (UTC)
  • Potter lectured at Birkbeck College (where teaching took place in the evening) from 1926 to 1936, so he may have met Joad there, after the latter became head of philosophy in 1930. NRPanikker (talk) 19:56, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

Playing the rules, rather than the game[edit]

I'd always heard of gamesmanship as something of a form of unintended consequence, where a loophole in the rules allows one to win through an unintended strategy. One example is in Asteroids (game), where the winning strategy is to shoot little ships, rather than the more obvious strategy of shooting asteroids. In Sim City, I once solved the traffic problem in a city by the simple expedient of cutting the main power to the city, so everybody left.

In real life, examples abound: if you're offered a bonus for fixing bugs, make more bugs to fix. If the goal is to cut down on reported customer complaints, two easy ways are to stop answering the phone, or to have fewer customers.

I can't say that I can cite a reference, though.

Jordan Brown (talk) 19:13, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

  • This is not gamesmanship as Potter defined it, nor as it's usually understood. However, I think this article needs a major revision which I'll set out below. Lexo (talk) 11:29, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

Revise entire article?[edit]

It seems to me that gamesmanship is now a very broad term with a number of different and sometimes inconsistent meanings.

Potter's original book is comic in tone, and he very clearly states that gamesmanship is not cheating, and must always involve good sportsmanship - or at any rate, the appearance of good sportsmanship. In Potter's version of gamesmanship, the gamesman is not permitted to do anything flagrantly wrong or unsportsmanlike, but is permitted and indeed encouraged to make the opponent feel or look unsportsmanlike (i.e. if your opponent pretends to have a mild knee injury which is giving them a bit of trouble that day, wait a good long time before you reluctantly own up that you have a serious heart defect).

However, as we have seen, later uses of the term in the article's history and on this page often refer to a less subtle and more aggressive practice, something very like cheating - for example, standing in your opponent's line of sight, or kicking the ball at opposing players. (In this respect bodyline bowling might be considered gamesmanship.) Jordan Brown, above, uses it to refer to 'playing the rules instead of the game', which is something different again.

Although I would prefer the original meaning of the term to be the primary one, I recognise that the other uses exist, and perhaps it would be a good idea to reorganise this article on a historical basis, reflecting how the meaning of the word 'gamesmanship' has changed over time. After all, people use it all the time now who've never read Potter's original book. It could be that Potter-style gamesmanship has died out as an actual practice, and only exists as part of the history of comedy, whereas the word itself is now used by most people to mean just 'distracting, intimidating or otherwise annoying your opponent'. This is undoubtedly a corruption and simplification of the original concept, but that's semantic change for you. Lexo (talk) 11:40, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

Citations missing[edit]

This article is riddled with unreferenced original research. Either exhaustive referencing or a major rewrite is required here. SaintedLegion (talk) 17:02, 28 July 2008 (UTC).

Tennis tricks[edit]

Missing tennis examples. Tennis has a lot of tricks that can be added as examples of gamesmanship. Naki (talk) 20:04, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

Association Football[edit]

If I understand correctly, in the last paragraph of the section called Football/soccer the author implies that it's possible to tackle a player from behind in an effort to deny a goal but only be sanctioned for a foul. This isn't possible for two reasons; firstly a tackle from behind is now considered to be a serious enough offense to warrant a red card in it's own right and secondly, denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity (DOGSO) is also a sending off offense in it's own right even if it was achieved by a foul that would normally only warrant a free kick.

Gamesmanship examples that haven't been covered but are frequent enough in practice might include offensive banter - references to other players girl/boyfriends etc are common, keepers putting spit covered gloves in the vicinity of other players faces, 'accidentally' standing on toes whilst moving backwards and intimate touching. A copy of the famous Paul Gascoigne / Vinni Jones photograph would illustrate this last example. The interesting point about 'intimate touching' is that a referee could red card a player for it on the grounds of violent conduct and indeed the police could subsequently prosecute them for sexual assault. In practice the people who would dare to do this sort of thing almost certainly need to be friends with the victim in the first place to avoid the likelihood of a much more violent outburst. The victim would also be expected by cultural pressure to view it as only gamesmanship. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:38, 25 March 2014 (UTC)

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