By Maria Trivelpiece
It is quite difficult to get through a day without hearing or seeing some mention of sports or athletics in our world. They practically dominate society. Professional athletes are some of the highest paid people on the planet. They are the epitome of what children aspire to be, fans fawn over and television networks profit from. Yet, in the midst of all the glory of these games, the evident violence that accompanies them seems to be conveniently overlooked. But is it okay to simply ignore that the most watched event on television is a game of grown men tackling each other, beating each other and then celebrating the fact that they physically harmed another human being? Is it ethical to teach our children that the most exciting moment in ice hockey is when the defensemen drop their gloves and fist fight? I am here to say that it is. The violence of sports, in technicality, is ethical because sports are not promoting violence, but rather mimicking and projecting the society that we live in.
We want to rationalize and determine if an action is ethical. Just recently we have seen Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem and cannot imagine why anyone would even condemn him for expressing his freedom of speech. But then, we see the war veteran without legs who so bravely defended our country and does not have the privilege to stand for the flag he fought for and our ‘ethical’ minds question, what is right and what is wrong?
The same dilemma happens in sports; however, we fail to see both sides. We see the violence of football, boxing and ice hockey, and automatically determine that this is affecting us, our children and the way our society functions. On the contrary, we do not look at the violence already in society and in some way see how it reflects itself and impacts sports.
Violence in the sporting arena has been around longer than historians may even know. Gladiators fought until the death and 20,000 people encouraged the fighters to slaughter each other. In 1930, Maximillian Adelbert Baer killed a man in the boxing ring and spectators cheered until they realized his opponent was not moving. It seems that we as fans love this ferocity. We watch in awe and anticipation, and almost thrive off of the viciousness within the arena.
But why does the violence make us feel invigorated, even happy? I believe the answer lies deep within the human soul. We all have our own opponents. Every single day we wake up there are obstacles we have to face, problems looking to crush us and the unstableness of life. This instability causes anxiety. It causes anger. We cannot always understand why bad events tend to happen. We cannot understand why they happen in general, not only to us, but to humanity. When evil attacks, our response is to fight it. We do not welcome it with open arms into our lives, but rather, we wish to eradicate it from ever coming near the people and things that we so love.
So we wrestle with the malevolence; we stand up for ourselves, we protest, we fight for our beliefs just as the gladiators looked to defend themselves and the defensive lineman looks to tackle the running back charging towards him. In sports the opponent is the evil, trying to invade our basket, our end zone, our goal line, which at that moment is the most valuable piece of life. When we defeat the challenger and win the passing of a particular job or make the game-winning basket, then, we feel alive. We have defeated that invasion, rising victorious.
The violence of sports is a projection of society, not a promotion of actions. Sports respond to the way that human beings act. Charles Darwin theorized about survival of the fittest in 1859. The animal, the human being, the plant, that knows how to adapt, knows how to defeat the other to survive. We cannot blame sports for influencing violence in the world, when there is an inherent desire to demolish the competition within all creatures of this earth. Sports project this tendency that already exists. If we are unhappy with the climate of the sporting arena then the only way to change it would be to change the climate of life.
So, in the most literal and figurative way, the ball is in your court to decide if this violence is ethical or not. But before you decide, look at the world around you. See the wickedness that occurs every day in many different ways and then determine whether this is because of sports or if sports are simply a slightly more manageable way of projecting this wickedness in ways that are more controlled than most acts of vice in the society of our time.
Maria Trivelpiece ’19 is a student at Fordham College Rose Hill. She is double majoring in psychology and journalism.