Our love of vicarious violence
Ah, violent spectator sports. Since the dawn of civilization, people have happily paid to watch other people pummel each other with various degrees of brutality. From the gladiators of ancient Rome, fighting to the death, to modern American football, which I sneeringly like to call “handegg”, in which heavily armored men are paid piles of money to crash into each other until they’re forced to retire with debilitating concussions or worse.
What is it about violent sports that so many find almost (if not blatantly) erotic in its entertainment value and, like me, so few find repulsive?
It seems our sense of vicious animal competition has been suppressed over the centuries for the sake of the stability of a civil society. If we were allowed free expression of our competitive instincts, civilization would come crashing down around us.
Venting our need for violence
Even so, that frustrated instinctive lust for blood needs to be vented on occasion, through war. Nationalistic fervor in the populace is fairly easy to whip up by the ruling class. They just need to manufacture a bogeyman that looks different than we do.
The problem with wars in modern times, though, with instant global communication, is that too many of us come around to realize the cruelty of it. No longer is war a distant, out of sight, out of mind concept. Obliterated bodies splashed across our TV screens repulse us (the less despicable among us, anyway) into protesting the very concept of war, threatening the security of democratically elected politicians who tend toward inciting such violence.
Sports: The genteel alternative
Fortunately for those politicians, there are other avenues to vent our violent instincts. In the United States, there’s boxing, mixed martial arts, rugby, ice hockey, football, etc. In fact, many hockey fans feel cheated if at least one or two fist fights don’t break out in the course of a game. For those whose appetite for violence can’t be sated by anything less than killing, there’s always hunting.
For me, I’m content with a nice, pastoral game of baseball or golf. If I want to compete myself, I’ll go for a game of softball, darts, bowling or even chess.
Of course, being known during my childhood for being such a non-violent type, I ended up in quite a few fist fights.
Still, I can’t resist a good jab
As much as I despise football, I’ll still wear the football jersey of an arch-rival of my local team, just to stick a wet finger in the ear of those friends and co-workers who beat their chests in vicarious tribalism when the Big Game is on. (Grunt, grunt!)
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