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Analysis of The Relationship Between Contact Sport and Violence

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Sport is regarded as a universal marvel, evolving from a pure leisure form to now being viewed as a fundamental part of the “social and cultural fabric… focusing on social issues, generating economic growth and changing the perceptions of the modern world”. Whilst, development in sport has proved to tackle a variety of social constraint, the concern of violence has constantly played a compelling role and over the years has raised multiple controversies. The following essay will discuss the relationship between violence within contact sport and its impact upon its participants, the audience and the transfer-ability of violence as part of the spectator-ship in the games, alongside this, I will discuss the concerns on other factors such as masculinity, health and societal issues, consequently of violence within sports, with relative theories and understanding how they contribute towards this concept.

“Participants in sports, by the very act of taking part, have accepted the inevitability of rough contact.” 

Maguire, emphasises violence as an integral part of sports, and claims violent behavior, aggression and threats are “natural and these characteristics are instinctual and inevitable parts of the human conduct”. Similarly, Shields (1999) believes; ‘Violence and intimidation have become accepted strategies in some sports, particularly high contact sports, such as football, ice hockey or rugby’. Nevertheless, other experts such as; Kerr, (2002) point out that there is ‘fine line between intimidating tactics and violence that may result in severe physical and psychological injuries’, even to the point of compromising one’s life. Nonetheless, these participants cannot control the injuries sustained from the movement that violates the formal rule of the sport. A prime example of this act is an incident that occurred in the National hockey league, when player; Niklas Kornwall left another player; Martin Havlat “unconscious on a controversial hit in the first period” resulting in a concussion, according to the Although, this might be regarded as a brief accident as Havlat was unconscious for a minute, but a long-term injury could have occurred. Another, example of this occurred in 2003, when football player Bill Romanowski attacked and injured one of his teammates, Marcus Williams, during a scrimmage. ‘Williams was forced to retire after Romanowski confronted Williams after a play, ripped off his helmet, and crushed his eye socket with a punch’. Paul Theroux in ‘Being a Man’ exemplifies such act as simply a ‘manly man not showing any emotion but only aggression towards his opponent’, he elaborates ‘the aggression and competitiveness supported by the spectators and the audiences… draws more consideration and enhances ratings for the game’, and/as savagery becomes the compelling focus of the game. Despite this, critics claim that violence in sports is a decent method to discharge hostility.

But, simultaneously, Maguire’s approach that violence in games enables competitors to discharge aggression is an imperfect basic assumption. What he means to state is that on the off chance these competitors couldn’t take an interest in games, they would discover different approaches to discharge their outrage and hostility, for example, murder and assault. He further adds, ‘not every person on the planet is a fierce individual and most competitors don’t play their game to release anger; they play either for cash or the affection for the diversion’. Therefore, he expounds what type of brutality is worthy in games. He clarifies: “Borderline violence” comprises of practices that abuse the official tenets of the game however that are acknowledged by players and fans alike as a genuine piece of the game itself. Such behavior — a fistfight in ice hockey or an intentional foul in Football – is hardly ever subject to lawful procedures and will in general be managed by penalties forced by the umpires, league administrators or the game referees.

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard for all rules, and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence… and the increasing concern of sport violence has now become trivial in this age because sports spectators and the fans themselves love the aggression, that improves the television ratings and apparently so brings a sense of celebration to the game”.

Broadly discussed within his book, Media, Sports & Society, Wenner exploits how violence in sports has become acceptable because spectators likewise fans thrive on aggression within games. Due to Spectators and fans now encouraging the involvement of violence and aggression, participants “perceive other teams as enemies promoting hostility towards the ‘enemy’ group and the hostility henceforth extends to supporters, geographical locations, ethnicities and the alleged social class”. Despite, Wenner’s argument being somewhat extreme, as there is no statistical data to prove this, he is right spectators do love the aggression. For instance, Ultimate Fighting Championship – a league of fighting which incorporates mixed martial arts – owner William Morris Endeavor states “over the past years UFC has drawn an overwhelming measure of attention”, although, some perceive this equivalent to “Human Cockfighting”, it has drawn extremely high ratings. UFC’s success largely originates from its much savage and blood thirsty fans and the exaggerated spectators. In this game spectators are continuously shown emphasizing violence and how much power can one participant exert against the other! UFC’s fans gain pleasure from the violence within the sports. Wenner additionally clarifies; there is blood thirstiness in individuals that manifests themselves in horde scenes. Individuals feel more secure tolerating brutality when they’re situated in groups of other spectators. “A group of spectators watching an organized event that they know is going to be violent is far more likely to accept violence and mayhem than bystanders on a street who witness a violent crime”.

Although, spectators are a major influence towards encouraging violence in sports, have you ever considered a spectator to become the target of sport violence themselves? Kerr (1999) suggests that attacks committed against spectators or any officials are very rare, however, Tenebaum et al (2000) researched and cited studies of aggressive acts. Rainey, (1994); Rainey & Hardy, (1999); Wann, Carlson & Schrader, (1999) addressed hostility directed toward officials and spectators. Rainey and Hardy’s study shows 5.6% of rugby referees reported being assaulted and 3.9% spectators have been a target of aggressive behavior from players and fans occasionally. But this still does not stop the spectators from appreciating viciousness from the comfort of their seats. It is pitiful to consider that our society has reached a point where individuals appreciate watching violent aggressiveness and not consider the repercussions.

‘Sport Matters’ author; Eric Dunning discusses how violence in sport has largely impacted aspects of our society, firstly through the excessive violent behaviour of crowds has sporting events alongside a portion of the riots that have happened. A model he gives was amid Monday night Football game between the New England Patriots and the New York jets in 1977. Dunning depicts that the riots broke out during the game due to raucous and alcoholic fans and the game was intruded multiple of times. Two fans had passed away, while approximately 30 spectators were taken to the hospital. Dunning expressed that “the Foxboro police chief claimed to have seen ‘even worse’ incidents”. Individuals may ask what makes fans so aggressive and what causes these riots to break out? Dunning proposes the most common reason for fans aggressive behaviour is to support their teams, or due to cultural or ethnic differences between countries. When a team loses the fans often get out of control or when an unfair decision has been made by the umpire this could also trigger the fans to act upon this. A prime example of this type of act is the very recent 2017 Semi-final between India and Sri-Lanka, where fans began to throw firecrackers and bottles onto the field! the game eventually after being interrupted several times had to be postponed. Although it was not disclosed who the fans were supporting, it shows that to what extend they can go to support their teams, that being through riots or such occurrences.

Exceptionally exposed mass spectator sports, for example, Football, Ice-skating, Boxing and so forth, have articulated macho accentuation. Our society promotes the ideology of being “masculine” and “macho”. Impacts include; societal issues, children perspectives, domestic abuse etc. An example of how violence in sports impacts the growing children of our society. Author and Psychology professor Daniel L, Wann’s article on “Aggression in Sports” states that “parents of children involved in sports often behave aggressively in sporting environments”. Violence and aggression become possibly the most important factors due to the competitive nature of the sports, and the desire for any parent to see their child succeed in it. Supporting your child to accomplish is ideal however, when parents behave aggressively this can have immense impact on both the child and the relationship between them.

Masculinity is portrayed as a desired characteristic through violence in sports and athletes who aspire for a feeling of masculinity turn to sexual violence. There have been several occurrences where athletes have likewise turned to illegal activities, other than assault and sexual viciousness and have caused lethal harm – all to aid for their aggression.

For instances many athletes such as; Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson and Former NFL player Darren Sharper has been charged for assault; “with drugging and raping two women in California and is suspected of doing the same to other women in Arizona, Nevada and Louisiana, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office”. Similarly, a case of this is when previous wrestler Chris Benoit killed his family and later committed. It was an unfortunate occurrence and was thought to have happened on account of steroid misuse, however was later discovered that it was expedited by mental issues because of various blackouts, according to the ‘Historic Mysteries’ blog focusing one of its post on the life of Chris Benoit. In the article “The Concussion Time Bomb” author Steve Maich describes that “In rare cases, victims might suffer from post-concussion syndrome in which symptoms refuse to subside or return with a vengeance when patients physically exert themselves”. For Benoit’s situation, the blackouts he got while wrestling made him come back with a retaliation toward both himself and his family, bringing about lethal harm.

Previous professional football and current Executive Director of the Sports Leadership Institute Don McPherson examines the association between sexual brutality and sports: He states that: “Early in life most boys hear the insult ‘you throw like a girl” in sport context this is seen as an insult as it assaults ones masculinity in an effort to either motivate them or degrade them. It educates and prevents chauvinists and misanthropic attitudes and until the point when it’s tended to, sports will keep on being a rearing ground for masculinity and misogyny. 

Athletes are educated to view their bodies as machines and weapons with which to destroy rivals frequently results in them utilizing brutality against their own bodies. Sex, Violence, and Power in Sports, writer Mike Messner (1994) talks about: “how violence in sports can cause genuine long-term harm”. Like what occurred with Chris Benoit, multiple attacks in games can prompt harm that sometimes cannot be settled.

Even today, many cultures and the media still commend the violence in sports in spite of the large number of serious incidents that have happened over the years. Athletes are trained and taught to play regardless of the pain and thier ability to defy the pain thus, creating a rather masculine and extreme persona, and although most athletes “wear their injuries with pride” any athlete playing through pain can compromise their health, consequently, serious damage may be caused.

Sport has grown broadly as a worldwide phenomenon connecting with a diversity of individuals. through new games being developed, media has become intriguing and inclusive clearly exemplifying the globalisation concept. However, whilst sport has tackled many social and environmental factors, the involvement of violence within sport has become a growing concern and has given rise to many negative issues, regarding consequences faced by the participants, the society and the wider world.

The inclusivity of violence on one side caters for pleasure purposes for the spectators and the audiences, however on the other hand it highlights issues such as; the over importance of masculinity, health issues, inevitability of injury and other factors. Sport has and will continue to grow, and it needs to bring changes to people’s perspectives on violence and whether to continue accepting it or to make a change by adding limitation to what extent violence can be involved in a game.


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