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Why Are Violent Sports Publicly Accepted?

The sport world has always been an important part of American culture. There is a saying that baseball is Americas favorite pass time, which is true to some extent. People do not emphasize accomplishments in the business world very often because a huge portion of the daily news is about sports.

Violence has been present since the creation of the first organized sporting event. There are several factors that have been associated with violent outbreaks in sporting events: competitive nature and economic incentive. These factors have been proven to cause violence in sports at all levels of competition and have been accepted by society as normal.

The competitive nature of an athlete is something that is only understood by other athletes. It causes an emotional roller coaster for an athlete during a game than can be both good and bad. The competitiveness of a game leads to some of the best games in the sports history as well as a reason for an athlete to push themselves further than they ever thought possible. However, this competitiveness can also lead to violence because of the emotions that an athlete feels when they believe that their victory may be in question. “The emphasis in formalized sport on victory may, in fact, promote deviant behavior and poor sportsmanship” (Snyder 101).

As a college basketball player, I have had my fair share of violence out on the court due to competitiveness. Some coaches will preach that if a player is getting up in your face and talking trash that you must put him in his place. Other coaches will forbid any kind of altercations on the court and will punish a player if he feels the player is stepping out of line. My club team coach was a firm believer in creating your authority on the court. He would tell me that if another player was getting up in my face and talking trash that I would have no choice but to elbow him in anyplace that I could reach.

One game over the summer of 2010, when I was just going into junior year, I was told by my coach during an intense game to elbow this obnoxious player in any place that I could it. He was getting chest to chest with me, talking trash and grabbing on to my jersey where the referee could not see. He was really getting on my nerves, so the next time I got the ball I swung the ball over my head intentionally elbowing him in the face. I was only called for an offensive foul, but a skirmish broke out on the court. I caused this with my frustration; however, my competitive nature is what let me to being frustrated because of how the game was going.

“The violence in sport mirrors the violence found in society, violence as the result of economic incentives, the influence of crowd behavior on player violence, genetic causation for player aggression, learning theory and player aggression, and psychological stress and player violence” (Lapchick 230). In professional sports, there are far more incentives for athletes to be more competitive and aggressive with each other. Professional athletes make millions of dollars each year with the possibility of making more money for a better performance. Last year, Lebron James made 19 million dollars from his Miami Heat salary last year and a total of 60 million with endorsements. He was the basketball player who made the most money last year and the fact that he was the best player in the world is not a coincidence. His intensity during the 2013 NBA playoffs was something that was unheard of. Lebron did not have any violent outbreaks during the playoffs; however, some of the other players were intentionally making Lebron a target for any aggressive acts.

The incentive of earning extra money for being one of the best players in the league leads to an animosity amongst players to be the best. Two players who were knows as the best at their position and got in a fight were Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. Shaq had blocked Barkley’s shot, and out of frustration Barkley threw the ball at Shaq’s head. Shaq then turned around and threw a punch and barely missed Barkley’s head. They then got tangled up on the floor while the rest of the team was fighting. After the referees sorted everything out, Shaq and Charles were ejected from the game and given severe fines. After the game they went out to dinner together; however, during the game, their competitiveness was more than enough to cause a skirmish between two of the leagues best.

“Fighting is a well-established safety valve for players. If violence ceases to exist, it will not be the same game. Insofar as fighting is part of the show, we certainly sell it. We do not promote it. We tolerate it and we bring it under disciplinary control, which we believe satisfies the public” (Snyder 201). In today’s sports world, athletes are being served severe fines for anything that the league finds excessive and illegal. In November, NBA player Travis Outlaw was fined $15,000 for a flagrant foul on JJ Redick because it was deemed excessive. People have always liked to watch an altercation break out in sports because it is exciting and unusual. The NBA serves fines to players because they believe it satisfies the public opinion that sports should be clean.

Violence in sports is never encourage or expected, but if a game is predicted to be intense, then fans might buy a ticket or watch the game on TV to see if any sort of altercation occurs. If there was no violence in any sports, then the competitiveness of would decrease and the public’s interest would decrease as a resulting factor.

In today’s sports world, fighting is frowned upon, but accepted. In high contact sports, such as football, violence is almost required to play the game at a high level. This is what society has accepted. Fighting in football, basketball and, of course, boxing is something that most sport fans enjoy seeing. The NFL reviews each questionable play and sees just how dirty the game really is. This is something that spectators look for when watching football. “Bryant and Zillman report that television viewers enjoy NFL plays more when they are rough and violent” (McPherson 294).

The problem in societies fascination with violence in sports is a problem that is almost as severe as the violence itself. NHL hockey is the perfect example of how the crowd thrives on fighting and expects to see at least one fight each game. The crowd has no concern for the players physical condition as long as their injuries are not life threatening. Violence in sports will continue to exist as long as society accepts and encourages violent behavior.

“Fans seem to emulate the violence they watch in sports and spectator violence is increasing as participant injuries rise (Yeager 11).” Not only is the violence in sports accepted and sometime encouraged by spectators, now fans are starting to emulate the violence that they see by the professional and collegiate athletes. The problem that athletes are creating has translated to spectator violence rather than just being a sport altercation between competitors. In soccer there is more violence among the fans before, during, and after the game than there is among the players on the field (Berger 106).

Until society realizes the social problem that has been created by violence in sports, the issue will continue to progress. The only way to fix this social problem in sports is to first admit that there is a problem. Society is far too contempt with violence in sports. The sporting community needs to admit the problem of violence in sports before it can figure out potential solutions for the problem.

After members of society recognize the problem, the next step would be to figure out the best possible solutions. For example, the NBA solution for violence should be any sort of aggressive action that is not justified, as good competition should result in an immediate fine for the first offense. An athlete who appears to be a repeat offender of unnecessary violence should be suspended until a time when the athlete has had time to reflect and improve their attitude.

This is an unrealistic solution because society does accept the violence and doesn’t see any reason to take drastic measure to stop the violence. The competitive nature and economic incentive that professional sports have created has led to violence in sports, amongst athletes and fans, which society has accepted and refuses to change.

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