By Sean Crose
So in Sunday’s New York Times, a writer by the name of Steve Almond asked whether or not it was morally wrong to watch the Super Bowl. Steve apparently believes it is because football is violent and causes brain damage. Steve also seems to think Americans as a rule are brainwashed into liking football due to some primitive urge that he, in his heightened state, is somehow unmoved by. Yet even Steve admits in his piece that football is nowhere near as savage as boxing.
Boxing, I guess, is right up there in Steve’s mind with killing whales for sport and yanking bottles from the mouths of hungry six month olds. Poor Steve. So smart, yet so unaware of a basic facet of human nature…the inarguable fact that people are, by their very essence, competitive. That’s right, we wretched humans are competitive beings. And boxing, whether Steve chooses to believe it or not, is a competition.
After all, boxing requires skill and incredible physicality. It also answers a simple question: who can best who in a contest where basically only fists can be employed? Boxing might seem ridiculous to Steve, but it really is no more ridiculous than finding out who’s better at whacking a ball over a net. Or who’s better at whacking an even smaller ball into a hole in the ground.
What people like Steve choose not to realize is that boxing is a sport, just like any other. Participants are meant to be jostled, not truly damaged. And while it’s true boxers are oftentimes hurt in the ring, death and permanent harm are most definitely not a part of the sport’s agenda. They are things, terrible things, that unfortunately happen. They are also things those who control boxing try their hardest to prevent.
That’s why boxers no longer fight with bare knuckles. It’s why a fight can’t last longer than thirty-six minutes with numerous breaks in between the action. It’s why there’s things like corner men, referees and doctors on hand at all times. Sure, boxing’s brutal (we have to be honest here), but it’s not meant to be seriously harmful. That’s a fine distinction insightful Steve seems to have missed in his New York Time’s piece.
Look, boxing is a rough sport, just like this is a rough piece of writing (especially if you’re Steve). And I have little doubt those opposed to boxing unquestionably mean well. Thing is, though, boxers and boxing fans don’t need people like Steve to do their thinking and moralizing for them.
In spite of all the evil that has occurred throughout history, most would still agree that people are, in essence, decent. As a rule, they don’t like to do bad things. Even we supposed primitives who love the fight game know right from wrong. And if we thought boxing were immoral, most of us would have the strength to walk away from it, no matter how appealing it might be.
“Friday Night Fights” is not the movie “Gladiator.” Boxing fans know that, which is why they can enjoy their sport with a clear conscience. My advice to Steve and his ilk would be to stop being so self righteous and actually observe the sports they’re so quick to condemn. Perhaps if they watched some good fights, talked to some of the participants and actually researched before sitting down to write, they might not be so quick to just flick off an American past-time with a few glib strokes of the pen.
Who knows, they just might become some of the sport’s defenders. Or some of it’s fans. Or – gasp – even some of its participants. I could just imagine Steve sparring. It might actually do the guy some good.