It’s time to tackle an age-old question that every sports fan has asked themselves throughout their lifetime, and seems more relevant than ever in today’s society: Just what role exactly do we want sports to play in our society? And maybe more specifically, in our own personal lives?
For many people sports are the release from the day-to-day troubles and worries of life. Sports are a way to unwind after a long and stressful day at work, and simply kick back and enjoy the relatively stress-free act of cheering on one’s team. (Although once playoffs come around, this supposedly stress-free activity becomes anything but stress-free.) Having to worry about real-life issues during a sporting event sometimes seems to fly in the face of the very driving force behind sport.
The top two definitions of “sport” in the dictionary make note of an activity requiring skill or physical prowess, but it is the third definition of “sport” that is possibly the most intriguing: “diversion, recreation, pleasant pastime.”
Two of those words stand out in particular, “diversion” and “pleasant.”
If the very definition of the word implies not having to worry about real-life issues when watching sports, how are we supposed to deal with situations like Floyd Mayweather and his pattern of domestic abuse, or Adrian Peterson and the jaw-dropping pictures of the aftermath of what he did to his child?
In the weeks leading up to the “Fight of the Century” between Mayweather and Pacquiao, there was a groundswell movement that promoted the idea to boycott watching the fight out of protest to Mayweather and his treatment of women.
Of course, because of modern society, there was backlash to that backlash, as people pointed out that Mayweather is going to make his money no matter what, so there’s not really any point to boycotting the fight.
Both sides had valid points. There is no way that we, as a society, should be so invested in a man whose track record with women is a disgrace and embarrassment to not just the boxing world, but society as a whole, that he makes far more than the GDP of some countries in less than an hour of “fighting.” On the other hand, what good would not watching the fight really do? Sure, you could mount your high horse and ride all the way into work the next Monday spouting off about how you refused to support the event, but in all reality you did nothing to stop it.
Of course, dealing with athletes with questionable morals are hardly a new phenomenon. Ty Cobb was about as awful a human being as has existed in sports in the 20th century, but if T-Shirt jerseys existed in his time, there would have undoubtedly been hundreds of thousands of people walking around Detroit wearing The Georgia Peach’s name on their backs.
There’s even the dilemma of whether or not to support athletes who aren’t necessarily bad people, but espouse different beliefs than you have. Torii Hunter seems like a great guy, but he and I certainly do not see eye-to-eye on some big non-baseball issues. And that’s the thing. These are non-baseball issues, what real role do they have in deciding if I want to cheer for the Twins’ right-fielder?
At this point, this article has gone a bit off the rails, and raised a lot more questions than it has answered. But that’s the thing with the whole debate; there really aren’t great answers. Every time I begin to think I’m all right just shutting my brain off when I watch sports, something heinous like the Ray Rice video comes out, and it simply becomes impossible to remove sports from the real world. Maybe that’s part of the beauty of modern society that we have enough of a collective consciousness that instead of being able to remove ourselves from what we are watching – like the Romans filling the Coliseum to watch the Gladiators – we feel the need to step up and say something when we see something that demands our attention.
Then again, maybe that’s what you hate about modern society. There’s no true stress releases anymore; no one can take a joke without getting offended; everyone is on hyper alert 24/7 with the PC police looking to make mountains out of mole hills.
I think I usually skew towards the former of those two paragraphs, but there are certainly times when I’m all about the second paragraph.
I started out writing this column because I wanted to find out for myself how I felt, and oftentimes writing is the best way for me to do that. This issue is so divisive, though, that I’m honestly still not 100 percent sure how I feel about it. I do think that sports can play a key role as a vessel for society’s problems. Just look at how much it meant to not just baseball, but the United States as a whole, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
That being said, there does have to be somewhere people can go to escape real-world issues. Maybe with the ever-increasing role that sports plays in society it can no longer be that escape, but if it isn’t then some other institution has to emerge and take up that mantle.
I’m looking at you, Cupcake Wars.