I just took a glance at the main page for SI.com only to find a big splashy spread on some MMA (mixed martial art) fight that was held last night. Out of curiosity I checked out the ESPN main page and, sure enough, big splashy MMA coverage up front. This is what we have come to as a society---back to cage fighting. In the year 2009, human beings cannot find a better way to entertain themselves than to put two roided freaks into a cage and let them beat each other into submission? Seriously? And the “hey, it’s what the people want and we’ll cater to the lowest common denominator if it will make us a buck” media cannot find anything better to put on the front page or on the TV screen? I have mixed emotions about this last part---on the one hand, I have a philosophical problem with publicizing and encouraging fighting but, on the other, I find it incredibly funny that two days before the MLB All Star Game the nation’s foremost sports reporting agencies relegated baseball to a distant third behind cage fighting and NASCAR. This should give you an indication of how far baseball has (deservingly) fallen---the stewards of the game must be proud.
Anyway, I have contemplated this for years now as I watched, somewhat gladly, boxing die a slow death in the public arena. I used to follow boxing, you know. I remember growing up fascinated with the sport (or the sweet science as it used to be called). I was an unabashed fan (who wasn’t?) of Muhammad Ali. I remember speculating, idly and somewhat foolishly, if Teofilo Stevenson would have a chance against Ali if he ever turned pro. I remember prancing around in the living room on summer afternoons, when it was too hot to go play outside, punching the shadows and chanting “I float like a butterfly, I sting like a bee……”. I remember reading about how Larry Holmes would never get the credit for how good a fighter he was, as none of the bigwigs would fight him in his prime. I remember being at once thrilled and nauseated by the sheer savagery of Mike Tyson when he burst upon the scene --- watching the highlights of his KOs were like watching a bad wreck; it turned your stomach but somehow, perversely, you couldn’t not watch it.
Then I grew up. At some point, and I cannot pinpoint exactly when, it occurred to me that we should be better than this. Sure, a lot of sports are physical and some, like football, are even occasionally violent. But boxing (and now the MMA-type crap) differed from other physical sports in a crucial way --- violence is not incidental to the sport--- rather, the object of a fighting sport is to subjugate the opponent by inflicting pain and physical harm. At some point in my maturation this became philosophically unacceptable to me. I think that if we condone this concept (that it is somehow not just OK but even glorious to beat another human being into submission) in even a controlled arena, we end up, to some degree, condoning all physical abuse --- the kind that occurs in domestic violence, for instance, as in all these cases it is the twisted mind of the abuser using physical force to dominate his or her arena.
I think it is time to stop catering to our bloodlust. The only fighting we should be doing is against the urge to fight.