Sport As A Substitute For War

3388 words - 14 pages

"Sport is such a pervasive human activity that to ignore it is to overlook one of the most significant aspects of contemporary American society. It is a social phenomenon which extends into education, politics, economics, art, the mass media, and even international diplomatic relations. Involvement in sport, either directly as a participant, or indirectly as a spectator, is almost considered a public duty by many Americans. It has been observed that if there is a religion in America today, it is sport." (Sage 1974)

Society views sporting events and game-playing as a means of fun, physical exercise, and even relaxation. In reality, sport has become the primary substitute for war in a society that seemingly thrives on the need to continually engage in conflict. It would be difficult to view a football or soccer game today without noting the violent similarities between these sports and open warfare. Symbolic associations exist in addition to the obvious physical comparisons of sport and war. We have only to look at the names of sports teams today to see the most prominent use of aggressive and conflictive symbolism. However, the opportunity to engage in battle has been largely suppressed in the face of current world peace treaties. In its stead, sport has evolved into a war-like pastime. Numerous images throughout history support the unmistakable associations between sport and war. Given the similar overtones of aggressiveness and calculated violence in both, these inferences can be taken one step further by theorizing that sport is a direct descendant of open warfare and is, in fact, a derivative of war.

Specific steps must be taken in order to reach an understanding of the complex relationship between sport and war. Exploration of sport's aggressive past is the first step in creating a picture that defines the evolution of sport from war, as well as the fundamental relationship that exists. Illustrations of symbolic references and war rhetoric must be investigated, with special attention given to football's unique role in the sport-war association. Numerous studies have been performed that provide insight into the psychology of a society that, because of its requirement for aggressive outlets, has allowed sport to progress into a more war-like behavior. These analyses present conflicting views but are overwhelmingly in favor of the sport-war ideology. Studying the psychological aspects of aggressive behavior, and their place in sport and war, allow for final images to be drawn regarding sport's integral role in society.



Chronicles from times past have provided evidence that basketball, football, and lacrosse, to name only a few, have all descended from long forgotten games used to prepare warriors for combat. Various Olympic sporting events such as the marathon and javelin throw, for example, were molded from events that took place during ancient battles. These images are numerous and are not limited to any one...

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