Why do you think violent sports are so popular?Why do you think violent sports are so popular?

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jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All sports involve conflict: one side against another. In many ways sports are symbolic warfare. One side attempts to defeat the other. We call it "winning," but to win is to defeat. And make no mistake about it: the winners feel strength and joy in their victory and the losers feel awful and despondent in their defeat.

In evolutionary terms, we humans have survived to the point of reading and writing here at enotes because of two main factors. One: we cooperated to help each other make it through and/or Two: we cooperated in fighting or fought individually to defeat and kill others. Part of us likes to help, and part of us needs to fight. And sports resonate in that part of us that likes to fight.

It was said above that baseball is not violent. Well, maybe it is not as violent as the gladiators in old Rome's Colosseum, but it is violent in measured and civilized and symbolic ways. The smashing of a ball into the seats, the splintering of a bat, the collision of runner and catcher at home plate, cleats aimed at the shins sliding into second base... all are singular acts of separated violence, and we love it.

And of course baseball, though it has its elements of violence, is mild compared to football, rugby, ice hockey ("I was watching a fight and a hockey game broke out"), boxing, mud wrestling... symbolic wars all of them, and part of us loves it because it's in us all.

MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the attraction is rooted in human nature, unfortunately. Not to drag out cliches, but if we look at the history of sports, we see many violent and even cruel events: bullfighting, bear-baiting, gladiators, etc. There's some raw emotion released in seeing someone or something attacked, and a large part of it may be cultural. While I'd like to think that I would refuse to watch gladiator fights, who knows? I may have been willing to scream along with everyone else in the same situation.

I think that sports which are more violent & less "sport", if you will, are becoming increasingly popular. Look at the overwhelming attraction of UFC fighting, or the underground network of backyard fighting videos. I think we coming closer to the point when fighting in the street won't be looked on with disdain by the public. The recent surge in staged fights at schools, with the purpose of filming and posting on youtube is another example. Many students don't turn away in disgust at these fights; instead, they egg on the participants and happily record them for posterity, or infamy, I suppose.

I'm not sure if this is an actual human tendency, or something left over from primitive man, but I do think it's a disturbing trend, that doesn't show any sign of slowing down.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The human species has evolved, and while violence was once part  of life on a daily basis (out of necessity) that is no longer the case. That is not to say that these instincts will not emerge again if forced to do so: i.e. fight or flight; warfare, and etc., however, to blame this proclivity for and enjoyment of violence on human  nature is to do a disservice to those who have evolved beyond that.

I do believe that there are those who enjoy the violence for many of the reasons previously mentioned, but it is not an attribute of their human nature so much as it is an attribute of their character.


Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Baseball isn't violent. Golf isn't violent. Swimming competitions aren't violent. Sports that include elements of violence usually are team sports, with one team pitted against another. Teams have offensive and defensive players. They have strategies and secret codes. They fight for territory. Sounds a lot like war. Lots of analogies have been drawn between football and warfare. One "army" dressed in uniform overpowers the other through strength, training, skill, leadership, courage, and determination. Perhaps violence in contact sports does serve as an outlet for some need to conquer an enemy.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Violent sports might be popular because it allows for an opportunity to release aggression.  In some venues, sports allows for an output of aggressive behavior that is socially acceptable.  For example, if a boxer pummels his opponent in the ring, social praise results.  If an American football player makes a great tackle that knocks someone's helmet, they are praised.  If the same behavior is done outside of the athletic realm, they are punished, and well deserved.  The ability to release aggression might be a reason why such sports might be well received by others.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Violent sports have always been popular in cultures that emphasize competition. Look at the Coliseum in ancient Rome, with gladiators fighting to the death and Christians pitted against lions. Warlike societies in particular seem to relish blood sports and violence. In the United States, sports like hockey and football simulate combat, catering to the desire of spectators to see battles fought and won. 

alohaspirit eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is part of human nature.  At the root of us we are animals, and violence is part of our nature.  Also human beings live mostly in fear, so if we can watch someone else take a risk and possibly get injured or killed it becomes entertaining.  Its that sense of "how far will this person go to get what they want, to win this competition"...its intriguing to people.

mbaldry56 | Student

violent sports attract a side of humanity we may not be willing to admit exist, it's primal and enjoys things like compatition, violence and unervingly blood.Yet I believe them to be a good outlet and you must consider if they dont do it in a controlled enviornment they may do it some were else and then who knows how far it will go??I actually fully support these sports because most also teach dicipline and control. 

krishna-agrawala | Student

Since the word sports is used here, we will take it for granted that in spite of being violent the popular sports are not excessively dangerous. One more aspect needs clarity before we can discuss this question - we are talking about popularity among the people who play sport or we also include the people who watch and discuss the sport. I will discuss the popularity in terms of players as well as non-players.

First thing not all violent sports are more popular than non-violent sports. For example, cricket is not a violent sport, but very popular in India. Then let us consider two similar sports football versus rugby. Among the two, rugby is more violent but football as perhaps the most popular sport. As a matter of fact football is the most popular sport, much ahead of more violent sports such as boxing.

I believe the most important feature of a sport that make it popular are:

  • Degree of competitiveness involved. Greater the spirit of competition more important the sport is. Violent sports may not necessarily involve greater competitive element, but frequently this element is more easily perceived by spectators in sports of physical skill and violence.
  • Degree of skill involved. Sport with very low or very high skill requirement are less popular than sports that require medium skill.
  • Extent of physical and mental effort involved. People enjoy applying mental and physical efforts specially in a competitive situation. In addition this also provides them exercise for keeping their mind and body fit.
  • The excitement of danger as in bungee jumping can also be an attraction. This can be one of the contributing factor for popularity of violent sports.