Occasionally, when I'm channel-hopping, I'll catch a little bit of it on TV. I can't believe that here in the year 2011, we pay to watch two human beings in a boxing ring pound, kick, headbutt, wrestle, or use any means available to defeat an opponent. Most states sanction it. New York and Connecticut and a few others have refused, and there's a campaign underway now to get them to change.
David Zinczenko, editor of Men's Health magazine, recently wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times in which he tried to make the case. He argues, "Mixed martial arts may be violent, but that it's safer than the other, supposedly more civilized" competitive sports. He says that "we think of more traditional violent sports like football or boxing are safer in part because of the helmets and padded gloves their athletes wear." Those protective devices, he says, just allow the athlete to hit harder and to take chances which lead to "even greater levels of punishment." And Zinczenko points to the studies which show that 40 percent of former boxers have brain injuries. Hockey and football players are subjected to serious injuries too. Football and hockey sent 55,000 Americans to the emergency rooms with head injuries in the year 2009 alone.
We've all seen fans cheer when a football or hockey player leaves the game on a stretcher and returns the next week. The cheers are even louder when he returns in the next period. Yes, I've seen that. I've even participated in it. But it sure doesn't strengthen the argument that because we descend to the levels of savagery in some sports, which have already gained huge contingents of followers and players who risk injury -- even death -- to collect obscenely large salaries, that we should encourage the growth of newer sports which appeal to the worst in us. And let's not forget either that we're concerned about violence in our society and the effect on our children.
What Zinczenko says about the other violent sports is true, but team sports are so much a part of culture that limiting them now would not be politically acceptable. It would be stupid, though, to encourage the growth of large numbers of newer and younger fans of degrading violence. I agree with New York State Assemblyman Bob Rielly, who called mixed martial arts "a violent sport not worthy of our society."