Joyce 1 Tera Joyce Dr. Erin Dietel-McLaughlin WR 13200 5 November 2011 It’s Only a Game…. Or Is It?

A sport is defined by Webster’s dictionary as an athletic activity, pleasant pastime, recreation, and fun; however, the impacts of sports throughout the years have not been limited to the sporting events themselves, nor have all impacts been positive. Sports teach teamwork, patience, persistence and dedication yet at the same time expose everyone involved to an underlying form of violence that is present within all aspects of a sport. The violence present within sports causes those exposed to it to become more inherently violent by creating antagonism between teams, as well as causing people to accept violence more willingly into their lives (Russell 114, 134-137). Sports, rather than providing a non-violent pastime, are exposing people to additional violence. If we continue to blindly believe that sports present no risk of increasing violence, we will allow this exposure to resume and problem to grow. Seeing violence in sports makes people more accepting of it in other parts of their lives and because of this it escalates further and becomes more extreme. This essay will examine the connection between sports and attitudes toward violence by examining two sports-related phenomena: fan-caused violence and team hazing. Ultimately, this paper will suggest that exposure to sports creates additional violence. Over thirty million kids in America aging from six to adulthood participate in at least one school or community-based athletic program. Throughout the world, 65 percent of children are involved with sports (Engle). With thousands of sporting events played and televised daily, it is

Joyce 2 hard for one to not be exposed to them. With only about 16,000 people holding jobs as professional athletes, it is apparent that the effects of sports impact a larger audience than just the athletes themselves. Many people are exposed to the violence within sports. With the flagrant fouls, concussion-inducing tackles, on-field brawls, and heated tempers, it is impossible for one to attend a sporting event and not bear witness to the acts of violence. These people include the audience at the game and people watching it through the media; children playing youth sports and the parents of those youth athletes; coaches or referees of any level of sporting event (Russell 107-114); as well as those who holds an athlete as their hero (Harris 28). Because the impact is widespread, the effects are extensive. As participation in playing and watching sports continues to increase (Engle), the effects will continue to spread. Within sports, both physical and verbal violence are self inflicted and forced upon athletes. This violence is near unavoidable due to the forced conflict between the teams caused by competition. This is apparent when fan beating occur during or after games. In 2009, when the Philadelphia Phillies played the St. Louis Cardinals, an altercation began in the bar attached to the stadium. After two groups were escorted out because they were fighting with each other, the brawl continued outside of the stadium. The three defendants violently attacked several people, sending some to the hospital and fatally injuring another. The victim killed, Sale who was 22 at the time, was repeatedly punch and kicked in the head until he was no longer responsive. The crowd surrounding the fight did not only include the victims and the defendants, but also a group of 60 fans that were bused in with the defendants to attend the game. While Sale was getting beaten to death, no one in the crowd stepped forward to attempt to save his life (Gorenstein). The aggression that caused this life-ending brawl was undoubtedly created by the sporting event being watched. The conflict presented through the game created tension between

Joyce 3 fans, which caused aggression, leading to the altercation. This type of behavior becomes acceptable and even encouraged by fans that consider themselves to be non-confrontational or against violence. Because this environment invites and promotes aggressive behavior, the appropriate response in this scenario has become to not step forward and tell people to stop what they’re doing. Because conflict and aggression are nearly inevitable (Russell 106), the solution is not to rid sports of conflict but to teach people other means of handling this aggression than through turning to violence. The verbal violence, while it may not be the most obvious form of violence, is the most frequently used within sports. This verbal violence is heard through smack talk, putdowns, and violent references directed at the other team or used to describe the play within the game (Caine 2). At my institution, Notre Dame, athletics are historically known and widely supported. While attending any given Notre Dame football game, expletives can be heard from outraged fans, both supporting the Irish and the visiting team. This behavior makes sporting events change from being a family friendly environment to a battle zone of verbal violence. Physical violence is the most recognizable form of violence seen within sports. Aside from the actual pushing and pulling in sports, injuries, both caused by the participant themselves or accidents, are common throughout the game (Caine 3). Marianne Engle, Ph. D. sports psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor at the NYU Child Study Center, discuses the risks of injury within sports. Her research focused on children and the possibility of injury for these young athletes. Engle discusses the reality of participants injuring themselves by over training, foul play, and use of dangerous substances such as steroids. Because aggression is commonly found within sports, injuries are not looked at as seriously as they should be and are often considered part of the game. Engle found that the number of unnecessary injuries linked to kids

Joyce 4 playing youth sports is substantial with “four million children seeking emergency-room treatment for sports injuries every year and another 8 million treated for such injuries by family physicians” (Engle). There is a difference between normal childhood injuries and childhood sports injuries. Falling off the monkey bars is not the same as getting a concussion in a peewee football game. If the violence in sports were not a part of their lives, these unnecessary injuries would not have occurred. In addition to actually causing injuries as a result of violence, sports create a greater acceptance of violence in their everyday lives. This becomes particularly harmful when one considers that relationship between children and professional athletes. In Athletes and the American Hero Dilemma there is research done what types of people children chose as heroes and athletes are chosen as commonly as other celebrities. The book offers a list of the athletes most commonly selected as heroes. Among other athletes, OJ Simpson was included on the list. Looking up to a person who has allegedly committed violent crimes, like Simpson has been accused of doing, could lead to the child believing that this kind of behavior is acceptable (Harris 29). Often times, the acts of violence in people’s lives can be linked to the violence they have been exposed to through sports. Within the article Sports Fans Across Borders, social scientists Phillip Goodhart and Christopher Chataway express the most prevalent form of violence associated with sports is celebratory violence, including celebration riots. They depict that these acts of celebratory violence “are not directed against the fans of the opposing teams, as much as what they are random acts of destruction against whatever constitutes their immediate surroundings” (qtd in Markovits 19). Lewis adds in Sports Fan Violence in North America that “Celebration riots are more typical of North American sport cultures than punishing riots”

Joyce 5 (Lewis 2). This means that the winning team is often times the cause of the violence and that the violence affects the audience as a whole. Additionally, Gordon Russell, a Professor at the University of Lethbridge, claims in the Aggression in the Sports World that he “saw in the preceding sections that televised coverage of violent sports events is associated with harm to individuals in the immediate viewing audience” (114). This research shows that the exposure to sport violence and the outcome of the game held a strong impact on the individual as well as the crowd as a whole, in addition to negatively impacting the losing team. Russell’s research focused on the “fatal effects arising from media portrayals including suicide in addition to homicides and automobile fatalities” (114). This research showed an increase around major sporting events, specifically the Superbowl and World Series (Russell 111), mainly because the importance of the game is linked with the emotion of the crowd; These acts of violence do not draw nearly the amount of attention of many acts of celebratory violence, such as riots because they are the impacts effecting the individual rather than the entire crowd. However, these effects are clearly linked to the exposure to sports. These articles both express the effects that viewing the violence in sports has on people. However, the authors focus on different aspects of these effects. Goodhart, Chataway, and Lewis show the affects on the audience as a whole while Russell expresses the impacts on the individual fan. Although all of these researchers believe the outcome of the game is the deciding factor between who will be affected more drastically, Russell’s theory claims that the losing side would bear the negative impacts while Lewis’s research shows the impact affecting the winning team more. Both forms of violence depicted are a direct effect of the result of a sporting event. The violence witnessed during the sport, both within the playing itself and the references used by participants and fans, has been found to directly cause additional violence. While the ideas

Joyce 6 discussed contrast in the forms of violence shown and whom they are directly impacting, they are both examples of forms of violence prevalent outside the game that can be linked to sports. Lewis, who has researched fan violence since 1975, found a link between the importance of the game and violence occurring because of that game. His research proves that the majority of riots occur after championship games, or when rival teams face each other (Lewis 52). In 2002, Lewis studied the riot occurring after the Ohio State University and University of Michigan football game closely. Couches were burned, cars were flipped over, trees were uprooted, and doors were ripped off houses-all of which were instigated by a crowd of over five thousand Ohio State fans. With the Ohio State Buckeye’s winning the game, it was the ending of their perfect season, and guaranteed that they would be playing in a BCS Bowl Game. This riot was ranked the fifth largest college riot of all-time with police dispersing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets into the crowds as well as arrests being made and students being suspended (Lewis 71-80). This example shows how, even without the anger of losing the game, sports can incite people to cause violence and destruction around them. The impact of the violence in sports creates no barriers from the outcome of the game, and can affect both teams differently depending on the situation. The innate conflict within sports is the root of the antagonistic feelings toward fans of other teams. Once one is a fan of a team, they are expected to disapprove of others cheering for an opposing team. Some fans take this outlook too far by changing their energy from cheering for their team to cheering against the opposing team. Some fans then escalate it even further by taking this aggression out on the fans from the opposing team (Finn 95). Specifically, fan beatings and hate crimes have shown how intense this aggression can become. In 2011, a Giant’s fan, Stow who was a 42-year-old Santa Cruz paramedic, suffered serious brain injuries in a

Joyce 7 beating during the home opener at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stadium. Two Dodgers’ fans began a series of confrontations with randomly selected Giants fans, which ended with the near fatal beating of Stow (Boren). Finn explains that the aggression within sports is a contributor to the violence created by it. He explains, “aggression involves the intention to hurt or to emerge superior to others” (Finn 91), which is often, but not always, carried out through violence. “Aggression does not necessarily involve physical injury, but violence does” (Finn 91), describes how when the point is reached where aggression becomes violence, physical harm is inevitable. While the majority of the violence linked to sports occurs between two teams and their supporters, the risk for violence within a team provides an equal amount of danger. The violence present within sports can cause altercations to occur between teammates when tempers grow. During University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) football practice, two players had to be constrained to prevent an on-field fight. One player involved in the scuffle, Fauria, explained that his play within a drill upset his teammate Marsh, the other player involved. Faruia said "Emotions get a hold of you sometimes and it's about how you answer” (Maya). Marsh exited the field to end the altercation. Upon returning he mentioned, "The game of football is violent. Your emotions, you get worked up. You make mistakes. And that's what happened, I made a mistake" (Maya). Understanding that controlling your emotions without creating violence, such as scuffles like this one, is key to reducing the impacts of the violence within sports. In addition to violence on the field, hazing is another form of violence that prevails within a team. Hazing has caused much damage, both mentally and physically, in the past and it continues to pose a threat in the future. Margery Holman the author of “Searching for a Theoretical Understanding of Hazing Practices in Athletics” within Making the Team is a researcher of sports and the impacts they hold, specifically including the impacts of hazing.

Joyce 8 Within sports a hierarchy is well defined; the coach is on top followed by captains and other members holding seniority, then ending with the team’s newest and least experienced members. The idea of “The diminishing of other human beings through the use of insults, inferiorizing, and subservice as a form of intimidation that coerces others to accept the autocracy and inequality of the structure” (Holman 51), is shown through hazing in sports. Teammates tear one another down through hazing, in hopes that they can force them to accept the hierarchy and become closer as a team. Because of the forced respect for this line of power, hazing has become used to instill hierarchy by humiliating the initiate. Holman expresses that “associated with power and the exercise of power is the potential for abuse and violence” (Holman 50). Because within sports there is a need to continue enforcing a line of power, there is the possibility for the power turn into violence. Often times, hazing becomes violent by physically injuring a teammate or making a teammate create physical damage to another person or thing. The violence present within a team could be a cause of the overall violent outlook on sports (Holman 51-57). If a team could peacefully survive without conflict and aggression existing within it, teammates could effectively participate in a game without creating additional violence. This need for rank to be present can cause aggression and violence when someone steps out of the predetermined order. Many experts studying the effects of childhood sports, including professors and researchers, think that there are many upsides to children taking part in youth sports. They believe that participation in sports is beneficial for the overall health of the participant as well as works to reduce violence on the streets. Rather than participating in gang activity, or other dangerous or violent behaviors, children are attending or participating in sporting events. Organizations like the National Football League’s Play60 encourage kids to participate in physical activity for an hour everyday. The intention of this program is to excite children about

Joyce 9 working out in hopes that their mental and physical health will benefit from the activity. Studies have shown benefits from physical activity and sports not only prevent children from participating in street violence, but also stretch further to “increase a child's self-esteem and academic performance while decreasing the likelihood of disease and drug use” (Mango). The benefits range from better physical health and improved social skills to advancements in their mental state. In addition, the environment of a team promotes friendships to be formed because of the amount of the time teammates spend together and interests they have in common. Sports have been shown to hold lasting impacts on children by helping them “think critically and solve problems, build self-discipline, trust, respect for others, leadership and coping skills, all of which form the foundation of character building” (Engle).

Although the points these experts make are justifiable, there are flaws in the arguments. Teammates are brought together by being united under one team and by fighting for a common goal. However, the creation of teams can also cause tension in addition to further distance children from members of other teams. Competition for a spot on the team or for playing time could result in struggles between teammates and lost friendships. Being on a team unites the members with other members of that group, while the separation of teams creates additional conflict with the members from all of the other teams. Therefore, the formation of teams causes kids to create more conflicting relationships than friendships (Caine 2). In addition, while it is argued that participation in sports reduces violence committed by children, it further exposes them to conflict, aggression, and violent behaviors. While some participants and fans understand that it is only a game and are able to differentiate the violence in sports from unacceptable behaviors outside of the game, not everyone who is exposed can separate the two. There are more people attending and watching the games than there are participating in the violence;

Joyce 10 however, while these people have the opportunity to stand up against this unacceptable behavior, they often appease the other fans by allowing these actions to continue. As long as the violence within sports continues to impact other parts of the lives of those exposed to it, the benefits will not cancel out the dangers.

Rather than provide a healthy pastime, sports expose people to additional violence. Sports create an antagonistic relationship between fans of various teams and create a more relaxed outlook on violence. With continued exposure to the violence present in sports, fans and athletes will allow conflict to escalate into further violence rather than find an alternative solution. Because this violent perspective constantly surrounds the people participating and watching sports, it often causes them to believe the violence they are used to seeing is what is normal. Everyone exposed to the violence of sports can work for a change. We can learn other ways to handle conflict and aggression rather than violence and learn to view sporting events as games rather than something important enough to incite violence. The fans and athletes will learn to have friendly rivalries and to peacefully coexist. Although both teams want to win, unavoidably meaning the failing of the other team, they can learn to handle this conflict without including violence. The conflict between teams will stay on the field during and after the game. The problem isn’t the presence of violence within sports; it is how people handle the exposure to this violence.

Joyce 11 Work Cited

Boren, Cindy. "Giants Fan Beaten at Dodger Stadium Leaves Hospital for Rehab Facility." The Washington Post [Washington D.C.] 12 Oct. 2011. Washington Post. The Washington Post Company, 12 Oct. 2011. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. Caine, Dennis. “Are kids having a rough time of it in sports?” Br J Sports Med. 44.1 (2010): 1-3. Print. Engle, Marianna. “Sports and Kids: Pathway to healthy development or to unhealthy competition?” NYU Child Study Center. (2000): n. page. Web. 6 Nov. 2011 Finn, Gerry P. T. “Football Violence a Societal Psychological Perspective.” Football, Violence, and Social Identity. Ed. Richard Giulianotti, Norman Bonney, and Mike Hepworth. New York, NY: Routledge, 1994. 90-127. Print. Gorenstein, Nathan. "Defendant in Phillies Fan's Beating Death Pleads Guilty and Apologizes" Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia Media Network Inc., 19 Oct. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2011. Harris, Janet C. Athletes and the American Hero Dilemma. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1994. Print. Holman, Margery. “A Search for a Theoretical Understanding of Hazing Practices in Athletics.” Making The Team. Eds. Jay Johnson and Margery Holman. Toronto, Ontario: Canadian Scholar’s Press, 2004. 50-60. Print. Lewis, Jerry M. Sports Fan Violence in North America. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. Print. Mango, Kirk. “The Benefits of Competitive Athletic Sports Participation in Today's Sports Climate” ChicagoNow. 16 Feb. 2010. Web. 07 Nov. 2011.

Joyce 12 Markovits, Andrei. “Sports Fans Across Borders.” Harvard International Review 33.2 (2011): 17-22. EBSCOHost. Web. 25 Oct. 2011. Maya, Adam. “UCLA’s Marsh, Fauria have on-field scuffle.” Orange County Register Communications. 04 April 2011, n. pag. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. Russell, Gordon W. Aggression in the Sports World: a Social Psychological Perspective. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.