Synopsis: People have been playing blood sports ever since they learned to enjoy such sports and support a multi billion dollar industry that promotes blood sport like boxing.Now it is coming under intense scrutiny worldwide that wishes all blood sports to be replaced by non violent sports that this blog suggests.
Source : Google photo
The most popular sport in the world is called football. It is an ancient sport played during the Aztec empire and in other parts of the world with a ball kicked by the players. It is a sport where the size of the player does not matter. The only thing that matters is his skill in kicking the ball and his speed so even a small boy can play against big men and defeat them if he is fast and can push the ball to its goal.
People love this sport all over the world and play in their villages, towns and cities from their childhood. It is a sport that does not require fancy stadiums, body suits, helmets, gloves or even shoes because it is not a contact sport. Anyone can play it anywhere that has made it the most popular sport in the world.
The excitement of the World cup reaches its climax when the players gather at a venue every four years just like the Olympics and play to win the coveted cup. Millions watch the game via satellite in every country and some watched the octopus avidly to see if it will predict a winner. In the last World cup, it took its time but finally sat on the box marked with Germany’s colors to the great disappointment of the others. Germany went on to win the cup in 2014.
In the United States a sport where the players run with the odd-shaped ball in their hand is called football which is their national sport along with the baseball. To differentiate their game from the football played in other countries, they call it soccer although football remains the name elsewhere. The American football is a very big business indeed that generates millions of dollars in ticket sales and the sale of the sport paraphernalia, TV broadcast rights and related business practices.
The players selected to play in the national teams compete fiercely and the winners achieve the star status that few other sportsmen get along with massive salaries and perks but the fame and the money comes at a price so today I will write about what price they pay.
I was watching a movie last night on TV where an immigrant neuro surgeon from Nigeria found out that the players were dying from severe head injuries sustained during the games over a period of time. He observed the injuries during the autopsy he performed on the brains of the dead players and came to the conclusion that the violent head butting practiced by the players caused the damage to the brain that ultimately killed them. This doctor was vilified by the NFL authorities who debunked his findings and did not permit him to present his findings at a meeting in Chicago because accepting such findings if true could hurt their profits that were enormous.
It was no different from the tobacco barons who declared in the Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. that tobacco never killed anyone in spite of massive proofs to the contrary because accepting such proof would result in their loss of profit they made from cigarettes and other tobacco products. This would change later when under tremendous pressure from the scientists made them accept the fact that tobacco was a killer. Now most countries ban smoking in public places because the second-hand smoke is just as dangerous as the smoker who pollutes the air.
In Australia, the cigarette makers are compelled to show in graphic details pictures of cancer on the packets with the warning that people should be aware of the dangers of smoking.
There is another game called boxing that causes severe brain injuries because the brain sloshes around in the skull due to the blows the boxers receive at each other’s hand that damages the brain permanently. Remember Muhammad Ali? He turned into a vegetable and died pitifully although people will remember him as the greatest of the boxers.
I call these sports Blood sports because it kills the sportsman or greatly impairs his ability to live a normal life after retirement just like Ali.
In the movie, a football player who was laid off from the team because he complained of severe headaches and could not play any longer, begged for help from everyone he knew including the mayor but was ignored so one day he took his life and left a will that said that his brain should be donated to the neuro surgeon to determine the cause of his severe headaches. Perhaps his death will help others having similar problems.
The paid doctors of the NFL all denied that the findings of the neuro surgeon were true just like the doctors paid by the tobacco companies who denied the scientific reports that tobacco kills people.
In the capitalistic country, money is the main driver so the health and the hazards posed by the games or the tobacco or anything else that causes harms to people takes a second seat because the status quo keeps them in gravy. They pay the doctors and scientists to write favorable reports so that they can keep on making money. There is no shortage of doctors and scientists who can be easily bought for the right amount so they ignore the Hippocrates Oath they all take to speak only the truth.
The blood sport is nothing new. Romans gathered in their coliseums in large numbers just to see the gladiators kill each other with knives, swords or just the bare hands. Their blood lust had no limits so a Roman king ordered a month-long blood bath using such blood sports where wild animals tore into the poor captives and gladiators. Thousands of lions and tigers were also killed in the name of sport drenching the sand of the coliseum in Rome and elsewhere although the camera toting tourists ignore these facts and gawk at the ruins that ruined many lives there long ago.
Thousands of years later we still find blood sport exciting where a beautiful bull is tormented by the matadors in Spain and Mexico with their spears and enrage the bull that often gores them to kill. All you hear from the crowd is Ole Ole while the matador takes a bow and the bull bleeds to death. There are now protests and demands to ban such blood sports forever but again the money speaks here so it is an uphill fight for the activists.
Here in the Philippines and in many other countries , the cock-fighting is legal and people gamble a lot of money on cocks that have sharp steel spurs attached to their legs they use to slash and kill each other.
There was a time when people shot the wild buffaloes roaming the American prairies from their train windows killing thousands because they loved the “sport” of it. The same lust for blood allowed a man to go and kill Cecil the lion in Africa where he posed with the dead lion to show off to his admirers back home. He was roundly condemned in the social media but such condemnation does not bring back the Cecils.
Then there are slaughters of animals in the name of religion in Nepal where thousands of goats, sheep and other animals are brought to a temple ground and killed ritualistically presided by the priests just to propitiate the God that they claim lusts for blood. It is truly nauseating as thousands including children watch this river of blood every year. Now there are people who are demanding the end of this practice but who listens?
I think there is a strain of cruelty in some people who think that blood sports are fun and buy expensive tickets to watch the players hurt each other like in the United States football games. Those who can’t afford the tickets camp out in the parking lot drinking beer and watching the games on big screens while making bar-be-ques. For them it is fun.
Whether it is Muai Thai or regular boxing or American football, it has to do with violence of these sports and the consequences the players suffer due to the injuries they receive. Boxing is also an old sport practiced during the Roman times but the Romans did not value human lives except their own so did not care if the slaves boxed each other to death. It was fun for them.
There are many sports that are not blood sports and can be played by anyone who wants to have fun. They do not cost anything because no expensive stadiums, body armor, shoes and helmets are required. I will just mention one such sport called kabaddi that people in India play.
In this game there are two teams with a dividing line marked on the ground. One player crosses the line into the opposing camp while holding his breath and tries to touch someone and return to his side while the opposing team tries to avoid him and pin him down to break his breath. If the player manages to touch someone and return to his side then that player is outed. Thus the game continues in dwindling number until only the last two players remain. This game is so simple and so beautiful that it takes your breath away literally. The kids play it in their villages and the adults have kabaddi teams that participate in the Asian games. It only requires skill in holding the breath and touching someone. Kids just wear tight shorts and rub some oil on their body to make it slippery and hard for the opposing team to get hold of.
There are many sports that are not blood sports but the most popular is the football the Americans call soccer. It requires only the agility and skill of a player to kick the ball to the goal that the goal keeper frantically tries to stop. In fact the goalie is the real hero in some teams. They achieve the star status worldwide and are recognized instantly no matter where they go.
When we were in Haiti where football is very popular, I used to bring girls in my pick up to play in the neighboring villages. I was amazed at their skills at the game although minor injuries occurred once in a while. The Mexicans were outraged when Haiti knocked them out of the World Cup in Mexico City not knowing how seriously Haitians take the sport. Any corn field after the harvest becomes a football field for them so they play the game with joy and abandon unseen elsewhere.
Now kids are learning to play football in America and the interest in this beautiful game is increasing each year. The women’s football teams compete internationally and sometimes win.
There is more awareness of the injuries sustained in their “football” games thanks to the Hollywood movies so many young people want to play the real football where they can play it safely and enjoy it too. But they are up against the NFL that is big and powerful with a lot of money involved so again it is the money that controls the game and not the injuries sustained by the players. Who cares if a player drops out and later dies of his injuries? There are others who will take their place quickly so the game goes on.
The injured players often die of poverty and lack of care so some decide to take their lives to end the torment. What is needed to end all blood sport is the alternatives that are already there but it is very hard to change the national culture of any country where blood sport becomes a part of their culture so they are loath to part with it.
Playing is a part of our nature. We all love to play some game at some point in our lives. Most of us do not become national players but we play for fun and not for accolades. But when you play a blood sport for money and fame and lose your life or sustain severe injuries in the process then just ask yourself before your brain shuts down this simple question. Was it worth it?
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