The hoopla over horse-racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years has temporarily obscured the fact that, in today’s changing moral climate (the one climate that demonstrably, inarguably is changing, and rapidly at that), horse racing’s days are numbered. Who are we to “own” an animal and make them work hard, train and exercise for our enjoyment?
The writing is on the wall (not off-the-wall) for other sports, as well. Most human contact-sports are also doomed to go the way of the Stegosaurus.
Significant changes have been made recently to make football and hockey, in particular, safer and more tolerable to the metro-sexual sports fan. There has been serious talk of eliminating what is arguably the most exciting play in football, the kick-off return, in the interest of the player’s safety. Fighting in the NHL has nearly been eliminated and this year an automatic icing rule was instituted to protect the players from possible collisions while racing after the puck.
Boxing, in days past called “the sweet science,” is obviously not long for this world, either. Why would anyone want to see one man hit another man for their pleasure?
I will be the first to say that the “gladiator” games were over-the-top. Way, way beyond the pale of simple human decency, and almost incomprehensible, though that is easy for me to say as I didn’t live in those times.
Yet, we now face an entirely different issue. The popularity of several major sports is in danger of collapse, not just from being banned, but from being watered down to the point that the average fan making 45 grand a year will not want to pay big bucks to watch a millionaire or billionaire prima-donna play a sport requiring no extraordinary physical or mental courage. What makes for exciting viewing and good drama in the (formerly) contact sports are the hard hits and hotly contested competition between two teams gritting it out and sacrificing all to achieve victory. When it comes to the point that no play is allowed that could possibly be injurious or overly taxing to these wealthy athletes, many former fans will think, “I try harder, sacrifice more and suffer more in my job working 60 hours a week than these guys do playing a game 3 hours a week (football) or perhaps 12 hours a week (hockey). Screw it, this is lame and these Nancy’s should be paying to see me perform in my job.”
I can see boxing eventually becoming shadow-boxing, with points deducted if you actually hit your opponent.
Yes, we will eventually abandon our current sports ethos in favor of watching robots compete, perform, and get stronger, better, and smarter as we lose our competitiveness, heart, courage, strength, fortitude, desire and tolerance for risk, stress, pain, etc.
Ironically, we will insist the “robots” take on our more masculine, if not outright heroic, human roles as we bow out and become… (craven, politically-correct) robots ourselves. A cosmic and tragic case of role-reversal.