Violence a Fact of Life for the Modern Athlete

Richard BowlerSenior Analyst INovember 9, 2006

IconWith massive egos to go along with their massive pay checks, it is no wonder that modern athletes often act out violently. Tyler Brayton's attempt to knee an opponent in the groin on national television is just another in a long string of overtly violent attacks by athletes.

The escalation of violence can be directly attributed to the rise of media attention and the amount of money involved in modern sports. On the biggest stage in the world, the 2006 World Cup Final, the best player in the world, Zinedine Zidane, got kicked out the game for driving his head into the chest of an Italian player. This violent act put Zidane's French squad at a severe disadvantage...all over an off-color comment from the Italian. There have been countless such incidents over the past couple of years.

What would make a gifted athlete risk so much? I surmise that it's a substantial ego. With twenty-four-hour news coverage and billions of dollars changing hands, the pressure has been amping up for years. This pressure creates a high-tension atmosphere for a group of people—athletes—whose ego's have been inflated by a society that regales them for their talents from a young age. When you add all of those factors together and put them in the competitive arena of professional sports, bad things are bound to happen.

But at what point do you draw the line between competitive fire and violent assault? I say that no tolerance is the only policy that will work. Just because you're on a field doesn't mean it's okay to attack another individual. The only way to make these acts subside is to make the punishments severe enough to deter these athletes. It is time for the bodies that govern these pro sports to take social responsibility.
This is just a small part of a larger problem with entitled athletes. Just watch any sports news program to get the daily police blotter of illegal indiscretions by top stars. In light of so many arrests, individual teams and the public at large both need to stop making it okay for the players to act out in this manner. A slap on the wrist only validates the behavior and perpetuates the situation.

Now, I'm not advocating throwing the book at everyone, but you cannot be weak in these cases if you want them to stop. Everyone makes mistakes and deserves a second chance, but by letting individuals get away with bad behavior over and over again, you do everyone a disservice. I don't like to harp on the athletes-are-role-models mantra that some in the media are so fond of, but athletes are at least functioning members of society who need to be held to a certain standard of behavior. Just because you can run fast or kick a ball far doesn't mean that you have a license to break the law.

In the end, it is all about social responsibility and doing everything you can to make this world a better place. There is plenty of blame to go around, from the highest levels of management to the players themselves and even, in some situations, to the fans. No matter how entertaining we find athletics, we all need to do our part in making people accountable for their actions. Sports should be about the spirit of competition, not about the ugliness that it can bring out in people. The poetry in motion of elite athletics is a powerful force in our modern society—one that can be either positive or negative. It's our job to choose which one.