Is Football The Gladiator Sport For Modern Americans?

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Is Football the Gladiator sport for Modern Americans?

Given its natural world and its well-known location in our society, is football the Roman gladiator sporting activities for recent Americans? By the time of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the civilizing process in Europe and North America was shaping the rules and organizations of sport. As sport became more formalized, official rules prohibited many forms of violence that had been commonplace. The modern era witnessed a tremendous decrease in sport-related bloodshed and a greater emphasis on selfcontrol, professionalism, commercialism, and the globalization of universal laws of acceptable levels of sport aggressiveness (Rader, 69).

In its formative years, football was organized and played by elite white men at America's best schools. For college-age men who played the game, it represented a rite of passage from youth into adulthood (Nelson, 25). The training and education endured by younger players at the hands of their older teammates was a way of initiating boys into an adult culture characterized by a corporate hierarchy. Proponents of the new sport asserted that it developed a manly character and created assertive, charismatic leaders who went on to play important roles in industry and government. Theodore Roosevelt considered football central to a young man's training for life, and in 1890 he linked it with not only the development of character, but also with vigor and courage in the face of physical danger. He and other proponents of football argued that it developed traits in men that were necessary for the survival of both the individual male and American society (Rader, 70).

In an effort to eliminate the extreme brutality and modernize the game, football's advocates made several modifications during the twentieth century. The implementation of the forward pass, countless rule changes, and technological improvements in the equipment that players wore made the game considerably safer, as well as more appealing to a mass consumer audience. College football quickly expanded beyond the Ivy League, becoming one of America's most popular sports and stimulating the creation of youth football, high school football, and professional football nationwide. Parents, coaches, and cultural leaders continue to claim that football teaches men essential life lessons (Nelson, 26).

Yet, football remains a violent and predominantly masculine sport. Efforts to bring women into the game have provoked substantial public skepticism. Modern television equipment and sophisticated microphones on the playing field allow spectators to see and hear all of the sights and sounds ...
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