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Have Sports Gone Berserk?

(The Verge) – Since the founding of America, sports have been ingrained in North American culture. Starting with the Native American game of ‘Baggataway’ (like modern day lacrosse), sports have been major cultural icons. However, is it possible that modern sports have pushed the very foundation and definition of sport?
At its most basic roots sport is defined as “Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively” (thefreedictionary).  From a functionalist perspective, ‘sport’ acts as a part of society and culture, serving as a distraction or break from reality. From this perspective, sports offer stability to society; but can modern sports compare closely with the ‘conflict theory perspective’?
This theory says that the notion of ‘sport’ is detrimental to society by, exploiting athletes to keep power in the hands of the elite, the wealthy upper-class that create and uphold the rules. This is most apparent in college sports–how they’re run and governed by the NCAA. College athletes receive full scholarships or majority scholarships for the chance to play for their respective schools. This is used as a form of financial aid, advertisement for the school, and a chance to make it to the professional level.
The NCAA governs not only what rules and regulations players must follow on the field, but also their conduct, behavior, and schedule off the field. On the field, players can receive suspensions and discipline for illegal play and activity, as governed by the all-powerful ‘rule-book.’  However, off the field athletes must attend meetings, keep grades up, and forfeit all rights of a regular college student in regards to social life. In return for their sacrifice, athletes exit college with little or no loans to pay back and a small percentage enter into professional leagues and begin playing for big money (but don’t hold your breath).
However, another issue supporting the conflict perspective in college sports is: the issue of paying college athletes. The NCAA is a multi-billion dollar industry making money off bowl games, advertisements and jersey sales, while athletes work for no pay and are prohibited from accepting money of any kind while owners and coaches make millions or even billions of dollars in the exploitation of player skills and effort.

Sports dominate this nation. They engulf the lives of millions, consciously or not. Image taken from: getmesoftware.com.

Professional sports also support the Conflict Theory Perspective through the extensive commercialization of the game.  Everything from: Stadiums being named after big corporations (which also buy naming rights), to Jersey sales, to commercial and advertising sales, to the support of non-profit organizations, to athletes making millions of dollars a year to play a game…supports this theory.
Sports have moved away from being friendly games played for fun and used to distract the public, to a booming industry where fandom is commercialized, businesslike and systematic.
Well, what does Sunday mean to you? Once upon a time, Sunday meant going to church, being with family; it was a religious day, a day of rest. For some people it still is, but for most people in North America, Sunday means FOOTBALL DAY! Where once people would complain and grumble about waking up an hour earlier on Sunday for church, now they drag beer, food, and grills to stadiums to start tailgating hours before kickoff. People fight and die for their team. For serious fans, Halloween does not come once a year, but instead, every single Sunday!
Sport has also become a deterrent for daily activities. Despite what else might have to be accomplished that day if your team is playing –regardless of their opponent and regardless of the record — it has become such a ritual for most Americans to simply sit, and watch the game. Sports have begun to impede society by distracting individuals from accomplishing their tasks. It is no longer just a part of society or a way of thinking, it has evolved into strangely predictable way of life.
For those who claim they don’t watch sports (or dislike them), the simple fact remains: in the current technological age, we’re constantly bombarded with sports facts, scores, news and statistics. This society does not simply embrace the idea of sport, it thrives on it.

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