Numerous recent headlines suggest that sports violence is on the rise. Why? Is it just “part of the game”? Or is it an indication of something bigger?
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It started on the basketball court, with a foul that turned into a shoving match between two opposing players. At first, the scuffle seemed to subside as the two men were separated. But, with fans pelting athletes in the face with popcorn and cups of beer, fistfights broke out between athletes and spectators in the stands, which then spilled onto the court. Punches were thrown. Chairs and other objects were tossed. Police had to use pepper spray to get the situation under control.
What had started as a routine basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers went down as one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history. NBA commissioner David Stern described it as “shocking, repulsive, and inexcusable, a humiliation for everyone.” A basketball player for the Sacramento Kings said, “Soccer fights get brutal. People die in soccer fights, but this is the worst I’ve ever seen in the NBA.”
The November 19, 2004 incident resulted in the suspension of nine athletes, ranging from one game to 73 games (the remainder of the season). The suspended players collectively lost approximately $11.5 million of their annual salary.
The melee also yielded criminal charges. Prosecutors charged five players on one team with assault and battery, misdemeanor assault and battery, and felony assault. These charges can carry a penalty of three months in jail and a fine of up to $500 to four years in prison. One player could face more time due to a prior criminal record. Seven fans also face assault charges.
The day after the incident, an American college football game turned into chaos. Police had to be brought in to end the violence.
And the following day, in Turkey, a sixteen-year-old was stabbed to death by another fan while watching a soccer match.
Clearly, violence in sports is becoming common, and fans can be just as guilty as the players. Just take a look at “hooliganism”—disorderly, aggressive and often violent behavior by spectators at sporting events. Gangs of rival fans arrange to meet at specific locations before and after soccer matches to fight. England has the worst reputation for hooliganism, though other countries are struggling with the growing problem.
Many spectators show up at sporting events with one thing in mind—heckling the athletes.
Of course, most are there just to enjoy the game. However, if “their” team does not perform to their liking, they too can quickly become violent. People have a tendency to take the team’s performance personally and allow this to affect their lives.
Why is this happening? Has it always been this way? Will things ever return to “normal”?
Sports writers, columnists and others have offered their opinions as to why the sudden burst of violence in sports. But have you considered that sports rage is a mirror of today’s society? There was a time when road rage did not exist. There was a time when the phenomenon known as “going postal” was unheard of. These, along with sports rage, are symptoms of a society that is becoming increasingly violent.
A brief look at our world reveals that people are consumed with material possessions. The image and idea of self is all-important. Many allow their thinking to be ruled by envy, greed, and the lust for power. People are so accustomed to the comforts of “the good life” that if these were taken away, they would not know how to continue living. Most would resort to any means necessary to ensure that they get what they want.
On December 16, 2004, an American woman viciously attacked another woman, cut open her womb and removed her baby. The alleged assailant had posed on the Internet as a customer for the victim’s dog-breeding business in order to arrange the rendezvous. It appears as though she had been plotting this horrible act for months. She had been announcing that she was due to give birth on the same day as her victim. After the crime, she took the baby across the border to her Kansas home and showed it to her neighbors and friends—saying that the baby was her own. Incredible!
The woman wanted so desperately to have a baby that she stole another woman’s unborn baby! Slaughtering the baby’s mother like an animal, all that she could think of was herself. Unfortunately, events such as this are becoming more and more commonplace.
In his first inaugural address in 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower made the following statement: “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
President Eisenhower was correct. The natural result of valuing privileges (blessings) above principles (or laws) is that people will cease to be concerned about the needs and welfare of others. Notice what the Bible states about this: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12). A cursory look at society will show this to be the case.
A look back to the time of the early 1900s will reveal an altogether different attitude in society. Of course, violence was still an issue. However, people generally had concern for each other and were not completely consumed with themselves, as is the case today. Earning millions of dollars, driving fancy cars and being part of the latest fad were the furthest things from most people’s minds. There were more important things to consider, such as rearing children and providing for one’s family. To get an idea of what life was like in 1929, take notice of the following:
“Beans were a common meal and were often given to us by a farmer friend. We usually had lots of homemade cookies and cakes, too. But it was kind of great, going to family reunions and eating their ‘store bought’ cookies and bread. My mother would cook for hours and hours on a little wood-burning laundry stove.
“With all the canning my mother did from our garden, our weekly grocery bill wasn’t that big. We only bought the bare necessities.”
“Mostly I remember if it hadn’t been for my mother who was an excellent seamstress, and she seemed to find jobs here and there with the department stores, I don’t know how we would have made it, because my father was a common laborer, a factory worker, and there just wasn’t any jobs at that time.
“Sometimes during the winter...when the snow fell in Detroit they called for people that they wanted to shovel the snow, and of course everybody didn’t get hired—you just had to go out there and the foreman or whoever would be throwing the shovel and if you happened to catch it you’re hired. And so my father would go out there and on occasion he would be hired and earn a couple of dollars or so for the day’s work there” (www.michigan.gov).
People in those days learned to persevere by going through adversity. As a result, they developed character. Everyday life was a struggle, but they took each day as it came and were thankful for what they had. Coveting the “big life” was less of an issue. People had to deal with things that most people today do not understand. But through it all, they learned to appreciate the more important things in life.
During that time, sports were also different. People generally understood that it was just a game. Players were not grossly overpaid and were not elevated above the rest of society. Many athletes had part-time jobs during the off-season in order to supplement their incomes. The fans enjoyed the games for what they were, and the athletes just enjoyed playing. Contrast that with today.
If today’s sports could look into a mirror, it would see today’s society. As long as society is violent, sports will be violent. It is that simple. Take a look at any number of sporting events around the world, and you will find violence—fights, riots, beatings, bombings, and murders. Notice the following accounts:
March 17, 1955: Maurice Richard, a player for the Montreal Canadians, had been suspended by NHL president Clarence Campbell. In a game against the Detroit Red Wings in Montreal, Mr. Campbell had a tear gas bomb thrown at him. The stadium was evacuated and the game forfeited. The violence was taken out onto St. Catherines Street. More than sixty arrests were made because of looting and breaking of windows.
The interesting part of this story is that the suspension was labeled as anti-French by the French-Canadian populace of Quebec. It was called the “Richard Riot” and became a slogan during Quebec’s independence movement.
1974, Cleveland Stadium, Ohio: Fans watching the Cleveland Indians play the Texas Rangers were only charged ten cents for a glass of beer—a definite recipe for disaster. Thousands of drunken fans later charged onto the field. Their purpose: Attack the umpires and players. They succeeded, and the game was forfeited.
1979, Comiskey Park, Chicago: A local DJ held an anti-disco promotion during a game between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. Any fan that showed up with a disco record was charged only ninety-eight cents for admission. The records were thrown into a box, placed in center field and blown up. A riot soon took place, with about 7,000 fans brawling and setting bonfires.
1980, Wembley Arena, United Kingdom: After Marvin Hagler knocked out Alan Minter to win the world middleweight boxing title, many of Minter’s supporters threw beer cans, bottles and other objects into the ring. Both the boxers and their handlers had to be escorted out by Scotland Yard.
1985, Heysel Stadium, Brussels: Liverpool soccer fans attacked rival supporters, who fled in panic. Trying to escape, they became trapped against a wall that collapsed, resulting in 39 deaths.
1993, Hamburg, Germany: Monica Seles, a tennis player, was stabbed by a fan of the opposing player, Steffi Graf, during the match. She survived but never regained her dominant status.
1994: A Colombian soccer player was shot outside a local bar in Medellin, after a game in which he mistakenly scored a goal for the opposing team.
2000: A Los Angeles Dodgers player was sitting in the bullpen when a fan stole his hat and hit him on the head. The player, along with several other players, went pouring into the stands.
2001: In a game against the Philadelphia Flyers, a player from the Toronto Maple Leafs wrestled with a fan, while he was in the penalty box. The athlete poured water over fans who were taunting him while he was in the box. A fan threw a punch at him; and when the glass panel that separated the two collapsed, he pulled the fan into the box.
November 20, 2004: A South Carolina versus Clemson college football game turned into chaos when a Clemson player kicked a South Carolina player in the head during a fourth-quarter brawl. The violence covered sixty yards of the playing field and needed police officers to bring it to an end.
As you can see, violence is a definite problem in the sports world. But one might ask the question, “Are these just isolated incidents?” Remember. Society is violent; therefore, we can conclude that this is happening more often than we might think. An investigation of various news sources will show this to be the case.
Athletes’ attitudes have changed as well. They are now paid ridiculous amounts of money and are treated as gods. The following are examples of the prevailing attitude in today’s sports world:
“I don’t pay attention to what people are saying. They don’t understand what is going on, as far as [being] a basketball player. The way I look at it, they don’t know nothing about me, they don’t know nothing about basketball. They never played before.”
“The guys in the locker room are the ones I am playing for.” This was stated after a basketball player was booed for calling a seven-million-dollar-a-year-contract offer “insulting” and said, “I got a family to feed.” He said that he was being “disrespected” by the team that he was playing for.
What can be done about all of this violence? Are there solutions? There are solutions that man proposes, and there are solutions that God will implement.
When addressing any issue in life, one must seek out and find the causes. In the long run, treating only the effects will not solve anything. If the cause is fixed, then naturally, the effect will also be fixed. Let’s take a look at various solutions to the violence that are proposed by a newspaper.
• Student groups who incite rival players should be kept at least fifty yards away from the opposing team.
• Fans should find a happy medium between rooting for their teams versus being caught on an emotional roller coaster.
• Fans that are bent on mayhem should not be allowed to attend any more games until they have “vowed to clean up their act.”
• Coaches should pull from a game any player who engages in any “cheap shot” that results in pain or injury.
• Stadiums should implement a “fan code of ethics.”
• Parents should show some responsibility and monitor what their children do in their spare time.
• We should watch less MTV and violent movies and watch more TV Land and TMC.
• Schools should crack down on vulgar and unsportsmanlike chants.
• We should remember an 11-word phrase: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Notice Christ’s exact words in Luke 6:31: “And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise.”)
Stop for a moment and consider the ideas that you have just read. Do they sound like solutions that will work? Yes. However, we must venture back to the cause-and-effect principle. Are man’s solutions addressing the cause? No! They are aimed at the effect—the effect of HUMAN NATURE! The solutions that people devise will not—cannot—work.
People have many ideas about the reason for violence and offer a host of theories too numerous to mention in this article. They err by rejecting the true foundation of all knowledge—the Bible. In this Book (actually, a collection of books) are the answers to life’s biggest questions. However, most shrug it off as a collection of fairy tales. But those who are serious about finding the real answers to the source of all of society’s ills will want to investigate what it says. Notice:
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts” (Jms. 4:1-3).
Fights—violence—come from lusts raging inside. All human beings have acquired this violent human nature. We see something that we want and we fight for it. A supposed “injustice” is done to us and we fight about it. When things do not go our way, we “lose it.”
But where did human nature come from?
Notice what God’s Word says: “Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our [conduct] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:2-3).
This is referring to Satan the devil. Like a radio station broadcasting its signal into every home, Satan (whose name means “adversary”) broadcasts wrong thoughts, attitudes, and desires into the mind of every human being—regardless of whether or not one is aware of it. Thus, Satan’s nature is human nature.
Of course, most people do not believe this, or that the devil even exists. The Bible reveals why: “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:9).
Satan is the ultimate cause of this world’s violence and destructive habits. People neglect the reality of Satan and the words that the Bible contains. The result is growing evils and ignorance of solutions to this world’s rapidly increasing problems.
With violent attitudes such as sports rage, road rage and others occurring so frequently, it is no wonder that Jesus Christ compared our world today with that of Noah’s time (Matt. 24:37). Here is a look at those days:
“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Gen. 6:5, 12).
Take a look around you. Mankind is quickly taking on the likeness of that time. (To learn more, read our booklet Did God Create Human Nature?)
There is only one solution to the violence so prevalent in sports and society—the GOVERNMENT OF GOD. Unlike human governments that rise and pass away into history, once this government is established, it will stand throughout all eternity! Very soon, Jesus Christ will return in full glory as King of kings and Lord of lords, and all violence will come to an end.
Before this can take place, something must be done with Satan. When a new ruler comes to power, the old one must be put away. Satan cannot remain free to influence mankind during the rule of Christ. This is precisely what the Day of Atonement (one of God’s Holy Days) pictures—the putting away of the devil at Christ’s Return.
Unlike holidays such as Christmas and Easter, God’s Holy Days are rich in meaning. Each one reveals a segment of His MASTER PLAN. The world is ignorant of these days; and thus, they are oblivious to what God is doing here on earth. (To learn more about God’s Master Plan, study our 30-lesson Bible Introduction Course.)
Knowing he now has but a short time, Satan is about ready to unleash a time of tribulation. The increasing violence happening around the world is indicative of this. But it is going to get worse—much worse! All of this will culminate in what the Bible calls the Great Tribulation.
One thing is certain: After those terrible days, an everlasting government of righteousness will rule earth—and the entire universe.
“And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14).
Imagine a world without fights, murders, rapes, bombings and war—a world of absolute peace and harmony! Christ and His saints will replace these things with peace, cooperation, joy and godly love. People will take the wants and needs of others into consideration before themselves. Mankind will practice the GIV way of life, instead of the GET way. Violent human nature, along with the sports world as we know it, will be no more!
Notice: “And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more“ (Micah 4:3).