Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sports - not all fun and games

The recent World Cup highlighted how traditional masculinity is still highly valued in the sports world, especially in Latin America. While researching to write this blog, I was surprised to find that many articles regarding an incidence of violence failed to criticize the player or delve deeper into the topic. During a game against Italy, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez bit another player and was suspended from soccer for four months. He has been in trouble for similar incidents before but still attempted to appeal the decision.

Sports matches seem to bring out the most stereotypical of masculine behaviors in both spectators and players, from aggression, anger and yelling to violent behavior. Suarez’s behavior highlights what is often referred to in the US as machismo, which Kilmartin describes as a “stereotype of the Latino male” that is “the display of strong and aggressive masculinity” (117). Machismo consists of both positive qualities such as courage and respect for others, and negative qualities such as strength and superiority over women. There is no way of knowing what the real motivation behind Suarez’s actions, whether conscious or unconscious, but it highlights an issue about acceptable behavior in the machismo mindset and sports in general.

While the Uruguay football club complained that ban was too harsh, another former player named Mark Lawrenson felt differently, as he stated in an interview with BBC sport.
"Say my boy was about 11 or 12, how do you explain to your lad who's a football fan exactly what Luis Suarez keeps doing?" he told BBC Sport. "He is now a persistent offender and I thought actually the ban would have been much harsher."

Lawrenson makes an interesting point about how violent behavior is portrayed as being positive and acceptable in sports, which can be very influential on boys. I believe that we should be more concerned about kids participating in sports involving physical contact at a young age and carefully explain how acts of violence seen in sports games are not acceptable forms of behavior, emphasizing consequences players face for such actions.

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