IN the pre-game TV promotion just before last week's Copper Bowl
football game in Phoenix, four stars of the Kansas State team
stepped off a train dressed like cowboys. All carried guns. Coming
at them down the abandoned Western street were four stars from the
Wyoming team, all dressed like cowboys with their guns ready.
Suddenly they opened fire, the screen filling with blazing guns
and gun smoke. When the smoke cleared, the scene shifted to a
packed football stadium at night. An emotional announcer said the
shootout had begun.
Football fans in the United States might call it a touch of
harmless promotional theater. Critics of the growing violence in
and around American sports would cite it as another example of the
way violence and sports increasingly cross-pollinated each other in
With the ultimate sports conflict, the Super Bowl, just a few
weeks away, some people are asking if the level of violence in
professional sports is influencing all levels of social behavior in
US society? Are superstars and professional teams becoming role
models for violence?
"Sports mirror society," says Albert Applin, vice chancellor
of the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, Ala. "In our
achievement-oriented society there is the urge to be No. 1. And
competitive sports mirror this, including the violence that can
result from that urge. Until society resolves it's underlying
problems, sports will reflect all of society's problems."
But other observers say today's sports actually are contributing
to violent behavior. "I think the violence goes both ways," says
Myriam Miedzian, author of the book, "Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking
the Link Between Masculinity and Violence." Her view is that
violence in sports sets a negative example as well as being a
reflection of societal problems.
According to some experts, a lot of society's enthusiasm for
professional sports, particularly among youth gangs and young
criminals, stems from the violence and dominance in today's sports,
not from sportsmanship or love of the game.
In an extreme example, last year in Lakewood, Calif., a gang of
teenagers, calling themselves the Spur Posse after the San Antonio
Spurs pro basketball team, were charged with rape and other sexual
The teenagers were keeping score of their sexual conquests of
girls. If a boy had 50 conquests, that equaled the number worn by
Spurs player David Robinson. One of the boys' fathers told a
reporter the boys were acting just like professional athletes, like
Wilt Chamberlain in particular, who boasted in his autobiography
that he had sex with 20,000 women. …