This chapter begins with an examination of why people watch aggression and violence in sport and find it enjoyable and entertaining. This examination will compare four very different kinds of violent 'sports'. These have been chosen because they represent 'sport' in the broadest sense of the term, they involve either real or fake violence, and they have or have had a high profile in terms of providing entertainment for very large numbers of spectators. In trying to explain why people enjoy these sports, concepts from reversal theory, including cognitive synergies, protective frames and parapathic emotions, will be included in the discussion. The chapter will go on to discuss broader aspects of a current academic debate on the possible effects of viewing media violence in general, and will then focus more specifically on the possible effects of viewing violence in sports. The sports chosen for discussion in the early part of this chapter are K-1, or ultimate fighting as it is sometimes known, professional wrestling, the manufactured-for-television 'sport' The American Gladiators, and violent sports depicted in science fiction sports films such as Rollerball and The Running Man.
K-1, or ultimate fighting, involves a mix of boxing, kickboxing, karate, wrestling and 'kakutogi', or martial arts. With the very minimum of rules, fights are kept short so that fighters are encouraged to go all-out for victory rather than conserve their energy for later rounds. This has produced an 'anything goes', action-filled and fear-inducing violent spectacle in which many fights end before the final bell. At a recent K-1 fighting Grand Prix, in March 2002 in Tokyo, the highlight of the night was a mixed fight between Royce Gracie from Brazil and Hidehiko Yoshida from Japan. Gracie is a member of the famous Gracie family, who have been proponents of a form of freestyle jujitsu in Brazil (Gracie jujitsu), and Yoshida is a former Japanese Judo World Champion and Olympic gold medalist. The fight ended in controversy; the referee stopped the fight after 7 minutes 24 seconds in the first round and declared Yoshida the winner when the Brazilian apparently lost consciousness. Gracie and his corner were extremely unhappy with the decision, claiming that the fighter had not lost consciousness and should have been allowed to continue fighting (Maylam, 2001; Nishiyama, 2001; 'Yoshida is', 2002).
The contrast between K-1 and professional wrestling could hardly be greater. Indeed, although marketed as a sport, pro-wrestling has been more appropriately