Boxing

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For 150 years people have been savoring Macaulay’s judgment that the Puritans hated bearbaiting not because it game pain to the bear but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. However, there are moments, and this is one, for blurting out the truth: The Puritans were right. The pain to the bear was not a matter of moral indifference, but the pleasure of the spectators was sufficient reason for abolishing that entertainment. Now another boxer has been beaten to death. The brain injury he suffered was worse than the injury the loser in a boxing match is supposed to suffer. It is hard to calibrate such things – how hard an opponent’s brain should be banged against the side of the cranium – in the heat of the battle. From time immemorial, in immemorial ways, men have been fighting for the entertainment of other men. Perhaps in a serene, temperate society, boxing would be banned along with other blood sports – if, in such a society, the question would even arise. But a step toward the extinction of boxing is understanding why that is desirable. One reason is the physical injury done to young men. But a sufficient reason is the quality of the pleasure boxing often gives to spectators. There is no denying that boxing, like other, better sports, can exemplify excellence. Boxing demands bravery and, when done well, is beautiful in the way that any exercise of finely honed physical talents is. Furthermore, many sports are dangerous. But boxing is the sport that has as its object the infliction of pain and injury. Its crowning achievement is the infliction of serious trauma on the brain. The euphemism for boxing is “the art of self-defense.” No. A rose is a rose is a rose, and a user fee is a revenue enhancer is a tax increase, and boxing is aggression. It is probable that there will be a rising rate of spinal cord injuries and deaths in football. The force of defense players (a function of weight and speed) is increasing even faster than

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