Masculinity, Violence, and the American Sports Culture Essay

Masculinity, Violence, and the American Sports Culture Essay

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The sports culture produces some of the most revered and idolized figures in American society. Athletic achievements are glorified and the achievers are often elevated to an extraordinary, super-human status. The rewards, praise, honor, power, and privilege that come from exhibited athletic talent and ability can be enticing as well as addicting. Heroes emerge in our society when a line is crossed in record time, an unfathomable amount of points are scored, or beautifully placed, even lucky shots result in game-winning goals. For many athletes their sport defines them. They have participated in a sport their entire lives, modeled the moves and strategies of their predecessors in practice after practice, devoted to becoming the star that they dream of. For many young boys especially, sports are a way to gain acceptance within a peer group, identify with the male sex, and establish relationships. It is a context wherein boys learn how to be boys, to be masculine, to achieve status within our success-driven culture (Messner, 1).

Society defines the essence of masculinity in part through sport. Athletics encourage or reinforce the courageous, strong, superior, and competitive male sex role (Messner, 20). Boys grow up being judged by their ability, inability, interest in, or ambivalence toward sport. They equate their successes and failures with self-worth, sometimes producing a self-image wherein they value themselves more or less depending on these achievements (Messner, 24). Young boys can learn priceless lessons and acquire life skills from early experiences in athletics. Concepts like, teamwork, cooperation, being a good loser, and respecting your competition are integral to sports participation. There are, howev...

... middle of paper ...

...ts heroes should be those who display the work ethic, success, and incredible performance through exemplary moral means. The macho and stereotypically masculine attributes that can manifest themselves in corrupt ways cannot benefit the young boys looking up to the men who are their idols.


Attorney General’s Report: UVM Hockey Team Hazing. 1 December, 2001

Lapchick, Richard E. Fractured Focus: Sport as a Reflection of Society. Toronto: Lexington Books, 1986.

McKay, Jim, Michael A. Messner, and Don Sabo. Masculinities, Gender Relations, and Sport. London: Sage Publications Inc., 2000.

Messner, Michael A. Power at Play. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992

Messner, Michael A., and Donald F. Sabo. Sex, Violence and Power in Sports: Rethinking Masculinity. Freedom: The Crossing Press, 1994

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