Why is America Obsessed With Contact Sports?

We’re drawn to violence like moths to a flame.

By Alain StephensMay 1, 2015 9:48 am

The long heralded fight between two of boxing’s most influential forces – Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao – takes place this Saturday, where it’s being reported that some ticket prices have soared to almost $400,000. There’s no doubt that boxing – and particularly its cousin, mixed martial arts – have become fountains of cash for the sporting industry. The big question is: why is America obsessed with combat sports?

To get the low-down, the Texas Standard spoke to Jonathan Gottschall, author of the new book “Professor In The Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like To Watch.”

Gottschall, an English instructor at a small liberal arts college, says he looked out the window one day during office hours and noticed a cage-fighting gym had opened up across the street. He says he was impressed and interested, and jokingly thought to himself: ‘Hey, wouldn’t be funny if I went across the street and I joined them?’

“You know, because it was me,” he says. “I’m 40. I’m kind of a chubby English professor.”

His next thought was more sobering: this could be a book.

Gotschall wanted to write a non-fiction “Fight Club” that also explored the more “deep and ancient questions of the role of violence in human life.”

What he found? Humanity is somehow drawn magnetically to the lure of the fight.

“The book is about not so much violence like unfettered untethered wanton savagery, but about structured forms of violence,” he says. “It is almost impossible to find a culture where sport fighting doesn’t occur in one form or another from boxing to wrestling to stick-fighting. All these martial arts where people gather around to fight. Everywhere and always, people have loved to watch men fight.”