What Do Dogfighting and Football Have in Common?

In both sports, it’s expected that someone or something “almost always get[s] hurt,” writes Malcolm Gladwell in this New Yorker article, where he goes over the sports’ similarities — including the reason why, despite their brutality, both will likely stick around for a long time. [%comments]


Isn't it BECAUSE of their brutality that they will stick around for a long time?


I thought the answer was "Michael Vick."


Jim you beat me too it. :)


Uh, but people choose to play football; dogs in dogfighting have no option.

Jordan Amdahl

Of course, what do they not have in common: Football occurs with the meaningful consent of it's partcipants.


Still not completely through the article so I assume they get to this but there is an all-important distinction. Football players know the risks (presumably), know the alternatives, and make a decision. Dogs do not. The two "sports" are not morally equivalent.

Jonathan Katz

Bear and bull baiting (with dogs, not matadors) have disappeared, and so did gladiatorial games in Rome.


The informed consent argument has some appeal, but can't you make the argument that coaches and management at all levels have downplayed the brain injury risks to the players, so the consent is not truly informed?


The argument against the "consent' is sort of made at the end of the piece. . .that football players, like dogs, are selected for gameness. It's not the strongest part of the essay, IMO.

Dogs can choose not to fight. But, they are encourage by their master's "love" (quotes intentional).

Yes, football players are sentient beings, but they are brought into football at young ages with authority figures who encourage them to play in such a manner that is likely to harm them.

As Gladwell writes, " We are in love with football players, with their courage and grit, and nothing else—neither considerations of science nor those of morality—can compete with the destructive power of that love."


Anyone who argues that the appeal of football is in the violence obviously is not a football fan, or likely a sports fan for that matter.


People bet on them and betting is a major part of their allure.



I'm actually a sport fan. As a matter of fact, I like a good number of sports. I also played a year of D-1 baseball, so you might want to retract your claim.

I'm making the claim that the violence in American football is one of the main driving forces in it being so popular in the USA.

Do you have a counterclaim?


#9 As a former football player and coach for over 15 years I can can tell you that if you do not have it in you, in your heart, to play the game of football then after the age of 12 then you will "wash out."

The game is too physical and too demanding. It requires a huge level of commitment in order for one to succeed at the high school level let alone college and the pros. So I think your argument that kids are indoctrinated into the culture and play on into their adult years because of it is false


It is all a matter of degrees. I would never argue that the violence doesn't attract any fans. However, to say that it is "one of the main driving forces in [football] being so popular" seems quite extreme.
Your claim cannot be conclusively proven or false but I would ask you to consider the XFL. It was promoted as a more violent NFL yet it folded after one season. It would appear then that football fans were not attracted to the extra violence being offered.



I think that you raise strong points regarding the XFL. I just think that the talent wasn't there to help the league endure, instead of the extra violence not being an incentive.

Perhaps we'll need more leagues to pop up in order to increase the sample size of failed professional leagues.


It would be interesting to compare the rate of this type of injury to those sustained by rugby players who don't have the benefit of padding, helmets and the like. My gut feeling would be that it would be much less if for no other reason that you feel so much more vulnerable without the protection and therefore don't go into the tackles as hard and in a safer way i.e. not head first.

science minded observateur distrait un peu

Guys--you all are too serious-- the point is ----With dogfighting and football, everyone gets kicked/bitten--you know where? There are no ultimate winners. The question is how do these sport games differ from the one of science--The answer-- In science, everyone can be a real winner.

Bobby G

Jim #2 wins.


#17..great post.

To some others here, the truth that the primary attraction of football is violence is obvious and undeniable. Gladwell mentions (in jest) turning the NFL into a flag football league, in order to make it safe. I don't think anyone seriously believes it would have an audience, at least in the US. Brutality and viscousness are at the core of this rotten and dangerous sport.

The point Gladwell fails to make is that society deserves to be protected from the walking time bombs this sick pastime produces, with appalling regularity, and from the mob violence and vandalism that invariably follow football matches. the perversion of football should be instantaneously outlawed.

Professional Sports Fan

The National Football League did not actually form until 1920. During this time, many teams dropped out of the league and did not play their set schedules