Kevin Ware, Violence in Sports and Should Kids Be Allowed to Watch?

To say Darcy is a sports fan is to say that War And Peace is a tad long. He hid his mania for all things athletic from me for a while, but it became starkly obvious how much he needed sports in his life when we moved to London and he became obsessed by televised cricket. The most boring and confusing sport in the world.

Sorry, Brits 😉

So, we watch a lot of sports around here. We also watch Bryant Gumbel’s HBO show Real Sports (some of the best investigative journalism in the world, and yes, I am serious) and thanks to that show I am very well aware how incredibly gruesome the head injuries sustained by football players are, and how dire the long-term consequences of said injuries are. I truly think football is not too different than the gladiator games in Rome, and even though I was a cheerleader in high school and come from my own legacy of 49er fans (ahem: my father and brother are only slightly less fanatic than Darcy), I just can’t watch football in good conscience anymore.

On the other hand, I love baseball and have no problem taking the kids to Giants games. There are problems with baseball (steroids) but it’s not an inherently violent sport.

Basketball is more tricky. I don’t love professional basketball. I don’t love the morals some of the main players represent (LeBron James leaving his hometown team for a team with better prospects seemed selfish and I don’t like the veneration of Kobe Bryant) and the game is sort of dull.

However, I LOVE March Madness. The unpredictable nature of the tournament, the underdogs coming from behind and the last minute plays are truly exciting. There isn’t the big money, the players seem to play from the heart just for the glory of being there and making the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four seems to be the only goal. There’s also usually some compelling human story, and that story (Cinderella or otherwise) seems to reflect on American society.

This year, the biggest story is Kevin Ware and his gruesome injury, his courage after suffering this injury and the team’s determination to mark a victory from such a terrible event.

Normally, our son and Darcy would have been watching the game but we were in New Orleans for a wedding and Darcy began watching the game on the plane instead by himself. I am so glad he did, because what happened next was beyond comprehension.

WARNING!!!!! THIS FOOTAGE IS GRUESOME BEYOND ANYTHING I CAN DESCRIBE. Click at your own risk. I am not exaggerating.

Obviously, the faces of the players said it all. Basketball has a relatively low level of injury compared to other sports, and to see someone take a normal jump and for THAT to happen, well, it was incomprehensible, scary, horrific and your heart went into your throat and all you could think was just immense sympathy for Kevin Ware. His teammates were in tears and apparently some of them actually threw up.

What happened next is just as incomprehensible: Ware, in terrible, horrible pain, called over his teammates on Louisville and asked them to “just win the game, y’all.”

Which they then did, handily defeating powerhouse Duke.

I have been very disturbed about this story all day. I think it’s because as a mother of a son, I worry about sports. About the messages of sports. I know that there are things that benefit boys and men about sports: talking about sports is how they bond. And I think I know why: in the language of sports talk, there is an emotional currency of sorts. You can express your horror safely by telling the tale of Kevin Ware’s injury, you can choke up over the victory of Louisville in Kevin Ware’s name. It’s a safe way to express your emotions to other men.

So I don’t want to take this away from my son (who is already obsessed with baseball cards and the Giants) but I worry.

Do you think sports are too violent? Do you watch sports? Would you let a child watch sports?



Filed under Parenting After IF

16 responses to “Kevin Ware, Violence in Sports and Should Kids Be Allowed to Watch?

  1. lady, I love cricket! And if you’ve ever seen the Ponting/Gillespie clash, they replay it all the time, they smashed into each other while both looking at the ball trying to catch it and it ended in Gillespie having a broken leg… well, these things just happen. they happen in real life as well as in sport. We can’t protect everyone from everything?

  2. Are sports too violent? Ummm, yes. I know it’s been overshadowed in the States by what happened at the basketball game, but also this weekend, Sidney Crosby took a puck IN THE MOUTH. After being out almost all of last season because of repeat concussions. I’m sure this isn’t helping, poor kid. It was the lead story on the national newscast here last night.

    The New York Times did an excellent, excellent series last year on Derek Boogard, a hockey “enforcer” whose role is basically to fight. He died from an overdose of pills — he popped painkillers like they were candy. It was amazing journalism. And sickening.

  3. No way. I love all sports. Some sports are contact sports and call me blood thirsty but you know that’s what happens sometimes. I saw the Kevin Ware incident and we have had worse in the AFL (australian football) when Nathan Brown broke his tibia, acutally we have had a hell of a lot worse incidents in AFL and they don’t wear padding (James Hird running head on into the ball and fracturing his cheek socket – that image is pretty bad, Jonathon Brown collecting his face on someone’s knee etc etc). We have lots of injuries in netball, soccer, cricket so on and so forth.

    I know it sounds bad but it’s life. I think not letting our children not watch sports for fear of them seeing something that might be considered gruesome is an over reaction. Things happen, we can’t alway shield our children from theseimages. Personally I think America’s gun culture is more horrific than an injury that occured during a game of basketball and having a player go off on a stretcher saying saying win the game. That inspires me an arsehole with a gun sickens me.

    Also, (get off the old high horse Chonnie) shielding our children from everything is just another thing that can piss me off about parenting. Don’t eat this, don’t tell our children that they are not doing well in school in case it hurts feelings, don’t watch sport you might get hurt – we can’t wrap kids up in cotton wool. 99 years ago children as young as 14 were sneaking off and lying about their age to fight in a war to protect our future generation and these days we are scared children are seeing bad images yet we contradict ourselves when they are acting like adults in the way they dress, talk and act and we allow them to play computer games that promote violence. Am I making sense?

    would I let my child watch sport. Yes. will I let my child play sport – hell yes (not only for the health benefits but the entire gamut of benefits I believe playing sport promotes) do I think sport is to violent – no. One injury like that in an unbelievalbly long season is a tiny percentage of such insignificance that it does not change my mind one bit.

    wow! clearly something that I am passionate about!!

    • You took the words right out of my mouth, Chon! Seriously, we’re questioning if basketball is too violent? I understand questioning boxing and American wrestling, because the goals of those sports are to HURT people, but a leg injury that just happened to happen? Umm… am I missing something?

      I was expecting much worse when I clicked over to the video clip (I hadn’t seen it yet, but had heard all about it) – the injury sounds gruesome, but the video didn’t seem to show too much. I saw an injury like this in real life, up close and personal, when I was 21 – and let me tell you – it was horrific. A 6 year-old granddaughter of my coworker fell on the playground and instead of taking her to the ER, her dad (stupidly) brought her to her grandma’s workplace first. Hearing her crying but not knowing what was going on (I knew the girls well), I went in to try to help and then was shown an arm bone fully broken and sticking out of the skin, fat cells and all exposed (I mention fat cells because I remember that the most – and this kid was skinny). Horrifying – and made even worse when the girl begged me to convince her grandma to just let her go home instead of the hospital. I almost threw up. But do I look at that situation and think, “nope – playgrounds have become too violent and my kids can’t play on them?” Hell no!

      The positives that come from sports are so much more valuable than the negativies that come from them. Take Taekwondo, for example – that can be very violent if a kick isn’t thrown just right – my husband broke a guy’s nose a few years back at a major tourney because the guy didn’t shield his face (and acidentally turned into the kick). But the determination, self-respect, body control, and individual stamina that comes from TKD is awesome and not something to deny a child just because they could get hurt some day doing it. No way!

      Well said, Chon!

  4. I’m definitely not a fan of hockey, I would prefer my son start in soccer – I just hate the whole culture of violence surrounding hockey. However, whether it’s a sport or it’s crossing the street, life is full of dangers and as soon as you take up a sport or any physical activity that will have body contact at some point, the chances of getting seriously injured is higher than sitting on the couch watching TV or playing cards. I would prefer my kid be involved in something that promotes discipline, physical fitness and teamwork than not. Life is for living fully and following one’s dreams.

  5. I feel like these comments are responding to other people’s comments and not to the actual post, which is what I’m hoping to do…

    I will admit that I haven’t thought much about which sports we will let our daughter watch when she gets to an age where watching them interests her (if she ever gets to that age, lawd knows I never did). We will probably take her to Cal football games because Go Bears! is already a big part of her life and I suppose we will have to decide when we feel she is old enough to see that kind of violence. Because football is violent and it will affect our children in some way or another, even if it is just to desensitize them to that violence, which is what has already happened to all of us.

    I do think that I’d be less likely to worry about games like basketball that are generally not violent but that can sometimes offer some horrible gruesome accident. Those kinds of things are awful but they are part of life and hopefully if my daughter witnessed one I could turn it into a teaching moment, mostly to teach her that bad things can happen but that they are very, very rare.

    Of course, I don’t watch sports and my partner isn’t much interested either so she’s going to have to find and fall in love with these things on her own. I’ll be more worried about violence in movies and TV because that is what we’ll probably be watching. I know we’re not the norm on being sports-are-boring folk.

  6. I think this is a really compelling question because there is more to it than simply the inherent danger of sport. I think it’s a question of what kind of culture are our children immersed in.

    I wanted to include that clip about the hockey injury in our state because the dialogue it opened for our community is had to do with what are we promoting in our sport. Boogaard was a player On our beloved team…Hero to so many children. Here in Minnesota hockey is a family sport.

    We have to balance all of the positives that sport brings to our lives… And there are many for boys and girls –With the negatives.

    Rather than the violence of the sport…I am much more worried about the sense of entitlement, and locker room mentality that if unchecked can be more dangerous than any compound fracture. If you get a good coach then I think you are bound to create youth that are respectful, disciplined, well-rounded athletes in the classic sense…But, if not… Look at Steubenville Ohio. I know that is particularly inflammatory right now… But I think that is on everyone’s mind. The nation just did something in conjunction with Eve Ensler did you see this? Called Breaking the Male Code:After Steubenville

    Sorry for this dictated on my phone… But I wanted to enter into the conversation



  7. You know, I didn’t think I had any opinion about sports at all, but I’m not even done with your post yet, but had to jump in to comment that I don’t think it’s reasonable that LeBron James should be expected to live in Ohio for the rest of his life just out of some kind of weird sports loyalty anymore than any other person should have to be stuck in a specific town just because they were born there, or in a job that doesn’t meet their personal, professional, or financial goals.

    Just had to say that. Now I’ll go and read the rest 😉

  8. I am quite intrigued by this post and the comments. I grew up a staunch music/drama kid and have never played an organized sport in my life, other than what was required of me in gym. That said, I’m a die-hard Redskins fan (I know, I live for disappointment). I’ve been known to watch professional wrestling (yes, it IS a sport). I love the Olympics. And I think it’s safe to say that yeah- sports are pretty friggin’ violent or have SOME issue (e.g., steroidal abuses).

    I think it’s because as a mother of a son, I worry about sports. About the messages of sports.

    With my first child on the way, as someone who never grew up with boys – I have no idea what it’s going to be like to parent a son. No clue. I’m leaning pretty heavily on Larry to walk me through this 😉 But it’s things like sports (and, somewhat relatedly – rape culture, video game violence, etc.) that have me already clutching my pearls and wringing my hands at how to address and talk about these issues.

    Do I want a son who’s into the arts instead of sports? Absolutely. But I’m not going to Gypsy Rose Lee my child into pursuing MY interests over his. I’ll love and support him no matter what. But I think of things like soccer practice and pee-wee football… and it makes me nervous.

    (Granted, everything about parenting makes me nervous but that’s beside the point.)

  9. I don’t think that most sports are too violent, although personally, I can’t bear to watch boxing, competitive martial arts, or any other activity where hurting other humans on purpose is a design feature. Since football players became huge, I’ve started feeling uneasy about professional football as well, although I have an acquaintance who plays and LOVES it, so I’m left with mixed feelings. In the end, Eggbert will make her own choices. I don’t see myself restricting her from watching sports, other than placing an overall limit on her screen time.

    I do share the unease that Wordgirl expressed about the culture of sports. Athletes aren’t heroes, for the most part, even if they’re very good at what they do. They just happen to have a specific talent that other people find entertaining. But we make them into heroes, and that leads to a sense of entitlement that is problematic. I’m also unhappy about statements about NCAA sports like “there isn’t the big money, the players seem to play from the heart just for the glory of being there and making the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four seems to be the only goal.” There is a TON of big money. The NCAA tournament is a multi-billion-dollar industry. The only difference between NCAA and NBA is who is making the money. In the NCAA, it’s not the players. Most of them are getting a “free education,” but then spend so many hours practicing (and partying) that they get very little real education, but that’s it. They are on a year-to-year scholarship, so to get even that, they have to perform at a certain level. Most of the players at Final Four level are hoping to get a big payoff in the pros. But the top NCAA coaches make millions. What do elementary school teachers make these days?

  10. Gail K

    I read your post yesterday, but waited until today to comment. I think that if your family is into watching sports, than you should allow your kids to also watch. A person can get injured doing just about any sport (okay, maybe not curling), but it is a good lesson to show that athletes train hard and play hard and never know what is going to happen. When I was a kid, I got hurt riding my bike and playing on the playground and then I started playing sports and my injuries continued. But, I kept playing.
    So, as long as there is conversation between the parents and the kids regarding what they are seeing, I think it will be fine.

  11. Yes, this is true, having the conversation – really looking at the culture and ethics of sports and coaching in particular. Ever see documentaries of the sportsfans of soccer overseas – now that’s an eye opener! Grown men who create fan gangs! I’m not kidding.

  12. sifinalaska

    That video is horrific, but I don’t think you can relate it to violence in sports – more like a freak accident that could have happened doing a lot of other things as well. As you said, basketball is a low injury sport. But that said, I’m with you in worrying about it – hockey is religion in Alaska, and it totally makes me nervous that boys are brought up from a young age to believe it is the end all be all. ESPECIALLY because it is such an aggressive sport. But I also worry about the pressure parents put on kids, and the massive hours they are expected to spend practicing from an early age. Let’s face it – most kids are not going to grow up to play professional sports, so it seems insane to me to have the average child in super competitive sports leagues.

  13. I’m with Keiko – a music/drama kid with little interest in sports. But I’m not the only parent here, so Miss E can already identify bo-ball, bast-ball, and baze-ball on TV. She’s been known to watch mixed martial arts with dada too (who is already asking his kung fu instructor at what age he can start bringing her. “How about two?” “Better wait til four.”) So I suppose playing and watching sports is a foregone conclusion in this house, but I do agree with some of the other commenters that what bothers me about sports is the culture surrounding it and I certainly plan to have conversations with Miss E about that. And all the while, I’ll be quietly pushing music lessons, tee hee 🙂

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