Malcolm Gladwell, the author of several literary science best-sellers went on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS last week to promote his new book, “David and Goliath” and discuss his support for a ban of college football.
During the conversation Zakaria brought up an article Gladwell wrote in 2009 exploring the similarities and differences between dog fighting and football. The article appeared at the time when Michael Vick’s dog fighting case was prominent.
Gladwell said he was struck by the “unbelievable hypocrisy” of people in football getting up in arms about people fighting dogs. In what way is dog fighting any different than football, he asks?
The way Gladwell sees it, dogs fight each other under an allegiance to their owner, enduring serious, sustained combat. Young boys do the same, smashing each other in the heads under allegiance to their elders and the belief that they are “participating in some grand American spectacle.” He goes on to say “they’re the same thing.”
This argument is absurd on several levels. Dogs do not stand to enjoy millions of dollars from their success, dogs can’t get free educations in exchange for playing football, humans choose to participate in simulated combat while fighting dogs have no such freedom, and the point of football is not to kill your opponent(let alone hit him in the head).
Gladwell’s books are thought-provoking but this argument holds no water. He went too far in an effort to explore the uncertain moral ground a football fan must stand on in light of expanding scientific understanding of brain trauma. The trouble is, millions of people face potentially life-threatening scenarios as part of their job every day. To follow this theoretical road to its end, there is risk in literally anything. So should we ban everything?
The dog fighting comparison starts around the 2:20 mark:
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