THE DECLINE OF BOXING: Fascinating article by Paul Beston on why this sport, once among the most popular in America, has gone into decline:
For many Americans nourished at the counter of political correctness and baptized by the Church of Tolerance, boxing is simply barbarism. Americans love violence, but only if it retains a synthetic quality, a stylized irony perfected by Quentin Tarantino. In boxing, violence lies beyond the consolations of irony. As Joe Louis once said, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” So we seek ways to laugh it off. Pro wrestling, which retains the symbolism of combat while making a mockery of physical pain, is the perfect substitute. It has long since eclipsed boxing in popularity. No wonder then, that boxing increasingly resembles wrestling in its sleazy promotions and the tasteless posturing of the fighters — a far cry from the stoics of an earlier age.
In a sense, the growing isolation of boxing within popular culture is akin to the estrangement between the volunteer army and the civilian population. Both boxers and soldiers engage in occupations where the code of the warrior is absolute; in a postmodern popular culture, such a code is deeply alien. But in an earlier time, when the material conditions of life were difficult and death lurked as near as a walk around the corner, fighting for one’s nation — or for money — was not viewed as morally questionable. On the contrary, it was admired. Now it is seen, at least by our elites, as a sign of psychological or moral imbalance. Those who believe that the human impulse for violence can be coached out of the race are also the ones who assume soldiers kill for bloodlust, or that fighters fight because they enjoy hurting people. But most of the time, the soldier’s answer is different: “I killed because I had to.” The fighter’s, too, is more mundane: “I fight to make a living. I fight because I’m good at it.”
On the other hand, NBC has announced that it will resume primetime coverage of prize fights, so maybe there’s a little hope left, after all.