There\’s a Reason For This

Minette Marin:

People say it’s a class matter; for historical reasons there is something essentially middle class and respectable about rugby, about the players and about the fans. There’s an odd contradiction about the way the more violent game can produce the less violent supporters and vice versa.

It lies in the old distinction (for those bright people, economists, at least it is old) between complements and substitutes. Does watching a violent game (for rugby is indeed that) incite you to further violence, or does it satisfy that savage beast, replace the desire for violence by assuaging the appetite?

With sport it\’s not all that important a distinction (for it may inded be just that the middle classes don\’t want to get blood on their Barbours) but in other areas of life it is indeed an extremely important one. For example, think of the upcoming plans to ban "violent" pornography. Is such a complement? Does viewing it make people more likely to go and commit violent sexual crimes? That\’s the argument used in favour of the banning, certainly. But what if the opposite is true? That it is in fact a substitute? That viewing such material replaces the desire to physically act out the fantasies?

Then a ban might actually lead to an increase in the violent sexual crimes: that\’s, of course, the very thing we\’re trying to avoid. We don\’t actually care what people do in a darkened room in front of a flickering screen. But we do care very much when they take such dark thoughts to the streets and to others.

That distinction is highly important and unfortunately, on the pornography front, it looks like it is in fact a substitute, not a complement. Thus banning it will lead to more crime, not less.

7 thoughts on “There\’s a Reason For This”

  1. Perhaps it is just to do with being the less popular sport. The more popular sport, the larger fan and player bases. There is a tendency for both to spiral towards the lowest common denominator and also be judged upon the nadir. With more fans and players, this point is potentially lower or at least more populated in football.

    I do, however, think it has something to do with the game that is played. Cricket and its fans are more orderly because it doesn’t have the physical contact. Rugby is relatively orderly because it has lashings of the latter. Football isn’t because it has just enough contact to tease and frustrate but not enough to satisfy.

  2. Football’s played under a sense of continual unresolved grievance, with cheating being an accepted part of the game, and the non-acceptance of the justice of decisions and results being insitutional.

    And as rugby isn’t the national ‘first sport’, there’s a bit of natural selection at work. People who watch it have made a conscious decision to not be part of the mainstream – therefore they’ll tend to be more thoughtful, measured types. Interestingly, it’s arguable that the average member of the quote fetish community unquote will be more interesting and articulate than the average bloke who just likes looking at norks.

    The solution to your dilemma is easy though, Tim, and doesn’t have to involve risk to human society. We follow the animal trials model. It’s well known that there are websites aimed at those who enjoy watching people fuck horses. We should ban these then see whether, after two years or so, national instances of horse-fucking have shot up or dropped dramatically. I’m sure the government will have this data.

  3. The reason that rugby does not interest the violent chav class is simple; they can understand football, but you need to be able to add up to appreciate rugby

  4. Also, kids can play football (and cricket, to an extent) on the street, car park, courtyard or on the beach. It’s a universal game.

    To play rugby, you need a fairly large, not-too-hard, well mown field, nothing else will do (except, at a pinch, a sandy beach). So that means that only people who are forced to play it at school ever get into it. Kids would love football whether or not it is played at school.

  5. Sadly, in southern England, there is definitely a social class bias about supporting rugby.

    Around where I live, last year during the football world cup in which the England team performed ignominiously, it was impossible to travel more than a few yards without catching sight of even more George Crosses fluttering in the wind. Yesterday, for the rugby world cup, not a flag was to be seen anywhere in the neighbourhood.

    I cannot understand it but then I’ve never played football, don’t watch it played on TV and avoid pubs showing football. Only once was I ever persuaded to go to watch a professional football match and that about 20 years ago. I found the experience excruciately boring but then in my youth I was an enthusiatic rugby player.

    From The Lancet 1995:

    “To those of us who work in sports trauma clinics, rugby remains the sport with the apparently highest risk per player-hour of injury. Paradoxically at the international level, where the game is fastest and most spectacular, evidence shows that fitness and experience considerably reduce the injury rate.”

  6. I thought the real reason for wanting to ban pornography was that men enjoyed it. Therefore it must go.

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