Opinion: MMA and South Dakota’s Moral High Ground Conundrum
The MMA universe has been lit ablaze with news emanating from South Dakota. It was there that some of the state’s politicians have taken it upon themselves to serve as the overbearing guardians of moral decency. As such, two key members of the South Dakota state government, Governor Dennis Daugaard, and State Representative Steve Hickey, have made comments that not only a plethora of people outside the MMA community would find to be offensive, but comments that demonstrate profound ignorance on all matters relating to MMA and other combat sports.
Governor Daugaard, stated in an interview with the Rapid City Journal that,
“I’m offended that the state would legitimize cage fighting and the bloody violence these kinds of spectacles create… the way one wins in those contests is by beating up your opponent, bloodying them, kicking, scratching, punching. I don’t support in any fashion anything the state would do to legitimize this kind of behavior. I think it’s a sad commentary on what our culture allows in some areas.”
Representative Hickey took things a quantum leap further, stating on his very own blog that,
“The psychological community will tell you that desensitization to violence works exactly like desensitization to porn. You know how porn progresses… a peek at topless isn’t enough, it all has to come off, then a pic is not enough… it goes to video then to virtual and then to the devaluation and mistreatment of women, human trafficking and sex crimes against women. Violence works the same way. Boxing wasn’t enough so they allowed kicking, kneeing people in the head, then elbows to the face, then they put a cage around it. The point is to knock the other guy unconscious while pay per view crowds cheer it on. Why not nunchucks? In Rome they’d gather in colosseums and bring out prisoners and entertain themselves by making them fight to the death. That wasn’t enough so they brought out the helpless and the hated and brought in the hungry lions. Crowds cheered.”
Perhaps his most disturbing and downright lewd comment was the following,
“I hope you’ll agree that MMA is over the line of what should be tolerable with regard to “violent entertainment” as child porn is clearly over the line with regard to “adult entertainment.” MMA Cage Fighting is the child porn of sports.”
And arguably my favorite of his entirely asinine comments was when he revealed his unusually illogical and inexplicable hatred for the sport when he stated that,
“I’ll quickly concede I am no expert on MMA.” Which naturally led to a beyond absurd comment such as, “And there are growing numbers of MMA deaths in sanctioned and unsanctioned fights. Furthermore, the sport is too new to tell us the long term effects of this “sport” on the fighters. The NFL is paying dearly now for their concussion issues. MMA is far worse.”
My goodness, where does one begin with all of this? At least, Mr. Daugaard’s comments simply reek of unfamiliarity and blind ignorance. However, the comments from Mr. Hickey that I’ve posted above, is only a mere fraction of the misinformed ramblings in his most recent blog entry. First of all, let’s make it clear that this man, while a pastor, is neither a physical nor psychological medical expert, he’s a theologian. As such, we can throw all of his comments about the inherent dangers of MMA in relation to other sports right out the window. Chalk it all up to unabashed nonsense, which is only reinforced by his admission of being unfamiliar with the sport, a notion which is adequately supported by his failure to mention the submission aspect of MMA when he was going about his tangent on blood and violence.
Instead, we can side with (as reported by Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports) studies presented by both Johns Hopkins (2006) and The British Journal of Sports Medicine (2008), which both stated that there is no evidence to suggest that MMA is any more dangerous than other contact sports like boxing or football. Even more damaging to Mr. Hickey’s case, is that the Johns Hopkins study found that it is likely that MMA fighters might very well suffer less incidence of traumatic brain injuries when compared to boxing, which as we know, is South Dakota’s acceptable threshold for combat sports—as decided by Mr. Hickey.
When one reads the entirety of Mr. Hickey’s essay, it becomes evident that it’s all hot air. As stated above, he has no medical or psychological training. He’s not at all informed about the sport. The “historical” references he uses to support his case are misplaced. Let’s not think for a second that gladiator battles and martyring were the ancient equivalent of modern MMA, or that MMA is the product of some moral degeneration, that’s simply a slippery slope argument that holds no water. As a historical aside, if he’s looking for ancient precursors for MMA, he’d be better served to look at the ancient sport of Pankration (along with boxing and wrestling), practiced in the Olympic Games of antiquity.
The more vile and reprehensible of Mr. Hickey’s comments will not be dignified. I think anyone with a modicum of sensibility will find both he and the governor’s comments to be offensive and so ridiculously off-point, that it’s embarrassing. Mr. Hickey is nothing more than a garden variety moral crusader, albeit a misguided one, that is better suited for preaching in his pulpit than on the floor of the South Dakota state legislature.