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Old 10-06-2013   #1
TheCurmudgeon
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Default Small Wars and Sports

I am curious if anyone has made a connection between organized sports and conflict?

OK, here is my thought process. While putting together a paper on war in the human domain I came to realize that young men are pron to become involved in conflict because they are genetically predisposed to that activity. In essence, war is a young mans game. There are many reasons for this which I won't explore now, but I am curious if anyone has thought about using sports as a surrogate for conflict as a way to appease those aspects of being a young man that is prone towards competition and conflict?

I am leaving this wide open to start with. I will expand on my own ideas after others had had a chance to chime in or degrade.
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Old 10-06-2013   #2
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Try:
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The Football War (Spanish: La guerra del ftbol), also known as the Soccer War or 100 Hour War, was a brief war fought by El Salvador and Honduras in 1969.
Link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_War

Young men fighting at soccer matches in recent times, principally in Europe and Latin America, have been violent set piece street battles, but not 'small wars'.
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Old 10-06-2013   #3
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Interesting, but not quite where i was going. Actually almost the opposite. I was hoping to show that organized sports could be used as a release valve for tensions. Maybe I was wrong.
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Old 10-07-2013   #4
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Have you read Kilcullen's "Out of the Mountains"? He contends that amateur soccer/rugby teams are very central to insurrections.

But I am having trouble with the vision of organized sports as a surrogate for organized conflict. At the strategic level, the best sports can rise to is a diplomatic lever (Nixon's ping pong diplomacy with China, for example). As a domestic surrogate for violence, it also fails, as there are often fights or worse around contentious games. The way gangs often identify with specific teams, while continuing to engage in criminal activity also argues against your premise.

At the individual level, I think you have a point. Sports is a way for a young man to channel their energy in a positive way. But this is easily corrupted, for example, the many professional, college, and high school athletes that act as if they are above the rules that bind us lesser mortals. Also, this bizarre obsession with getting kids athletic scholarships to the point where college athletic scouts start watching middle school games, and parents would rather have their kids ignore homework than miss a game.
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Old 10-07-2013   #5
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Default The Sports Gene - David Epstein

In the ‘The Sports Gene’ thread, David Epstein registered at SWC and showed up (post). See for background, The Urgency—and the Challenge—of Connecting Sports, Race, and Genetics - David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, talks about brains vs. brawn, nature vs. nurture, and the sticky topics that sports scientists are hesitant to address (Atlantic, by Ashley Fetters, Aug 5 2013).

I'd suggest you PM him and ask him to participate in this discussion.

Regards

Mike
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Old 10-07-2013   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
There are many reasons for this which I won't explore now, but I am curious if anyone has thought about using sports as a surrogate for conflict as a way to appease those aspects of being a young man that is prone towards competition and conflict?
Here is one article related to the question you are asking.
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Old 10-07-2013   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
Here is one article related to the question you are asking.
Ganulv,

Thanks, this is right on target but dated. It came out in 1973 before the advent of evolutionary psychology (or at least before it became widely accepted). It is basically a comparison of the old idea of instincts versus the "blank slate" hypothesis that was gaining popularity at the time. I tried looking at works that cited this article but it does not seem to be used much after the 70's. Also not sure of his coding methods as he did not consider wrestling or bow and arrow compititions as being "combative" sports when conducted by simple socieites.

While the Drive Discharge model would be close to what I am thinking it really is not. It is not that there is an innate drive by all young males to go to war, but that war provides an outlet for an innate drive for aggressive competition. Providing an alternative would be my aim, much as Van states. The risk is that you create an organized group of the right age and mindset for recruitment to other more combat oriented activities.

Similar to the idea of providing work for young men (and thereby providing an alternative to joining an insurgent group for pay and excitement) but aimed at a slightly younger crowd. Not sure that this is a solution to anything. Just would like to see if anyone ever tried this on a small scale, like in a particular village or province.



I will keep looking for more up to date material.
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Old 10-07-2013   #8
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Default Combat Football

In 1973 or 1974 they introduced Combat Football to the 82nd Airborne Division. It was a combination of Football Combined with Soccer and very few rules!!!! Meant to toughen us up after the 73 Yom Kippor(spelling) incident in the Middle east.
Some sports magazine did an article about it if I remember correctly.
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Old 10-07-2013   #9
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I would be remiss in leaving Alan Dundes’s “Into the Endzone for a Touchdown” out of this conversation. Psychoanalytical theory always merits a critical eye, but I do believe his stuff is worth a look.

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Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
Thanks, this is right on target but dated. It came out in 1973 before the advent of evolutionary psychology (or at least before it became widely accepted).
I accept the reality of evolution and I accept the utility of the discipline of psychology. I look askance at most work carrying the evolutionary psych imprimatur, however.

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Also not sure of his coding methods as he did not consider wrestling or bow and arrow compititions as being "combative" sports when conducted by simple socieites.
It’s a difficult line to draw. Buzkashi is unambiguously a combative sport, as is rugby. I think Americans want to equate the presence of contact and weapons with combativeness. But does that mean chess, a war game, is not combative? And is biathlon combative simply because firearms are part of the sport?
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Old 10-07-2013   #10
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Ganulv,

From my perspective any of those would work. The sport does not need to be blatantly combative, it only needs to satisfy the need for competition and status - the same needs that I would argue are satisfied by becoming a member of an insurgent group. The idea is that some young men don't necessarily join a group because they had an ideological affiliation with the group, they join for the excitement and the status. Offering them an alternative might (big might) reduce the number of insurgents in the field (or it just may better train them for combat ;-))

I like the Bingo ticket - I suppose anything that is science today is farce tomorrow.
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Old 10-07-2013   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
The idea is that some young men don't necessarily join a group because they had an ideological affiliation with the group, they join for the excitement and the status. Offering them an alternative might (big might) reduce the number of insurgents in the field (or it just may better train them for combat ;-))
Hindsight is of course 20/20, but during my initial viewing of Triumph of the Will it was very hard for me to understand how the leaders of the nations of the world could think that the scenes involving the labor service units were about anything other than military training by another means.
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Old 10-07-2013   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
Hindsight is of course 20/20, but during my initial viewing of Triumph of the Will it was very hard for me to understand how the leaders of the nations of the world could think that the scenes involving the labor service units were about anything other than military training by another means.
You reminded me of a scene from the original "Red Dawn" where the Soviet Military Leader is asking the town mayor about boy who was a friend of his son and who was also a member of that well known paramilitary organization - the Eagle Scouts.

Perhaps we should have tried organizing Boy Scout packs in Afghanistan
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Old 10-07-2013   #13
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Default Correlation ≠ causation, but still…

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
You reminded me of a scene from the original "Red Dawn" where the Soviet Military Leader is asking the town mayor about boy who was a friend of his son and who was also a member of that well known paramilitary organization - the Eagle Scouts.
Quote:
  • 36.4 percent of the United States Military Academy (West Point) cadets were involved in Scouting as youth. 16.3 percent of cadets are Eagle Scouts.
  • 22.5 percent of United States Air Force Academy cadets were involved in Scouting as youth. 11.9 percent of cadets are Eagle Scouts.
  • 25 percent of United States Naval Academy (Annapolis) midshipmen were involved in Scouting as youth. 11 percent of midshipmen are Eagle Scouts.
– source: the horse’s mouth
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Old 10-07-2013   #14
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I think if we had started a Boy Scout type organization we could have gotten a number of young men who would have volunteered to be Scout Masters, particularly if the Scout meetings were on Thursday night.

But returning the thread's original purpose I guess I should explore some of my base assumptions, that:

1. young men join military organizations for adventure and status and not necessarily for ideological reasons, particularly where there are few other ways to have excitement, competition, and status; and

2. that given number 1, some of those young men could be satiated by providing them a non-military alternative.

Finally, if the alternative was socially acceptable in the target society the odds of it attracting participants would be greater than if it was not (as there is little use having status in an organization that no one respects).

Also curious if the effect would be exponential if the sport/activity allowed for spectators, a sort of vicarious status by following your "home team".
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Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 10-07-2013 at 09:35 PM.
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