Pedro Gonzalez has written an article for the Spectator that makes some good points about obesity and pornography in America today, but errs by excessively condemning sports. Gonzalez’s article begins by taking on the corrosive social and cultural effects of Internet pornography — an issue that I wholeheartedly agree is a serious problem, as I have written on multiple occasions. But then, Gonzalez moves on to sports: “As with watching porn, there is evidence that the more one watches sports, the more physically impotent one becomes,” he writes. “The physical consequences of watching sports, like those of porn consumption, ultimately make men distracted, weaker, fatter, and less virile.”
It is true, as Gonzalez points out, that Americans who watch lots of sports are exposed to nonstop messaging about unhealthy food and drink. And there are studies purporting to show that “watching sports on TV [is] associated with a higher risk of obesity.” Furthermore, “the moral, civic, and spiritual parallels are even clearer and more disturbing,” he writes. As with so much of modern American life, athletic leagues and sports programs have been co-opted by the Left: The alliance between most of the name-brand professional sports leagues and the radicalism of last summer’s Black Lives Matter movement was no secret. Why should we be giving our time and money to people who hate us? “To watch sports today is to subsidize the enemies of decency and virtue, all the while allowing ourselves to physically and morally wither,” Gonzalez argues.
There’s something to this critique of the direction that America’s professional athletic leagues have gone in recent years. But the solution to this problem is not to abandon the long, proud tradition of the nation’s sports culture altogether. Sports are, and almost always have been, a foundational part of American identity. Professional baseball cards, Babe Ruth, Cracker Jack; Roger Staubach’s game-winning Hail Mary pass in a 1975 NFL playoff game; a flu-ridden Michael Jordan’s 38-point win in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals — these cultural icons, and the mythos that grows up around them, are woven into the fabric of our national story. There is also a distinctly ancient character to the legends we tell about the great moments in American sporting history, prizing great feats of masculine virtu as things to be glorified, honored, and striven toward. To make that point is not to be naïve about the recent corruption of our sports culture at the hands of the woke activists who have commandeered so many of our institutions — it’s simply to say that there’s still something there worth fighting for.
In fact, sports may just be one of the most potent potential sources of American renewal available to the Right: For all of the flaws with the leadership of organizations such as the NFL, the NBA, and the MLB, the communities and ways of life that have grown up around these institutions provide one of the last surviving forums for genuine male bonding and friendship. Cigar parlors are largely gone; barber shops are not what they used to be. But Saturday football is still a place where men can be men together, one of the few intact all-male spaces left in the public square.
Any serious plan to recover a healthy American masculinity cannot neglect these spaces. To tear them down rather than attempt to recover them is to make the perfect the enemy of the good.