July 20th, 2013
01:24 AM ET

Gladwell: Why college football is like dog fighting

Fareed speaks with Malcolm Gladwell, longtime ‘New Yorker’ staff writer and best-selling author of ‘The Tipping Point’ and ‘Outliers’ about American college football – and whether it’s time to stop it altogether. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

You compare football to dog fighting. Why?

Yes, I did a piece for The New Yorker a couple of years ago where I said it. This was at the time when, remember, Michael Vick, was convicted of dog fighting. And to me, that was such a kind of, and the whole world got up in arms about this. How could he use dogs in a violent manner, in a way that compromised their health and integrity?

And I was just struck at the time by the unbelievable hypocrisy of people in football, for goodness sake, getting up in arms about someone who chose to fight dogs, to pit one dog against each other.

In what way is dog fighting any different from football on a certain level, right? I mean you take a young, vulnerable dog who was made vulnerable because of his allegiance to the owner and you ask him to engage in serious sustained physical combat with another dog under the control of another owner, right?

Well, what's football? We take young boys, essentially, and we have them repeatedly, over the course of the season, smash each other in the head, with known neurological consequences.

And why do they do that? Out of an allegiance to their owners and their coaches and a feeling they're participating in some grand American spectacle.

They're the same thing. And the idea that as a culture we would be absolutely quick and sure about coming to the moral boiling point over the notion that you would do this to dogs and yet completely blind to the notion you would do this to young men is, to my mind, astonishing.

I mean there's a certain point where I just said, you know, we have to say enough is enough.

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Topics: Sports

soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. JNN

    The next step in the sissification of America. I really can't stand the New Castrati.

    July 23, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  2. GozieBoy

    Ol' Malcolm there looks like he got the worse end of a vicious assault from a kitten...

    July 24, 2013 at 12:25 am | Reply
  3. Tyrone Buckshank

    Eyez gotz da anser!!! mak dog fightin legul!!!!!!!!

    July 24, 2013 at 9:38 am | Reply
    • Racquel

      Education and proper grammar usage is legal. Take advantage of that please. Thank you.

      August 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Reply
  4. lanwan

    I can fix a lot of things but stupid isn't one of them, Malcolm. Please keep your stupid to yourself.

    July 24, 2013 at 11:11 am | Reply
  5. funktavious

    What a joke. This guy doesn't realize the value of the education and for many the riches of playing professional sports.

    July 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  6. Count Istvan Telekey

    Mr. Gladwell is in desperate need of a life.

    July 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  7. David Kohner Zuckerman

    Great writer who's totally jumped the shark with the helmet stuff. Feels a bit like a nerdy kid in high school trying to finally get back at the jocks. Too bad. This guy WAS one of the best out there b

    July 25, 2013 at 12:24 am | Reply
  8. David Kohner Zuckerman

    Great writer who's totally jumped the shark with the helmet stuff. Feels a bit like a nerdy kid in high school trying to finally get back at the jocks. Too bad. This guy WAS one of the best out there.

    July 25, 2013 at 12:25 am | Reply
  9. Lloyd Bierstaker

    So, brain damage is worth it for the money and the entertainment value. Are you listening to what you're saying!? Here's a modest proposal, let's crank up the coliseum again, think of all the financial gain and good old fashioned fun we've been missing all these years!

    July 28, 2013 at 9:15 pm | Reply
  10. sandrita m

    Gladwell's analogy of sports to dogfighting is deeply flawed. First, football players have free will, which they exercise in choosing to play that game. They are motivated to play for various reasons, including possible fame and fortune. Dogs don't choose to be part of a dogfighting ring. And, they can't defend themselves when, as in the case of Michael Vick, they are abused and even electrocuted by their "master".

    July 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Reply
  11. Racquel

    I think Gladwell would have been better off keeping that ridiculous analogy to himself.

    August 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  12. DFisher

    I think some parents may steer their kids in a different sports direction now that there is more medical evidence about the long-term health effects from head injuries. However, Gladwell fails to consider the vast amount of money that can be earned by NFL players. AI 2011 the average NFL player salary was $1.9 million and median salary was $770,000. There's too much money to be made to expect that a large number of young athletes won't continue to play football in the hopes of reaching professional football – there's no way you can earn that type of money coming out of college – unless your some numerical wizard hired on Wall Street. At most the growing concern over head injuries might lead some players to retire earlier than they ordinarily would have as a way to mitigate future health concerns.

    August 31, 2013 at 11:54 pm | Reply
  13. jUSTA jOE

    I too thought about the comparison of football to dog fighting back during the days when the Vick dog fighting scandal was in the headlines but not as an indictment of football but rather an indictment of people exhibiting their out of proportion and overly righteous indignation over the whole case

    September 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  14. Meow

    Football has been in America for a very looooong time...but comparing this to DOGFIGHTING?
    Dogs in the rings don't have ANY sort of choice, but the players do. They KNOW that they might get hurt,they KNOW that they might get brain damage, they KNOW what might happen in the future. The players are in college remember? They are adults and they can choose for themselves. Also football untifys people from diff backgrounds. I hope you read this comment racists. – Meow

    December 3, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Reply
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