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 (190 Responses)
  1. Racquel

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

    August 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  2. 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 |
  3. 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 |
  4. 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 |
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