Michigan Football, WWE, and Dunning: Why Are They Related?

It’s the week of the Michigan vs. Michigan State game and my Yik Yak has been blowing up with defaming statements against those Spartans. I think to myself, “Wow, we have a lot of hatred and competitiveness towards those Spartans/”

After reading Dunning’s, “Dynamics of Modern Sport” two weeks ago, I was strongly moved about his diagnoses about sports. Did the dynamics of sports really change so much? I didn’t have to look to far to realize…

The dynamics of modern sport in Dunning’s book is summarized through ‘diagnoses’. The first diagnosis simply states that sport is becoming more ‘serious’; we are becoming so competitive in nature that sports is simply about beating the other opponent. The second diagnosis states that ‘display’ is coming to predominate over and destroy ‘play’; this means that sports nowadays tailor too much to the spectator and to providing a spectacle to keep the spectator entertained.

The first diagnosis can best be explained right at home at the University of Michigan. Our school’s somewhat crazed obsession for athletics epitomizes the changing dynamics of sports. According to Dave Brandon, Michigan’s athletic budget for the 2013-2014 year amounted to $137.5 million dollars, 11.6 million dollars more than the previous year. Spending considerably more on our athletic programs suggests that the we have become more competitive and considerably more ‘serious’.

(My own image I took in the third quarter against Utah)

(My own image I took in the third quarter against Utah)

America’s sports used to be classified as hobbies and pastimes, but it is not the case nowadays. Our rivalries against Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame have been the most fervent it has ever been. Both spectators and players have become increasingly more hostile to our opponents, representative of the fact that sports has become more serious, too serious in fact. Our chants at half time of, “You suck!” and the increasingly aggressive nature of our football players are only a snapshot of what sports have turned us into. Our obsession with winning has become so engrained that we become animals in a sense, barbaric in nature towards the other team.

Below is a screenshot of mine I took during the week of the Michigan vs. Michigan State game.  SO much hostility.

(Below is a screenshot of mine I took during the week of the Michigan vs. Michigan State game. SO much hostility.)

Despite our despicable 3-5 record so far in this football season, competition and seriousness have reached record levels. Players playing dirtier and fans cussing out other fans are small things I’ve noticed firsthand in the last few games.  What happened to respect?

The second diagnosis says that ‘display’ is predominating and destroying the idea of ‘play’. Look no further to the WWE. Athletes in the WWE who supposedly wrestle with each other have turned into extravagant displays of dramatized, fake moves. The name itself, World Wrestling Entertainment, suggests that the company is entertainment based. Everything from the entrances, the finishes, the moves, and the chants are all scripted to appeal to audiences. They audiences pay to see entertainment, not real wrestling.

For example, the use of chairs, bats, steel cages, and sledgehammers are all sanctioned in the WWE. These items are used to provide additional entertainment, drama, violence, but most of all display for audiences. It is no coincidence that the WWE holds the record for the most amount of viewers during a PPV event (5.5 million viewers).

The WWE paints a bad image of what wrestling is truly about and is destroying the idea of wrestling both as a hobby and sport. People’s first impressions of wrestling have now turned into bashing each other with ladders rather than artfully maneuvering your opponent to pin him.

Overall, the growing trend of sports, in my opinion, is headed down the wrong path. Dunning is right when he states that sports have become increasingly more competitive and serious and that ‘display’ is taking over sports. In Dunning’s reading, Trollope characterized the changing dynamic of sports as deleterious when he states, “This is the rock against which our sports may possibly be a shipwreck. Should it ever become unreasonable in its expenditure, arrogant in its demands, immoral and selfish in its tendencies, or, worse of all, unclean and dishonest in its traffic, there will arise against it a public opinion against which it will be unable to hold its own.”

We need to reevaluate sports in our society and whether or not it is changing for the better.  Until then, sports will never be the same.

(My own image I took at the Penn State game)

(My own image I took at the Penn State game)



  1. ethanmartin95 · October 26, 2014

    The direction of sports have changed drastically in the past few decades. Few are playing sports for play and enjoyment now a days. It is all about “display” and making a show of the sport. A reason for why WWE is popular has never come to me. It is absolutely ridiculous that we have turned wrestling, the most pure sport, into a fake show of over the top violence. This reflects poorly on the sport and the fans watching it. This is why I like non-spectator sports because it takes the “display” out of play. The athletes are playing these sports for themselves and getting better, not for showing off and making a spectacle. In addition this seriousness of sports is getting out of hand. People are forgetting about the fun of play and are ruining the sport. There was an Alabama football fan that defaced an Auburn monument because of football. Why does this need to happen? There doesn’t need to be so much hate. What happened to friendly competition?


  2. hsharf · October 26, 2014

    As technology has changed, so have sports. Now that there is the ability to broadcast sports of all levels online and on TV, sports have become more and more a form of mainstream entertainment. I disagree that the majority of people are not playing for the love of the game. All athletes start their sport at a young age as a way to have fun; they initially have no desires to make millions playing that sport. One cannot blame athletes for accepting high priced contracts that are offered to them, wouldn’t you. An athlete can be paid handsomely and still love what they do. Just like a successful business owner can still love what they do and find financial success. Yes, due to the desire for entertainment, money and contracts have impacted sports and the incentive to play the game. Nonetheless, it is unfair to say that athletes solely play for money or they solely play for the love of the sport.


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