Do highly competitive sports promote a competitive society?


I think so. This was one reason I stopped following sports. I think most any social psychologist would agree and many studies have been conducted that support this notion.


I don’t watch sports because most of the players are suckered into big contracts and are categorically abused and mislead about the long-term consequences of their sport–the NFL being the worst with their suppression of head trauma.

Competition and competitiveness are not bad things. the US is a highly competitive society and has some real positive outcomes for this. We have made astounding leaps in science and technology because we’re not afraid of “hurting feelings”. One of the reasons that we don’t have technology coming out of some of the Nordic countries where one would think that you’d get such advances given the “luxurious” lifestyle and freedom is because they as a society believe competition is unseemly. They even have a word for it, although I forget what it is now.

Also, in general competition is good for young men both physically and mentally. I know many studies have found this to be true.


You’ve got it backwards I believe.

We are by nature a competitive species and sports is one outlet for that drive. Instead of going and beating up the neighboring village, we sit down in the stands and cheer on our favorite team, sans the blood and death.


Well no matter what we do we should always “compete against ourselves first”. Our main goal should always be to be a better person today than we were yesterday.

Now with sports there are good points and bad points to them all but what I do believe is that to whom much is given much is expected. If someone is blessed with athletic ability and it provides them a very good living and a lot of financial stability then ALL of those are gifts from God. The positive results from those gifts must be shared with those who need.

Competition is healthy UNLESS it is ALL about the competition and nothing else. If it’s ALL about the “W” and not the sportsmanship, the comradery, the physical health benefits, the status, the trophy and not being with others and having good clean fun then it’s all stuff and not about people.


I play roller derby and everyone is so surprised because I am mild mannered and cooperative. I want to win and am competive but I also develop team work, a clear understanding that you have both good and bad days and to accept defeat and winning gracefully. Competition is good. It’s when there aren’t any rules that it turns hateful and savage.


I think you’re right.

In E.O. Wilson’s “The Social Conquest of Earth”, he discusses the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama as a war ceremony.

Young men are gathered on the field to do battle against one another, cheered on by scantily clad, nubile women cheering from the sidelines while the too-young and too-old cry on for their “tribe” from the stands.

He may be on to something there…



Freud would certainly agree with you, but there’s so much social psychological research that suggests otherwise. Same goes for violence on TV shows. Freud would say that it’s healthy, whereas social psychological research has suggested otherwise.


Yes they do, but why is competition wrong?



How about listing some studies that have had their results replicated.

Violence on TV is very different than competitiveness in society.

If anything, I think that there has been a lessening of true competition when it comes to sports. In years past there was all sorts of shenanigans involving college athletics at even the smallest school. Rivalries were real. At my college, we have a (stuffed) mascot of a rival school that was stolen and dyed our school color. My freshman year it was moved to a less conspicuous spot. Last I heard it was moved to storage. Rivalries such as that are no longer curated as they once were.


The most famous study was called “Robber’s Cave.” Although not directly related to highly competitive sports per se, it demonstrates the negative effects that competition can have in group settings where one group of children competes against another group for a limited amount of resources, and the positive effects of cooperation between the same groups when cooperation was introduced. The outcomes of this study, I believe, would predict the same thing for highly competitive sports.


From a quick google search the study was never duplicated.

Furthermore, you are making an assertion that even the original reserchers did not make.


A real-life example that cannot be denied is the amount of cooperation in Hispanic communities in Mexico in comparison to the competitiveness that exists here in the US. I’ve been away from social psychology for some time now, but I’ll bet that societies where highly competitive sports are endorsed, will show that they have much more competitiveness and aggression if a cross-cultural study was done.


But again, to what end?

America is highly competitive. People work hard and play hard.

Americans invented hearing aids, chemotherapy, cardiac defibulators, gene editing, 3D printed organs, traffic lights, the assembly line, LED and laser technology, self-driving cars and proliferation of smartphones.

No other country–even China with it’s vast resources poured into technology and medicine have made the kinds of social, medical and technological leaps we have. And despite the “high quality of education” in Europe and the “high quality of living” in the Nordic countries they fail to produce even a fraction of the advances the US does.

You are making really false observational leaps that are completely devoid of meaningful research.


But how much of that is really from competition but from, say, the brain drain from Europe To America?


Not trying to be a jerk here but soccer is a big deal in Mexico. I think it’s not competitive sports that is making our culture so horrible, uncaring and agressive towards each other. I think it is much more insidious than that. In terms of resources, I think there is a difference between greed and competitiveness. One is just morally wrong while the other assumes that the winner knows how best to use the resources.


Very few of the innovations were by foreigners. Also, one must consider that the “brain drain” occurs because people are attracted to the type of society where they want to be in and perform best in. Just in the past 20 years or so most of Europe outshines the US in overall “quality of life”. Given the network of social programs, general privileges and relatively low cost of living as compared to wages it would be incredibly foolish to enter the US for any reason but the desire to push limits and be competitive.


What about soccer? It’s a passion around the world that makes our fixation on the NFL and NBA pale in comparison. Players and referees in Latin America have been murdered for upsetting the fans.

I never played competitive sports until I got to college, and haven’t played competitive sports since graduating. My kids are all involved in competitive sports year 'round and I so much wish I had had the opportunities that they do. And I don’t think they’ve learned unhealthy competitiveness from the sports. If anything, they’ve learned to discipline themselves and control their competitiveness.


TV violence has nothing to do with this discussion.

A pointer to this research that says we aren’t naturally competitive.


It’s to what degree do Mexicans get involved in soccer? Compare societies like the Baltic countries and the Scandinavian countries to our American country. I realize that we need to be careful in drawing causality from correlations, but it’s eye-opening, to say the least.


I would never deny that competition leads to increased innovation, but that it has its negative effects as well. I’ll even say that becoming involved in watching highly competitive sports decreases spirituality and brotherly love, even though I know that the pope likes soccer and praises it highly.

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