There's Something About Fighting
verb (used without object), fought, fight·ing.
to engage in battle or in single combat; attempt to defend oneself against or to subdue, defeat, or destroy an adversary.
There’s something about the act of fighting; 2 individuals, man or woman, toe to toe exchanging blows until one can no longer continue.
On Monday evening, the Washington Capitals were soundly beaten 5-0 by the Carolina Hurricanes, to peg back their lead in the first round of the NHL Playoffs. In the midst of the humbling defeat in which new life was blown into an entertaining series, the highlight of the night belonged to the Capital’s on ice leader, the imperious Alexander Ovechkin who squared off under the challenge bestowed upon him by 19-year-old Andrei Svechnikov, the young Hurricane’s hastiness to engage with the veteran ending with a short right hook leaving him unconscious on the ice.
“Fight or Flight” is the involuntary reaction that lies ingrained in our DNA. Our primal instincts kick in at the sight or sense of action, a survival technique that pre dates way back beyond even the Roman calendar.
The tale of Romulus and Remus tells of two brothers who, unable to determine the location on where to begin the building of Rome, concluded that the decision would be determined by the victor in a fight to the death. The Empire born from the mythical duel spawned The Colosseum – the magnificent forum in which the rich and the poor would come together to lust over their love of bloodsport with the sole objective of seeing two or more men engage in a fight to the death.
It all starts from a young age; there are few easier ways to make a child laugh than when it sees you in some kind of pain, as demonstrated by Adam Sandler tripping rollerbladers in the 1999 classic ‘Big Daddy’. Violence is a fascination for children as they grow also, testing out their own strength by often playfully hitting the hands of a parent or simply taking an interest in the pantomime of wrestling, following that through to games like ‘British Bulldogs’ and entire schools flocking from one side of a field to the other at the mere yell of ‘FIGHT’.
A simple glance upon any consensus all-time great films shows that we are fixated by violence, in particular hand to hand combat. There is something incredibly powerful about seeing two men armed with an equal set of tools, whether that may be two hands and feet, or a sword and shield and a battle of wills to see who emerges victorious. You’ll be hard pressed to find a blockbuster that isn’t sold on the basis of how grand the battle scenes are, how bloody the fights are and how much further the boundaries are pushed compared to its predecessors in the genre.
Whether on the streets or in the controlled environment of sport, the spectacle of combat provides a similar thrill to that gained from a patron parting with their disposable income to willingly sit in a cinema and be scared senseless by horror films. Very few people want to experience the pain that comes with fighting, but watching it means you feel all of the thrills that come with it, without going through it personally – the unexplainable, senseless bloodlust achieved through visually accompanying Michael Myers slashing his way through a small town seems ridiculous when you compare it to the thought of experiencing anything remotely similar in real life.
When it comes to sport, there is no other platform where a casual fan arguably has more sway than a regular paying customer. Take Floyd Mayweather’s farcical bout with MMA star Conor McGregor in August 2017, those in the know were able to see from a mile away that the fight would be no more than an exhibition compared to any of the 48 professional bouts of the decorated Michigan fighter’s career.
The “Big Fight feel” captures the imagination of even the most uninformed spectator, garnering the attention of those that would otherwise hold little in sport at all – your Nan will give you her prediction, despite knowing nothing of either man, because everyone wants to be involved when that rare big fight comes around once a year.
MMA continues its rapid trajectory as the world’s fastest growing sport, the intrigue of observing all major fighting styles entwined into a form of brutal, physical chess to see how one man can master his opponent on any given night.
When debate arises and fans of football and rugby are pitted against one another, the main differential used to talk down on football is that they are more hesitant to resort to swinging fists than you often see on a rugby field. Much like Hockey, this seems to be a selling point to those who have no real interest in the sport, or it’s a plus point when selling it to others.
In the midst of shredding the reputation of juiced up bouncers with bad hairstyles and worse tattoos, the powers that be at the UFC made the conscious decision when cleaning the image of the sport in prep for commercial growth and in turn financial gain to retain the spatters of blood on the Octagon floor between fights rather than clean it up, a nod back to the days of The Colosseum in Rome – the blood spilled lending to a potentially financial thumbs up or thumbs down from the modern day Emperor Dana White when it comes to handing out Bonuses later in the evening.
This all circles back nicely to Ovechkin; a modern day entertainer and possibly Washington’s greatest ever team athlete. The 33 year old Russian has topped the scoring charts this season, with an enormous 51 goals and yet analytics show that his name has not been searched this regularly in search engines this much since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup last season. Regardless of what your interests, hobbies and desires are in life, something we all have in common is not necessarily a love, but an interest in fighting. You may watch through your fingers, but you’ll still watch, and that will never change.