How capitalism and the blissful ignorance effect are ruining professional sports

by Joseph Salem

November 28th, 2020 marked the day when heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson came out of his 15-year retirement to fight the boxing world champion Roy Jones Jr. At the same exhibition, Jake Paul fought Nate Robinson. Fun fact: Paul and Robinson are not boxers or champions in any way — not even close.

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When paying to watch this fight, I should’ve seen the red flags, considering that a YouTube celebrity and an NBA basketball player were scheduled to fight right before the two greatest boxers of all time. However, I decided to overlook this because I figured maybe my generation is just not familiar with the two old-school boxing champions; for the promoters to maximize their revenue, they have to incorporate current trends to attract more viewers.

What made me realize this event was a sham was when my friends and I watched the prefight interview. Mike Tyson’s aura was suspiciously calm and light considering he was going to fight one of the greatest boxers of all time. He was also joking around with the interviewers, which is unprecedented for pre-fight interviews.

During the fight, there were many opportunities for Tyson to knock Jones out. After making contact with Jones’ face multiple times, all he had to do was follow through with a combo. Instead, Tyson would back away after making contact. Furthermore, after punching Jones once in the face during a round, Tyson would avoid any type of headshots for the rest of the round and focus solely on body shots, which is not something any fighter who is aiming to win would do.

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Sure enough, the fight ended with a tie. Tyson and Jones were both holding back their laughter when the referees announced the score. Tyson even tried to act angry about it, but this attempt failed miserably. Both fighters ended up agreeing on having part two of the fight sometime in 2021.

My friends and I were extremely disappointed with the fight and regretted paying to watch it. However, deep down, I was just not surprised. I even had a discussion with my friend Siavash Merzai, who is en route to obtaining his professional boxing card. He asked me, “Did you really expect two old boxers to go at each other and risk affecting their former records?” As much as I wanted to argue and exclaim that the promoters made this fight seem serious through their social media advertising campaigns, I could not help but realize he was right. Why would two older men who have established themselves as the greatest fighters of all-time risk their lives when they can earn millions of dollars for staging a fight?

I then asked my friend Siavash how Jake Paul and Nate Robinson were able to earn their professional boxing cards. He proceeded to tell me that anyone could get them. “They just need 20 bucks and a good promoter.” That’s right; all it takes to be a pro boxer is to simply get your name on a pro boxing card.

This is problematic because the industry is now placing people who are rich and famous above those who are actually talented. For me and many others, the reason we watch sports is to observe the rare gifts that athletes have and to celebrate them; we watch to remind ourselves how remarkable the human body and mind are and what people can achieve. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

This pattern is not just observed in boxing but also in other professional sports. For example, NBA Finals games generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue for a single game. Therefore, is it really a surprise that the NBA goes to Game Five every year? The same goes for football; is it surprising that NFL playoff games tend to have very close scores and ambiguous rules regarding pass interferences?

Instinctively, we tend to blame institutions for rigging games. However, in this case, we cannot blame the establishment but rather the consumers. In a capitalist society, it is we, the consumers, that have the power. If consumers got together and boycotted the NBA, the NFL and other sports leagues, this would not be occurring. However, in consumer psychology, there is a concept called the Blissful Ignorance Effect, which states that the consumer would rather enjoy their product or service for what it seems like on the surface rather than question it to ensure it is what it appears to be.

These establishments know this and are playing on it. We as consumers need to wake up and stop feeding into what the TV and phone screens are telling us. We need to question whether or not what we are seeing is reality. We need to always ask ourselves what the incentive is for the businesses to perform their services. A non-sports-related example would be: why is Apple allowed to sell us new iPhones every year that have little to no innovation? And if there is innovation, how do we know for sure that this new technology was not available last year? For crying out loud, the biggest deviation the iPhone X had was their removal of the home button. Another scary thing to ask is, what is stopping Apple from making updates for the iPhone that slow it down, thus forcing the consumer to upgrade to the new model?

Overall, we have the choice to remain vigilant and keep firms accountable for their actions or to stay asleep and indulge in consumerism. The latter is easier, for sure, but will inevitably have dire consequences once innovations in products and services become stagnant. The whole point of capitalism is to incentivize innovation and improvements in products and services, as long as the consumer keeps the firms accountable. Without us doing our part, capitalism will simply not work in the long run.

Most recently, Logan Paul (Jake Paul’s brother, who doesn’t even box) is scheduled to fight a boxing legend by the name of Floyd Mayweather Jr. At this point, the industry is mocking us for our complacency.

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