Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Michael Vick and the timelessness of brutality

Michael Vick and the timelessness of brutality

In a world where children's hands are hacked off with machetes and bombs are detonated in marketplaces, where young women are burned alive as punishment for affairs of the heart, civilization clearly remains a work in progress. Our aspirations are shadowed by the stubborn brutality of the human animal, which, it seems, cannot be tamed and can only be kept at bay.

One notable success: the rise of regulated athletic competition to take the place of blood sport as mass entertainment. In Rome at the height of its imperial glory, gladiators by the thousands fought to the death before cheering crowds. They...

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