Stark Inconsistencies: ESPN, Ultimate Fighting, and Concussions

We don’t learn things all at once—not as individuals or as a culture, and what we learn we tend to have to re-learn. When we are in the midst of a learning process, our learning is uneven, and our viewpoint is vulnerable to stark inconsistencies.

The example I am thinking about this morning regards ESPN and the discussion that at last is gaining momentum regarding the extraordinary dangers of concussions on football and hockey athletes. The inconsistency regards the fact that ESPN can produce a thoughtful, though brief, report on this topic, a report that seems generally fair, humane, and researched, yet only minutes later show footage from Ultimate Fighting, complete with bloody and wrecked faces in a cage. The transition from the report on concussions to UFC highlights represents what appears to be a willful avoidance of the fact that Ultimate Fighting victories seem predicated often on inflicting severe concussions–the kind of concussions that shorten lives and make the lives these athletes have full of severe cognitive and other health issues. I am no expert on the science of concussions, but it seems obvious that any “sport” that allows for one competitor to kick another in the head is screaming for at least the same level of scrutiny that the high profile helmet sports are currently garnering regarding concussions. I recognize that ESPN shows highlights of many sport where concussions occur; however, the currency of those sports is not explicitly to inflict concussions on the opposition like Ultimate Fighting. ESPN seems comfortable maintaining what should be an impossible position.

This lack of consistency in the application of knowledge is certainly not confined to ESPN—it is just the example that presented itself to me this morning. Sustainable progress is far more likely to occur when an individual or group does not limit the application of knowledge based on false distinctions.