Back in 1898, the United States declared war on Spain. In defeating the Spaniards, America expanded its empire by acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines -- one of many examples in the global battle between western powers who used smaller, less powerful, and previously sovereign countries in the quest to control more natural resources and labor.
Among the numerous historical interpretations of western colonialism is also the cultural focus on manhood as it relates to war and more broadly, combat. In the aftermath of America's Civil War, American masculinity was reasserted through the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, fighting in, among other areas, San Juan Heights. Following successful military campaigns, Roosevelt would frequently spout verbal connections between politics, militaristic might, and a manhood that were said to cut across American class and regional lines.
It might be a stretch to say the vestiges of western colonialism are seen in today's sporting world. Still, it's worth noting -- as has been expressed countless times by sports theorists -- how present-day athletes so frequently represent minority populations previously wrung through western colonialism.
Yesterday (11.14.09), pound-for-pound boxing king Manny Pacquiao (Philippines) brutalized Miguel Cotto (Puerto Rico) over the course of 12 rounds. From all accounts, Cotto's victimization was particularly vicious after round 4, to the degree that Cotto's father wanted the fight stopped early, according to ESPN's SportsCenter.
Instead, the fight essentially went the distance until the referee intervened in the 12th, giving Pacquiao the technical knockout victory, and a place in boxing history as the only individual to win titles in 7 different weight classes.
As seen through the plethora of retired boxers out there who struggle with Parkinson's and other forms of "punch drunk" head trauma, this seems to me ultimately a space where a few minorities are allowed to flourish and reap massive financial rewards in an ultimately destructive practice, termed by Loic Waquant, "flesh peddling." Sure, these icons galvanize countries and diasporic communities.
But community and nationalistic pride notwithstanding, does it not seem odd that icons who represent minority communities are essentially pitted against one another, and paid to strike each other in the head, by those who benefit within the American capitalist milieu (some of whom are ethnic minorities themselves)? Before Cotto, Pacquiao's nemeses were predominantly from Mexico, generating a series of sporting wars between brown people outside of the privileged west.
And it looks like next up for Pacman is Floyd "Money" Mayweather, a flamboyant, undefeated African American boxer. As Pacquaio's success continues, he makes the rounds, whipping up on Mexicans, Irish, Puerto Ricans, etc.; we'll see what happens with Mayweather should the fight happen.
All the while, the masses carry on, cheering as their male heroes launch padded fists into each other's heads. Granted, their heroes pull in millions for themselves, small portions of which are occasionally donated to charities. In the mean time, the dearth of critical analysis continues, which might otherwise ask why we celebrate and reward minorities who enact new wars, sporting wars, upon each other over the weekend.
And what do minorities do after cheering on or sulking away from the sporting outcome? Do oppositional fighters coalesce different minority communities to question the shared experience of global inequity? Or is it back to work on Monday...
(Photos via Yahoo! Sports)