Friends:

In 1982, when I was in 2nd Grade, I saw a movie that changed my life… for about a month.  The movie was “Rocky III” (you know, the one with Mr. T) and I vividly remember riding down the escalator at the Pacific Theater in the old Sherman Oaks Galleria (from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Commando” fame) profoundly moved and inspired.  My fists were pumping, I was shadowboxing in the mirror surrounding the escalator, and the transformation had been made.  First thing Monday morning I informed Mrs. Fry that I was to be called Rocky from then on out.  I wrote my name as “Rocky C.” on my homework, in my books, and on my notebook and required that everyone on the playground should call be Rocky.  Like I said, it lasted for about a month and then faded away when Grease 2 came out.

Fast forward two years to 1984 and 4th Grade when a new transformation took place; the transformation into a living, breathing, break-dancing machine.  The movie?  “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.”  It didn’t mean anything that I was a white Jewish kid from the suburbs, I was determined to make my mark along side Shabba Doo and Boogaloo Shrimp.  The kitchen, the family room, the aisles of the supermarket… nowhere was safe from the break-dancing machine. 

So why do I bring this up?  If anyone tells you that we are not influenced by what we see on television and in movie theaters, they are full of crap, just go ask Rocky C. and Boogaloo Cohen.  Which is why the changes in sports and entertainment, even over the last 25 years, are frightening for the 35-year old Rob with a 5 year old daughter. 

We are moving closer and closer to the society envisioned by Stephen King and immortalized in the adaptation of his book, “The Running Man.”  How soon before reality television includes death and dismemberment, all in the name of entertainment?  Think I am being extreme?  Isn’t that what these sporting events are promising?  Extreme skating, extreme skiing, extreme martial arts?

What inspired this recent post were the events that took place at the Raiders/49ers football game last week at which there were beatings and shootings.  If a 6 year old can watch a boxing movie and change his name for a month, why are we surprised that adults watching grown men beat the living snot out of each other on the gridiron won’t be similarly swayed and influenced to beat each other up?  Not to mention when you add alcohol to the mix; why do we act as if this type of behavior is unexpected and bewildering?

And just this past week I heard news that the President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has designs for ultimate fighting to be more mainstream and as popular as the three/four major sports.  Will we be similarly surprised when viewers of UFC events start beating each other up and kicking and biting and putting each other in headlocks and sleeper-holds?  At least with wrestling everyone knew it was fake (isn’t it?).  But UFC is real.  It’s bloody and gruesome and shocking and intense and the participants feel the pain.

It used to be easy to argue that if you don’t like violence on television and in movies, don’t watch the news.  But that argument doesn’t work anymore and you all have to agree with me on that.  The news is nothing compared to primetime television. 

Am I truly concerned that my daughter will go out and beat people up or want to change her name to Rampage or Kimbo?  No, of course not.  And as it regards my girls, it isn’t them I am worried about.  It’s the boys she goes to school with.  I saw it on the playground just the other day.  One of the boys grabbed my daughter as she was running and while it was harmless, I got a glimpse into the future.  What will boys be like when they get wind of football and UFC and first-person shooter games and what used to pass for “R” rated movies but which are now “PG?” (If they haven’t already, of course.)

Of course I am not arguing for football and UFC and violent movies and videogames to be tossed by the wayside and abolished forever.  And I wish I could say I wonder when it will end, but we all know it won’t end.  So the better question then is, “What are we doing to prevent the fan violence, the influences that violence has on our temperaments?”  How are we educating our children so that they learn that they cannot act out when they see similar acts in entertainment and sports?

We all know that one rotten apple can spoil the bunch and it is always one moron who brings these issues to light while the majority are perfectly capable of understanding that it is just a game, or a movie, or a TV show.  But as we see more of it, as access to more of it is made so much easier to the point that we are virtually inundated with the violence, then aren’t we providing a breeding ground for more morons?

I don’t have an answer and unfortunately all I can do is work with my own children; I cannot control other people’s children.  But we have been heading down a path from which we cannot turn away.  The future is bright yet also potentially bleak unless we get a hold on how we view entertainment.  Dictionary.com defines “entertainment” as: “agreeable occupation for the mind; diversion; amusement.”  Or, to put it another way, it is something designed to take us away from our normal lives; i.e., it is not real.  We cannot act like it is real.  We cannot internalize it like it directly impacts our lives.  It is strictly a form of amusement. 

Why do people have such a hard time with that?  Why do people beat each other up and shoot each other because of what team they root for?  And why did I change my name to Rocky C?  I mean, I couldn’t possibly think I had a shot at being a boxer, right?  But I definitely had the backspin down pat. 

Have a good week.

Rocky C. aka Boogaloo Cohen

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