More Macho than Capitalists

Yenisel Rodriguez

Photo: Wikimedia.commons
Teofilio Stevenson. Photo: Wikimedia.commons

The hosts of the Cuban TV sports program Al duro y sin guante (Hard-hitting and Without Gloves), see the protective measures that currently exist in amateur boxing as being excessive.

They believe that the latest changes in the requirements for protection (such as the additional padding of headgear and gloves) affect the attractiveness of the sport at the international level.

What this means is that the followers of boxing (be it professional or amateur) are seeking above all to witness the ultimate act violence on the face of a human being: the knockout.

But in deciphering the opinions expressed by the hosts of Al duro y sin guante, another misinterpretation can be made.

For example, one could view this consternation on the part of the commentators over the absence of the knockout as media-generated sadism; or, worse still, the concern of the AIBAF for the safety of its fighters could be viewed as petty silliness.

None of this is really the case, but we can’t deny that behind the complex question of controlling violence in combative sports lie many human miseries, some more conscience-related than others.

At the root of all this is concern for the sport they say.  But what type of sport is it that they want to conserve?

For a long time the official Cuban line (of which the above-mentioned commentators are representatives) has criticized the systematic dehumanization of athletes in combat sports at the hands of the most self-serving commercial interests, which currently govern professional sports.  “They do anything and everything to sell a good show,” one of our sports officials would say.

Notwithstanding, in that same official discourse they defend the government control of the media when it comes to viewing sports in Cuba.  In this sense, Cuban TV makes significant efforts to assure that media-promoted sports spectacles attract a national audience, though supposedly this is a spectacle different from what is promoted by professional sports.  “Our spectacles promote amusement as a function of dignified competitiveness” they assert.

But times of changes and of betrayed utopias have gradually arrived, and many people are beginning to take note of the new truths so as not to remain outside the banquet – or at least so they don’t miss the main dish.

The problem is that today Cuban sports spectacles are incorporating commercial and ethical patterns characteristic of professional sports, albeit very subtly.  At this time, for example, there’s a kind of nostalgia for scenes such as when Teofilo Stevenson leveled a tremendous blow to the head of an opponent who then fell to the floor unconscious.  “Those were the days!” one of our commentators might rave.

But the market doesn’t produce all of the demons that lie in wait for us men and women.  There are demons that precede the market, and these have more to do with other faces of power.  Caudillismo, machismo and totalitarianism are some of the known guises.

More macho than capitalist, our commentators are promoting a culture of violent amusement when requesting a knockout as a reaffirmation of love for the homeland.

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Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

Yenisel Rodriguez has 155 posts and counting. See all posts by Yenisel Rodriguez

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