How the world of sports has affected our social, economic, and political systems


The current culture in sports advocates for more vices than virtues. This is as portrayed by Varda Burstyn in her book `The Rites of Men, Manhood, politics, and the culture of sports.` In a fearless, intelligent, and insightful manner Varda explains how the sport nexus has continued to influence social, economic, and political systems of the current western world. She does this by analyzing how sports emerged as a secular religion that led to a rise in virile patriotism in men promoting vices in our political social and economic systems. She further explores how the sport nexus has affected our social culture by promoting vices like gender inequality, where masculinity is upheld, violence, and homosexuality in the form of homoeroticism.

The political system is affected as a result of the social approach, which has continued to aggravate the social conflict. Economically sports have continued to underpin capitalism through promoting ideologies of competition and ranking and those of overpowering and dominating (Burstyn, 1999 p7).

The world of sports has therefore affected our social, economic, and political systems through propagating the ideologies of masculinity, use of drugs, racism, violence, and capitalism. This review therefore summarizes, analyzes, and criticizes the general argument of Varda and her supporting ideologies in each of the chapters.


Varda asserts that masculinism is the primary ideological core of sport and its culture. Masculinism could be defined as the gender dominance of men. Sports is seen as the origin of this ideology and the main method and way in which it has been propagated over time. Beginning in the classical city of Athens, this ideology has continued to assert an absolute authority of men over women, which now shows itself politically, socially, and economically. In the ancient city of Athens, sports were mainly war games and were practiced by men (Burstyn, 1999, p29). Such war-games included throwing the javelin and wrestling, which are games of dominance and overpowering. This dominance resulted in men being seen as dominant than women, where it catalyzed women being owned by men and not being allowed to own property staying at homes doing house chores.

Varda is correct in her argument that sport is the means through which masculinity has been propagated and affirmed over the years. The sport nexus has continued to portray men sports as superior to women’s, more interesting, and even more dominating. With such views, it also has continued to propagate the virile patriotism of men towards their sports and, thus, masculinity. The sport nexus support of more men games has lead to the notion of women seeming passive in sports and, therefore, passive in all other matters both politically and economically. The dominating nature of men’s game has also led to women seeming somehow weak and, therefore, incapable resulting in lesser inclusivity of women in both politics and wealth making. The sports culture propagated by our sports nexus is, therefore, the means that propagates masculinity and hyper gender.

Varda further explores how the current sports culture has exacerbated the social conflict of masculinism and hyper gender through the displays of ideal bodies and behaviors of men. Men involved in sports have to work for the ideal bodies and display the ideal behaviors associated with men, which include many muscles healthy body builds and the characteristics of power and dominance. The sport nexus has continued to induce the characters of competition and ranking, which do not seem to be fully achieved unless the male perfection stereotype is achieved. The dominating stereotype has, in turn, resulted in men seeming superior and far more dominant as a gender.

The physicalism of sports and stereotypes of strength, competition, and domination have continued to propagate masculinism. Many of the sportsmen are forced to work out to maintain their image and jobs in the sports world. Others maintain that they do not seem to fit in the sports when they have lesser muscles and cannot display dominant and overpowering characters. Such is what reflects in the social and political system where only the men seem to have the strength to lead.


Burstyn holds that the current sports culture incites and induces homosexuality, especially in the youth and children, through erotic displays of the body during playing. To support the homoeroticism of sports, one has to consider the nature of sex and how it is effected in all humans. Sex can be considered as an intense interaction of both the physical body and the mental (Burstyn, 1999, p32). Varda explains that such intense experiences are usually and only achieved through sports starting when one plays as a child to what is displayed by professional sportsmen in the field. As much as the players do not engage in erotic acts in the field, the effect that they have on the spectator induces sexual desires and given that most of these spectators are men. The result is that homosexuality is promoted in their brains.

One can, however, challenge this argument, which, as it seems, does not induce homoeroticism directly but depends on the assumption of the ubiquitous nature of sexual thoughts in the spectator’s brain. The fact that these players represent the ideal qualities of each gender, especially the males, more men are very attracted to them, ending in homosexual thoughts. Additionally, sports usually induce extreme emotions in the fans, and any spectator may have a hard time differentiating these emotions as sexual or not. Such confusion triggers and promotes homoeroticism. It is also worth noting that some of the sportsmen are homosexuals. Children and youth looking up to them as role models end up having homosexual thoughts and may finally embrace homosexuality.


Varda asserts that the current sports culture continues to incite the use of drugs in the form of doping and also substance abuse. In the Olympics, for example, much doping is done by athletes to gain a competitive advantage. Also, many of the sports like rugby and weight lifting impose on the athletes to look very large and dominating, hence triggering steroid use tendencies (Burstyn, 1999 p223). Some of the athletes also use varieties of recreational drugs such as alcohol and marijuana. The use of drugs by athletes who portray a society’s ideal qualities then means that society is comfortable with the use of drugs, which is not correct.

To support this, most athletes abuse drugs as a sign of underlying mental illnesses and to mask emotional deficiencies. Seeking treatment for a mental illness or therapy to cure emotional deficiencies is seen as a sign of weakness. Athletes having the ideal qualities must not show weakness and therefore abuse drugs. As a result, most of the youth are encouraged to use drugs, aggravating social conflict and an economic crisis.

Violence and racism

The sports culture has induced and increased efficiency in the use of violence and aggressive tactics. Sports are generally very competitive, with many rankings involved. Most of these sports, like football, also involve a lot of jealousy, hatred, and greed in the spectators. Some sports like wrestling, ice hockey, and water polo allow for violence, although restrictions do exist. Athletes participating in such games are continually being hospitalized due to injuries that range from concussions, broken limbs, and even dislocations (Burstyn, 1999 p165).

To put this into context, the negative feelings induced in the spectators promote violence at a larger scale. Socially people will tend to display more aggressive behavior to show dominance or even to display patriotism to their team. Bullying is also encouraged, which is a way to mask one’s inner fears. Athletes hurt each other without mercy in order to win a game, which teaches young people unhealthy competition. Such a society is bound to have trouble politically as members cannot accept defeat, always resulting in political unrest and chaos, as is seen today.

The sport nexus, through its support of capitalism and competition, has reintroduced racism into sports. Racism involves discrimination of persons on the bases of color and race. Racism may come about when fans target players, especially in international sports. Also, some athletes may be barred from participating based on their race.

In conclusion, Varda has explained how the existing sports culture has continued to advocate for vices in society negatively affecting the social, political, and economic systems. As a fan of any sport, one should be aware of the vices involved and seek help, especially when it comes to such fundamental issues, such as health, both mental and physical. The sport nexus may not change its approach of competition, domination, and masculinism, and therefore it is the individual role of everyone involved to identify the vices and change them.

The book the rites of men is a splendid book addressing issues that face our current society that arise from sports and the sports nexus. It addresses these issues fearlessly and with much insight.

All stakeholders in sports should, therefore, take the time to read the book, especially the fans who are the ones who experience the adverse effects. Of importance also is that everyone feels the effects of sports through the political and economic systems, and therefore everyone should read the book.

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