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Sociology of Sports
Sports as an Opiate to the Masses
Images: (Kang, 2014), (Kendrick, Thiel, 2013)
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Sociology of Sports
Sports as an Opiate of the Masses
This paper will explore the idea that sports has replaced religion as the Opiate of
the Masses as Karl Marx theorized. Religion once was the world wide staple in life
amongst most people that brought them together. Not only bring people together,
but set the norms, beliefs, and values amongst people. Religion as an opiate of the
masses has brought importance to one’s life and even given people a “purpose”in
life. Practices of the modern world have changed quite a bit and people are
clinging to sports instead of religion. Religion membership has been on the decline
and sports has been on the rise. Sports are the modern day replacement of religion.
This paper will explore how sports has changed the socialization in society and my
own personal experience of how sports have impacted my life and have been an
opiate in my life.
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“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest
against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless
world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The
abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real
happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give
up a condition which needs illusions”.
-Karl Marx, Critique of Hegels Philosophy of Right
As religion membership continues to decline across the world, sports have
replaced what Marx refereed to as the “Opiate of the Masses”. Even through my own
experiences sports as proven to act as an “Opiate of the Masses” in my life. First, this
paper will explore Marx’s theory about what it means to be an “Opiate of the Masses”
and the qualifications and impacts on social relationships that are caused by such opiates
in society. Lastly, this paper will explore my own personal experience and what has
caused such experiences and how my social norms were formed by my experiences with
Marx theorized that religion was an opiate. In Marx’s theory an opiate is a false
sense of well-being that is causes someone to escape prior concerns, and plan and
perform their lives with their attention towards that opiate. Marx’s explains religion was
an opiate to the masses because there was a false sense of well being, allowed removal of
concerns, an oppressed pontoon, and demanded focus on preparing for the after life. This
dictated all of the social norms that were preformed in society (Davies, 2007). Marx also
explained that religion was the replacement for happiness and was the spirt of the people.
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Marx explains that religion is the distraction that allow people to cling to social
relationships and be apart of something larger giving the illusion of ultimate happiness
because of these relationships and connects that religion had created.
According to Sports as the "Opiate of the Masses": College Football in the
American South; Marx claimed religion was once the “opium of the people”. Engels
“argued that the character of society is fundamentally shaped by the way in which it
produces what it needs and how it organizes people through this means of production.
This fundamental economic bade that gives rise to the superstructure. This superstructure
is what we call culture. It includes art, religion, and philosophy (social or political most
importantly). In these various cultural manifestations we can find the dominant ideology
of a culture, that core set of interconnected believes and values that shape a society”
(Bain-Selbo, 2008). According to Marx “the ideology of a culture is not neutral in regard
to the various constituencies in that society. Ideology tends to support or justify the
unequal distribution of goods and wealth. In other worlds, ideology tends to justify the
superior position of the “haves” over against the “have nots.” This makes sense because it
is the “haves” who are in control of the means of production. The “haves” control art,
religion, literature, philosophy and much more” (Bain-Selbo, 2008). Natural as social
relationships grow the separation between the two groups continues to establish its self
and religion was what connected the “haves” and the “have nots”. This can be seen in
sports today. For instance, social groups are separated in the stands of an athletic
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event. The best seats are reserved for the season ticket holders than spend a lot per season
to maintain, company seats, or suits where your waited on. Then, seats vary all the way to
the top of the bleachers, “the cheap seats”. Separating the fans by social class.
In order for something to be considered an “Opiate of the Masses”, Marx theorized
that there are two elements that must exist. An opiate must allow people to deal with
social problems by providing either a temporary high, allowing a person to ignore or not
think about the problem. Or a distorted vision of references or identification that allow
individuals to look for salvation in their false universe (Hoch, 1972). In addition, religion
once set all the rules and expectations of the upper social class. Today, sports dictate the
structure in society; for instance, the rules, training, lessons and promotes nationalism
and loyalties to groups and communities. Sports also teach society that there is one that
will loose, both groups cannot come out a winner. Teaching that competition is and the
acceptance of loss is valued in our societies structure today.
Not only have sports shaped the way our social structure consist of, but also
impacts politics, just in similar ways that religion has been known to impact politics.
Voting of religious groups began to emerge largely in the 1960s. Religious beliefs
dictated which laws or political party in which you play a role in. For instance, religious
views against abortion is valued in some political parties today. These religious views
created a false consciousness. Today, sports and politics cross paths just how religion had
impacted politics of the past. Sports today protect and increase the legitimacy of the
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status quo that exist in the political sphere today. This is also the same for some
international politics. The great performance of athletes in a country can be seen as a
nation’s value and worth, inanition to social and ideological superiority (Lund, 2012).
Sports can provide the false consciousness that their nation is independent, strong, and
many other feelings of nationalism, despite the reality of the nation’s economic, political,
and other social problems that require replying on one another to be successful or
improve in those spheres (Redeker, 2008). Redeker, uses the FIFA world cup as an
example of politics, countries want to host the World Cup for what it means to their
nation. Employees of FIFA were recently exposed for taking bribes to make the locations
of certain world cups.
Sports eventually replaced religion as an “Opiate of the Masses” for different
reasons. According to Barnes and Lowery; church attendance has been decreasing
continuously for many years (2013). In addition to the decrease of religion membership,
there is also the massive impact sports and the media shape the norms of society,
especially with the progressions of technology the impact is much greater. Shaping
society in such ways, sports also teach and promote fair play, nationalism, and have the
same psychological functions as religion once did. Sports provide what is required to be
an opiate of the people and it is an easy one to accept into one’s life. As an Opiate of the
Masses, sports not only impact social structure, norms, political views by being the status
quo and maintaining that image. In addition, sports have played a role in false
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appearances on even at an international level. With such impacts on society, how can
sports not be the new “Opiate of the Masses”?
Personally, I would have to say that sports are my opiate. Neither of my parents
practiced religion, by both side of my family had many sports that there lives prior to
children were devoted to. Including, Motocross, Horse Showing, Football, Wrestling,
Karate, and Hydroplane Racing. Both of my parents and their parents were the generation
that began skipping church for sporting activities and by the time I was born my family
had stopped attending church all together. This is the case with many other people in the
world. Sports shaped our values, behaviors, social groups, and by how much was dictated
by our social class, could we afford to do more. My parents even spent their retirement to
put my younger brother and I through sports. Growing up, my brother and I played sports
all year long. Then, began specializing in certain sports and playing select sports. During
the winters my brother and I raced snowmobiles and traveled around the western United
States. Then played select soccer and volleyball on our off seasons. Spending all our free
time on practice, training, and preparing for our next competition no matter the sport or
even multiple sports in one day. I was also influenced by the hidden curriculum of sports
and it has created who I am today and the decisions I make. I currently coach high school
volleyball, middle school volleyball, and a select volleyball team. Sports taught me
integrity, dedication, team building skills and leadership skills and has also shaped who I
am today and the way I coach and interact with my athletes.
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Sports is an opiate in my life, sports have always given me an outlet and given me
the ability to forget whatever problems that were existing in my life. I really depended on
Sports when my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. Playing volleyball and racing gave me a
high on life and adrenaline that allowed me to forget about the problems and completely
focus on the sports, giving me a false illusion of happiness. In addition, sports also gave
me a false and distorted frame of identification. When racing snowmobiles professionally
for a few years, was then for many year who I thought I was and what my purpose was.
Later, after injury and the inability to preform the same, my life dramatically changed. I
was even depressed for a time being. I had to connect to sports in different ways and that
is when I began to really pay attention to professional sports and now can identify myself
as a “Hawks fan” or a “Twelve”. I am much more than sports, when I really think about
it, but when sports give the illusions and distorted images of reality. Not only have sports
impacted my life socially, but also politically. Sports have influenced politics in my life
on the occurrences of voting for schools and funding. As a coach, and a supporter of the
benefits of athletics that has influenced my decisions when voting for certain funding and
In conclusion, Sports around the world has replaced religion as an “Opiate of the
Masses”. Sports behave as an opiate for individuals and play the psychological factors
that drive us towards sports. Sports impact our world not only socially, but also
politically and our versions of status quo and how one must obtain that version; both
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locally and globally. Sports meet all the criteria that is required to be considered an
“Opiate of the Masses” according to Marx and what he claimed religion functioned as.
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