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Deaths of highly paid athletes during sporting events

  1. Oct 26, 2013 #1
    After it was announced that Dale Earnhardt Sr. died in a wreck in the Daytona 500 in 2001, everyone who mentioned it acted as though it was a horrible tragedy. When boxer Beethoven Scotland collapsed during a boxing match and later died during the boxing program I was watching on tv in 2001, the commentators acted as though it was a horrible tragedy. Commentators Max Kellerman refused to do any further boxing commentary for the duration of the show. Dale Earnhardt was a multimillionaire who was participating in NASCAR races to make millions of dollars. Beethoven Scottland was boxing for a lot of money too. Both NASCAR racing and professional boxing are obviously so dangerous that they could be characterized as deadly. Hundreds of automobile race car drivers had died in auto racing before Dale Earnhardt. Tony Roper, Kenny Irwin, and Adam Petty had all died in automobile crashes while racing or practicing on NASCAR race tracks less than a year before Dale Earnhardt's death . It is common knowledge in the boxing community that hundreds of boxers have died from injuries sustained in boxing matches. Dale Earnhardt Sr., Beethoven Scotland, and other highly paid athletes that die from boxing matches or automobile races did not die in an attempt to rescue others. They just died while trying to make a lot of money. Their lives were cheap enough for them that they were willing to gamble their lives in an attempt to make a lot of money.
    To me, it is tragic when a person dies from circumstances that they had no control over. I.e. it is tragic when a young person dies of cancer or a disease.

    To me, it is tragic a person dies from attempting to save others. I.e. it is tragic when a police officer gets shot and killed while attempting to arrest a rapist.

    I don't see it as tragic when a person's life is so cheap to them that they gamble it to make millions of dollars. The highly paid athletes in deadly sports could just get safer, normal jobs that pay middle class incomes.

    When millionaire automobile racers or professional boxers die from participating in deadly sports, why should I start crying?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2013 #2
    Er...so don't?
  4. Oct 26, 2013 #3

    Ben Niehoff

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    I think Dale Earnhart actually had a bit of a fan following and people liked him on a personal level.
  5. Oct 26, 2013 #4
    Ben Niehoff,

    I agree with your reasoning on why some people mourned Dale Earnhardt's death, but I don't see why people were not Dale Earnhardt fans before his death mourned his death.

    And what about Beethoven Scottland? I highly doubt Max Kellerman and the other boxing commentators knew Beethoven Scotland at all. He was basically unheard of before his match.
  6. Oct 26, 2013 #5
    You're being too logical. There's nothing wrong with mourning somebody's death, even if his death was his fault. Human emotion is often irrational, but that doesn't necessarily mean it deserves to be called into question when it is.
  7. Oct 26, 2013 #6
    I agree. Whenever a celebrity dies I'm one of the first to go online and be like "lol why do you guyz care he didn't even save a baby from a hurricane fire." It makes me feel good and it really makes people think, you know? Then I continue to contribute nothing to the world and use up 150 gallons of water a day.

    To actually answer though, most people really don't care if Earnhardt is dead. But some do (I don't). Is it really a big deal?
  8. Oct 27, 2013 #7


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    I see the point of your post except for the over the top part about leading a cheap life. All lives have some risk factor associated with their activities be it from work or play. I think you are confusing the part about play, and being paid to play at a professional sport as being something less noble than any other profession. I do not see this connection in the comparison between deaths and profession.
    Is there an actual answer of which is more tragic from your example - the death of a begger trying to save a woman from a rapist or a policeman trying to do the same.
  9. Oct 27, 2013 #8
    Tobias Funke,

    Your going online and saying "Why do you guys care he didn't even save a baby from a hurricane fire" is not analogous to what I am saying here. I can sympathize with celebrities who die, even if their deaths were not made in an attempt to rescue others. Just because someone is a celebrity does not automatically mean that he or she is gambling their lives to make a lot of money.

    What I don't sympathize with is people who get killed because of their gambling their lives in deadly sports to make a lot of money.

    To me, if the mourning of Earnhardt or professional boxers is a big enough of a deal to interrupt the programming or the sports event I am attending, it's a big enough deal to mention the absurdity of the mourning.
  10. Oct 27, 2013 #9


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    There are a number of fallacies in your reasoning. Have you considered they weren’t just doing it for money, but rather a love for what they do? Or have you considered that some individuals don’t want a 9 to 5 bubble wrapped job in which they wake up, consume resources, and contribute nothing (either good or bad) to society; as such, any job that has a certain amount of celebrity will also influence society beyond just raw entertainment value.

    Do you mourn for the victim when a cop shoots a kid, or an innocent black man trying to get two undercover cops selling drugs off his lawn? Why are ‘first responders’ any more deserving of pity and mourning as a group? Don’t many of them join for reasons that aren’t always so chivalrous? Do you mourn for a young person who base jumps and due to a mechanical error of no fault of his own dies; the same as you’d mourn a young person who develops cancer and dies? Both deaths resulted as something beyond their control, although I’m sure you would try to reason that the base jumper was more deserving to die because of his choices. Both deaths are intrinsically the same, and deserve equal amounts of compassion and understanding. They both result in a loss of potential; no one deserves to die tragically—it happens, however.

    Any loss of life is tragic, regardless of the circumstances. You could be an injection drug user trying to rob a 7-11 for a fix, get shot and die, and it would still be tragic. I’m assuming you’ve never actually experienced, or seen, the life disappear from someone’s face.

    There is no quantifiable way to say one death is more tragic then another. When you begin to feel that way you may want to reflect on your humanity, or get counseling.
  11. Oct 29, 2013 #10
    I read your whole post. I still don't see any fallacies in my reasoning.

    Yes; if so, their lives were of a low enough value to them that they gambled their lives to have fun.

    Most jobs contribute positively to society. How does racing cars or professional boxing help society beyond raw entertainment value?

    If the police did not have to shoot the kid in self-defense or in defense of others, then, yes, I would mourn for the kid. Yes, I would mourn an innocent black man trying to get two undercover cops selling drugs off his lawn. Race has nothing to do with this conversation.

    First responders are not necessarily more deserving of pity and mourning. The specific example I gave was of a police officer getting killed attempting to arrest a rapist.



    It's not that the base jumper deserved to die. It's just that the base jumper's death resulted from his choices.

    The base jumper could have avoided such a scenario. A young person who dies of cancer could not avoid his or her fate.

    I agree that no one deserves to die tragically, but not all deaths are tragic.

    That's ridiculous. How is Ted Bundy's death tragic? Ted Bundy murdered dozens of women and girls. Ted Bundy escaped from jail twice, and he raped and murdered a 12 year old girl after he escaped from jail. I'm glad that Ted Bundy is dead. He cannot escape from jail and rape and kill any more girls.

    No; it wouldn't be tragic.

    Actually I have, but that's not germane to this conversation.

    It's qualitative, not quantitative.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013
  12. Oct 29, 2013 #11


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    That doesn't follow. For Dale Earnheardt in particular, he didn't gamble because he thought his life was cheap, he gambled because it was worth tens of millions of dollars.
    I doubt any did.
    If you care about them, you should cry, if you don't, you shouldn't. And that doesn't have anything to do with how much they earn or how risky their sport is; it applies to everyone, everywhere. Yesterday, 70 people died in car accidents in the US and I didn't shed a single tear over any of them. Rich, poor, risky driver, safe driver. Doesn't matter. All that matters is that I didn't know any of them.
  13. Oct 29, 2013 #12


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    Exactly, qualitative arguments are garbage.

    I would also just like to respond to this:

    Because it's tragic that a man went down such a path that culminated in his death. The same with my random drug user hypothetical.

    However, feel what you want. I personally see all untimely deaths as tragic, regardless of the lives they lead. If you're angry people do risky things or that other people choose to see those deaths as tragic—more power to you. I don't want to ever be in the position in which I start believing certain people deserve to die.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013
  14. Nov 1, 2013 #13
    That's my point. He choose to gamble his life to make a lot of money. There is no reason to think that his death is tragic.
  15. Nov 1, 2013 #14


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    Was race car driving more dangerous than fishing or logging, the two most dangerous professions in America (in per capita deaths)? If he died logging would you said he risked his life for money by taking on one of the most dangerous professions in America?

    There have been no fatalities in the Sprint cup since Earnhardt died. 12 years ago.


    There are 77 drivers on this list. 77 drivers*12 years is 1 death in the last 924 worker years.


    last year loggers had one death per 781 workers. Logging was more dangerous last year than nascar racing has been since Earnhardt's death. I realize that Nascar is probably safer now than it was back then, but the overall point stands. You are claiming he was risking his life needlessly for money, but haven't actually backed that up at all and are probably wrong.

    I would expect boxers to die during a match way more rarely than drivers to die during a race, so I think that point is even weaker.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
  16. Nov 1, 2013 #15


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    To turn that around, what is the point of living life so afraid of risk that you never do anything enjoyable? I'd rather do things with some risk rather than living my life inside a padded box.
  17. Nov 1, 2013 #16


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    The OP isn't looking for reason, only someone who agrees with their position.
  18. Aug 19, 2016 #17
    If you don't want to die, don't do deadly things.
  19. Aug 19, 2016 #18


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    You'll end up dying anyways.

    Realistically, though, If a small increase in the risk of a premature death can provide a large increase in the quality of life, why wouldn't you do it? For each person, the threshold of risk that's acceptable and the quality gained as a result is an individual decision, but I'm sure you make decisions every day that increase your risk of death in order to improve your life. Do you ever drive anywhere? That's a risky decision. Why don't you live at work, so you never have to commute and expose yourself to the risk of a traffic accident?
  20. Aug 19, 2016 #19
    There could be other factors involved. In boxing, for instance, the chances of sustaining brain damage go up enormously if one continues to box. Indeed, if one continues to box many fights per year over decades, brain damage is almost a certainty.

    Anyway, if an athlete chooses to do something where the athlete know he will get hurt in order to make a lot of money, why is the athlete's getting hurt tragic?
  21. Aug 19, 2016 #20


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    Because any human getting hurt is tragic, whether or not they made a choice that led them down that path. In the case of sports with very high injury risk, I also think it's kind of tragic that society will effectively pay people to throw away their health, and I think that risk mitigation is definitely important. This doesn't mean people should stop boxing, or playing American football, or racing cars, but it does mean that people should pay attention to the risks, and mitigate them wherever possible.
  22. Aug 19, 2016 #21
    I think i have some shred of agreement with you on this. In a way, it seems like society is subtly encouraging boxers to throw away their health by offering them a lot of money to box. I am still a boxing fan b/c i know that professional boxers box in order to make a lot of money, not to please me. I would find it disturbing if a professional boxer boxed to please me.
  23. Aug 19, 2016 #22
    This is a ridiculous argument. A life's worth to me is not inversely proportional to amount of risks they take.

    According to your profile, you're a trucker--the deadliest occupation in America last year. Everyone takes risks every day, some more than others, but that doesn't make a logger's death less tragic than an accountant. All deaths are tragic. That said, the risk of dying in most professions, including truckers, loggers, construction workers, etc. is still incredibly low, so it is still a tragedy when one of these deaths occur.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2016
  24. Aug 19, 2016 #23
    For me, the devil is in the details.

    America has to have truckers in order for Americans to have the quality of life that we do. Whether you live in a house or an apartment, everything in your home, except for the tap water and except for the natural gas if your home has natural gas, came in a truck. The walls of your home came in a truck. The roof of your home came in a truck. Whether you have a heat pump or a furnace, the heating unit of your home came in a truck. Over 99% of Americans only wear coats and other clothes that came in a truck. Without what trucks bring, most Americans would die of exposure during the winter.

    Everything came in a truck. The computer or cell phone that allows you to access this website came in a truck. The medical equipment that is keeping tens and tens of thousands of Americans alive in hospital right now came in a truck.

    99+% of the food that Americans eat came in a truck.

    Part of the reason I became a trucker is to help society. We don't have to have boxers or auto racers. We do have to have truckers.
  25. Aug 19, 2016 #24
    Of course. You're right--truckers are completely indespensible to society. Our society would not function without them. I have great admiration for them. So you're right, there is some difference in their role in society. My point is that it's impossible to quantify the level of tragedy of a death based solely upon the profession's value to society or the amount of risk a person chooses to take on. It basically boils down to a difference in the definition of what constitutes a tragedy, maybe.
  26. Aug 19, 2016 #25
    I agree b/c there is a third factor which is the motivations of the deceased.
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