Heads rolling off moving bodies with one slash of the sword. Blood seeping out from cavities spotting the body. Horses wailing in pain, brutally forced to continue a painstaking endeavor.

Cheers. Whistles. Standing ovations. The Roman gladiator games were some of the most controversial practices of ancient times: many claimed to frown upon the ruthless nature of the sport. But few seemed to let the violence of the contests interfere with their enjoyment of the game they so dearly loved.

Over two thousand years later, American society has fostered its own “gladiator games.” With the recent flurry of football players scrutinized by the media for domestic abuse, the National Football League has fallen into an abyss of negativity in the public eye. Even with the legal accusations and horrifying discoveries, however, the NFL will continue to be one of the biggest media powerhouses in the country.

Despite the shocking, gruesome video clips that have surfaced depicting former Ravens running back Ray Rice’s attack on his wife, Ravens fans have yet to fade out their antagonized football team. Before any suspension was handed down, Ray Rice arrived to training camp practice greeted with cheers and standing ovations. Even after the suspension was handed down, a sold out crowd still engulfed the stands as the Ravens routed the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. CBS announced that television ratings for the Thursday night game were 215% higher than those of normal primetime numbers. In fact, the first Thursday night game of the year netted a 108% rating increase from last year’s TNF opener(Jets vs. Patriots). Though people declare that they support women’s rights and stand up against child abuse, they clearly aren’t invested enough in these causes to turn off a major source of entertainment. Fans are still tuning into America’s game, no matter who is taking the field.

Subsequently, sponsorships and endorsers will eventually migrate back to the money-making machine they recently fled. According to The Hollywood reporter, sponsors have asked that their ads be removed from Baltimore Ravens or Minnesota Vikings telecasts. However, this breakup may not last long. Having earned $1 billion in profit last year, the NFL will always hold leverage in corporate partnership deals. Even if sponsors try and avoid Raven and Viking games, what happens when the 3-1 Ravens play their first playoff game this January, an event sure to bring in a colossal TV audience? Advertisers will be forced to jump first into the NFL’s money pool, with no regards to the surrounding circumstances.

Furthermore, the quality of football has yet to decline for teams affected by these incidents, despite the off-field blunders of major players. The Baltimore Ravens have amassed a 3-1 record over four games, currently riding a three-game win streak. The 2012 Super Bowl champs capped the first quarter of the season with a 38-10 romp of the Carolina panthers, rushing for 127 yards. Ravens running backs are averaging a solid 4.2 yards per carry in through four contests. The Ravens have seamlessly found a way to replace an All-Pro running back, highlighting another perfection in the NFL system: in a league where twenty-two players start for any given team, the loss of one key player will never diminish the quality of play. Thus, teams will continue winning games with or without lost players, separating the player from the team and ultimately, the league.

Ethical issues aside, the NFL has proven that it will forever dominate the entertainment industry, even in such trying times. The only way the gladiator games were ended was through governmental rule. All hell would break loose if Congress tried to interfere with this private entity, leaving it essentially untouchable by any facet of society.

Photo: ESPN

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