From Heroes at the Colosseum to Heroes in Mobile Games

Sport was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in ancient Rome. Armed combatants called gladiators in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire would entertain a tightly packed colosseum with violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals in the presence of their emperor. Gladiators, who reached the height of popularity under their emperor Claudius, either fought to death or till the first shedding of blood, and would eventually place the decision of the outcome of the fight on the emperor. He would then either signal death with a raised fist with the thumb sticking out upwards or deliver mercy with a raised fist with no extended thumb. Most of these gladiators were either slaves or came from socially marginalized races and would fight till their last breath to exemplify the Roman martial ethic of ‘fighting or dying well’. The heroes of this violent sport have been celebrated in both high and low forms of art and commemorated in the Roman world though they were mostly treated as social outcasts during their lifetime.

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Coliseo, Coliseum by Vicente Villamón is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Other sports such as cursus (running), lucta (wrestling), pugilatus (boxing), pentathlon (consisting of jumping or leaping, the foot-race, throwing of the discus, throwing of the spear, wrestling), and pancratium (a combination of wrestling and boxing and martial arts) were also common sports in ancient Rome. Violence and bloodshed were two common threads that linked one Roman sport with another. Records say some Roman heroes were felicitated while others were segregated even in death.

Sports on the field

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2012 0921 JPII football 17 by Tim Donovan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Today, sports have evolved. Though there still exist, violent sports like rugby, wrestling, and boxing, they are played adhering to strict and fair rules and regulations. While the winner is commemorated, the loser is not humiliated either. Events such as the Olympics and World Cups offer fair ranks to first, second and third runners up in case of tournaments with many teams. While wrestling and other fighting sports have evolved into Krav Maga, Freestyle boxing, Judo, and kickboxing, soccer and football have evolved into modern day rugby, freestyle football, Paralympic football, futsal, cubbies, flag football, and more. You’ll be wrong if you thought these sports are played only on the fields and indoor arenas. With evolution, they have moved beyond and further. They have migrated to electronic gadgets such as our phones and tablets and taken the world by storm. Children who are shy to take to the fields and prefer to watch these sports on television sets have started to play such participatory sports.

Sports on mobile phones and other electronic devices

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“Worm Attack!” Mobile Game Helps Rid Communities of Intestinal Worms by USAID U.S. Agency for Inter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

GameDay Heroes is an app from the NFL stable aimed at getting kids on board. It can be played over a Wi-Fi connection with friends and family. The game consists of multiple football-based mini games that give children the scope to indulge in participatory sports. The game acquaints kids with NFL teams, jerseys and other gears, and allows them to dabble a little with shadow football. In a nutshell, it gives children a chance to explore the world of football and grow an interest for the sport in the most encouraging and entertaining way. While “Spot What’s Not” is a mini Game Day Heroes game where children have to spot the differences between two scenes straight from a football field, “Scrimmage Swap” is a tile swapping game where NFL helmets act as the different tiles. Anybody and everybody can be a hero in this mobile game, without shedding a single drop of blood or having to fight it off in real life on the field in front of a tightly packed auditorium!

It has been a long journey for sports – from the Colosseum to phones and tablets in young hands.

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