When my father was very much younger, he fancied fighting cocks and like many of his fellow cockfighting afficionados , he raised and even tried to breed them as a hobby. He cared for and pampered them then trained and conditioned them like prized athletes, and in many ways they were exactly that.
They had only one purpose. To fight gloriously then win and live to fight again or die miserably on the hard packed dirt of the town cockpit already stained by the blood of their fellow fowls while a howling mob of human spectators clapped their hands, thumped their feet and screamed for blood and death.
I never did develop the same fascination or "addiction" to cockfighting but during the times when I did accompany my father to the cockfights and even later on when I did watch them out of curiosity, I also felt emotionally drawn, despite my reservations, in no small degree into this violent, bloody yet viscerally exciting sport, if we can call it that.
It's not just the betting that got to me (although to many spectators that is what it is all about) but something more. Perhaps it was the fact that something approaching ultimate dénouement, a climactic resolution of a drama of life and death was unfolding before me. Nothing really brings out the worst...... or the best in man than the illusion of his control over life and death over creatures he considers lesser than himself.
In many ways the cockpit is a modern version of the Roman Colosseum where death matches between gladiators were public spectacles. Only we are more civilized and more enlightened, thus we let animals do the fighting and the dying for us.
But it is the same bloodlust that filled the Colosseum to the rafters with spectators that drives us to the cockfights, the same addiction to the spectacle of violence and imminent death. The betting, even victory or defeat (despite what affictionados say) becomes incidental and often irrelevant. It is always the bloody spectacle that appeals most to the savage within us all.
In his later years my father gradually gave up his gamecocks and his visits to the town cockpit became fewer and fewer then finally ceased all together. He said that the whole thing was becoming more costly that he could afford.
I would like to think that he had developed a gradual aversion to the idea of cockfighting itself. Perhaps it was the soul of the healer and physician that was so strong in him that made him change his mind.
In the years that followed, all traces of his cockfighting past eventually disappeared. The cock pens and cages were dismantled and recycled for other uses. The gaffs, their bindings and all the other numerous bits and pieces of equipment that no self respecting cockfighting enthusiast can do without were all given away.
I wondered then if he had harbored any regrets for doing what he did. If he did he gave no sign of it.
In my case, I was glad he gave it all up. The cockfights were were too bloody and barbaric for my taste. I prefer to indulge my inner savage nature by watching boxing matches and other contact sports on the television screen. The more contact and the more violent, the better.
That, in my view, is the more modern and civilized thing to do.