John Stossel

If John McCain becomes president, will he leave me alone?

You might think so. After all, he's got Grover Norquist in his corner, and Norquist wrote "Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives".

The book makes a good case for "Americans who simply wish to be left alone by the government. They are not asking the government for others' money, time, or attention. Rather, they want to be free to own a gun, homeschool their children, pray, invest their money, and control their own destiny."

What if people want to fight each other?

I ask because mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions are booming.

"Mixed" martial arts is ... what it sounds like. Athletes combine boxing, wrestling, judo, karate, etc. to knock someone out or get them to submit.

MMA fascinates people -- frankly, mostly male people who, like me, wondered about things like whether karate is more effective than judo. MMA answers such questions.

The big promoter of the sport, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, popularized MMA by setting rules (no eye gouging or finger twisting) and doing TV promotions with interesting fighters. People want to watch. A million viewers recently tuned in to a $39.95 pay-per-view event. Last week, one of their events hit network TV for the first time.

So now kids want to do it. And some parents think that's just fine.

But some politicians say this is terrible.

Sen. John McCain -- yes, that John McCain -- once called the adult version of MMA "human cockfighting." He wrote letters to the governor of every state asking them to ban it. At McCain's urging, pay-per-view events were dropped by major cable companies TCI and Time Warner. Now it is back on TV, and some states have removed bans after seeing the lost business opportunities.

We called McCain's office to see if he's changed his opinion, but no one called back.

Mayor Robert Correia of Fall River, Mass., was horrified to learn that there was an MMA academy in his town, not far from his office. It teaches ultimate fighting to kids as young as 5.

"That's irresponsible," the mayor told me, "To allow this to be taught to our children and for adults to stand by and cheer this on?"

Correia wants MMA banned in his town and the gym shut down. It teaches kids the wrong things, he says.

"It's telling them, look, the best thing to do is hurt someone."

"Nonsense," said moms at the gym. They told me the mayor was clueless and that MMA is little different from karate or judo classes.

The mayor replied that some parents just don't know what's good for their kids. He'd heard that MMA is unsafe.

It's not surprising that he'd heard that, since predictably, the media hypes every danger.

"Good Morning America" aired a clip of pediatrician Lisa Thornton saying, "it is dangerous from a physical standpoint. It can lead to significant injuries to the neck and to the bones."

MMA could injure, of course, but a study from Johns Hopkins found that "the injury rate in MMA competitions is compatible with other combat sports," and, in fact, "the lower knockout rates compared to boxing may help prevent brain injury."

No sport is injury free. Over six years, 77 kids died after being hit in the chest with baseballs. Every year hundreds die riding bikes. No one has yet gathered comparative statistics on the risk of MMA, but even cheerleading sends 25,000 kids to hospital emergency rooms.

When I said that to Mayor Correia, he replied, "That logic would say, Well, let's now add another 25,000 in mixed martial arts. That's OK?"

Parents aren't responsible enough? The politicians need to make these decisions for them?

He replied, "Parents do have a chance to decide that through their elected officers. That's what a democracy is all about."

Really? I had no idea democracy was about voting on who gets to tell you how to raise your kids.

Give me a break!


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate