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THE DUALITY OF SPORT
ffo11w11 beings seek ekstasis, a "stepping 011t~ide" of th eir
1w111wl,
111111ulr111e experience. If they 110 lunger find ecstasy in a
synagogue,
clwrc/1, or 111osq11e, they look for it i11 dm1cc , lllll5ic,
sport, sex, or
drugs.
- Karen Armstrong, historian of religions
Spol1 is a u;i11do11; 011 a clw11gi11g soqety.
- Dmicl Halber~tam , author
For sol/le people, baseball i· like a religion . It has all the
ele111e11ts:
a creation story, falls from grace, redemption, prophets,
heretic5,
icons, lituals, te111JJ!es, u:ors/1ip, sacrifice, miracles, sar,iors
a11d si11-
11ers-lots of si111wrn.
- John Longhurst, Wi1111ipeg ( Manitoba ) Free Press
Soccer is like a 90-111ir111te anxiety dream--<Jnc of those
fnistrating
dreams u:hen you 're trying to get somewhere but something is
a/u;ays
in the iuay. This is yet another icay soccer is like life.
- Simon Critchle>·, English professor of philosophy
CHAPTER I
l
Sports are not just physical contests, yott know,_tl~ ey are also
sociol-
ogy. They are a reflection of the people and soczetzes that play
th em.
-Mike Seccombe, Australian journalist
The thrill ofcicton; and the agony of defeat-the human drama of
athletic competition .
-Jim McKay for ABC's Wide Vorld of Sport
The subject of this volume is sport in US society. To guide this
inquiry,
I ham organized the book around two themes: that sport has
positive
and negative consequences, that is, sport is both fair and foul;
and
that sport is a microcosm of society. Each of these themes
brings into
sharper focus the paradox that, on the one hand, we love sport
and are
fascinated by its magical qualities, yet sport has troubleso me
qualities
as well. This leads to confusion, as sportswriter Gary Smith has
written:
All this confusion does it signal a society lost in the wilderness
. . . or one
finally mature enough to look at questions it has always shut its
eyes to?
m~ mine.I gnaws at the bone, at every last bit gristle. Beneath it
all , he
can !> ense 'hat's going on , the vague feeling that people are
beginning
to ham that their love of sports-the sense of escape and
belonging that
the:' prmide- is doubling back on them like some hidden
undertow,
pulling the m out to sea. 1
THEME I: SPORT IS FAIR; SPORT IS FOUL
Sociologist Jay Coakley observes that Americans believe in
what he calls
the "Great American Sports Myth," which is "the widespread
belief that
all sp01ts are essentially pure and good, and that their purity
and good-
ness are transferred to those who participate."2 This is the
message given
at a typical high school sports banquet honoring the school's
athletes .
The guest speaker, with examples, humor, and sincerity, extols
the many
i1tues of sports participation. The implications of the "Great
American
Sports M)th " are, foremost, that sports participation builds
ch_aracter.
Second, if there are problems, they are because of a few "bad
apples,"
3 THE DUALITY OF SPORT
not the system. And, third, acceptance of the system makes
critical
thinking about sport difficult.3 The primary goal of the essays
in this
book, to the contrary, is to examine the world of sport from a
critical
perspective: to see how the system works sometimes in
beneficial ways
and sometimes not.
On the "sport is fair" side, there are countless examples of
athletes'
philanthropy for such public goods as providing college
scholarships
for poor children, subsidizing public school budgets to keep
sports pro-
grams alive, and HIV/ AIDS research. There are also numerous
exam-
ples of athletes who have supported their minority teammates
when
they were faced vith racial, gender, or sexual orientation bias.
Or on a
wider scale, they can put themselves in the spotlight drawing
attention
to the hate and prejudice that plague society. 4 When a video
revealed
fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma singing racist
chants,
for example, the head coaches of the football and basketball
teams at
Oklahoma-Bob Stoops and Lon Kruger-took a stand ,vith their
teams
by taking part in campus protests against racism. As
sportswriter Mike
Sandrolini has said, ",Ve must keep in mind that the
overwhelming
majority of athletes, pro or othenvise, are good, kind, charitable
people
who strive to play by the rules."5
The dark side of sport can be observed in the sports section of
any
random issue of USA Today. Chances are you will find one or
more
examples of athletes accused or founq.guilty of rape, spouse
abuse, ille-
gal substance abuse, and other criminal activities. There you
,vill find
athletes, coaches, and occasionally referees who cheat.
Similarly, you
might find examples of scandals where schools are accused of
illegal
recruiting, enrolling athletes in "phantom" courses, failing to
enforce
regulations promoting gender equality, protecting their accused
athletes
from court actions that would make them ineligible to play, and
pro-
tecting the school's image rather than seeking justice.6 Or you
will see
examples of the governing organization of college sport
enforcing rules
of amateurism that serve to enrich some individuals and
organizations
while restricting the money of the workers-the athletes. There
are also
professional sports leagues that have avoided taking
responsibility for
failures to protect or compensate their athletes for the long-term
effects
of head injuries .
4 CHAPTER I
But just as we are ready to condemn sports and vow to never
watch
SportsCenter on ESPN, an act of selflessness, of sportsmanship,
restores one's faith in sport. Consider this crown jewel: in the
spring of
2008, Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University hit a home
run in
a softball game against Central Washington University, but she
missed
first base . When she started back to tag it she collapsed with a
serious
knee injury. She crawled back to first but could do no more. Her
options
were limited. If her teammates helped her she would be called
out. If a
pinch-runner substituted for her, the home run would be counted
only
as a single. What happened was astounding. When the umpire
said there
was no rule against it, tu;o of her opponents-Liz Wallace and
Mallory
Holtman-carried her around the bases, lowering her gently at
each
base so that she could touch it, thus allowing the three-run
homer to
count, contributing to their own team 's elimination from the
playoffs .7
Vow! Double Wow!
 Vhat are we to make of this contradiction of sport and its
actors hav-
ing elements of the good and the bad-of being fair and foul?
That is
what this book is about.
THEME II: SPORT AS A MICROCOSM OF SOCIETY
Analysts of society are inundated with data. They are faced with
the
problems of sorting out the important from tl1e less important
and with
discerning social patterns of behavior and tl1eir meanings. They
need
shortcuts to ease the task. To focus on sport is just such a
technique for
understanding the complexities of the larger society.
Sport is an institution that provides scientific observers with a
convenient laboratory vithin which to examine values,
socialization,
stratification, and bureaucracy, to name a few structures and
processes
that also exist at the societal level. The games people choose to
play, the
degree of competitiveness, the types of rules, the constraints on
the
participants, the groups that do and do not benefit under the
exist-
ing arrangements, the rate and type of change, and the reward
system
in sport provide us with a microcosm of the society in which
sport is
embedded.~
5 THE DUALITY OF SPORT
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF SPORT AND SOCIETY9
Suppose an astute sociologist from another country or gala.y
were to
visit the United States with the intent to understand its values,
the system
of social control, the division of labor, and the system of
stratification.
Although the answers could be found by careful study and
observation
of any single institution, such as religion, education, polity,
economy, or
family, an attention to sport would also provide answers. It
would not
take that sociologist long to discern the follOving qualities in
sport:
The High Degree of Competitiveness
Competition is ubiquitous in US society. Competition is the
essence of
sport. The downside is that competition divides participants into
winners
and losers. As Jon Wertheim observes, "If there weren't losers,
it wouldn't
be competition." 10 Americans demand vinners. In sports (for
children
and adults), vinning is the ultimate goal, not pleasure in the
activity. The
adulation given to winners is incredible while losers are
maligned. Exam-
ple: Popular locker room slogans exemplify this divergence:
"Show Me a
Good Loser and I'll Show you a Loser" and "Lose is a Four -
Letter Word."
Consider, for example, the difference in how the vinner and the
loser of
the Super Bowl or the World Series are evaluated. Clearly, to be
second
best is not good enough. "Nobody remembers who came in
second" is the
conventional wisdom. The goal of victcfry is so important for
many that it
is laudable even if attained by questionable methods .
"Whatever you can
get away with" is another conventional ma.xim.
The Emphasis on Materialism
Examples of the value that Americans place on materialism are
blatant in sport: for example, players signing multiyear
contracts, some
exceeding $100 million; male golfers playing weekly for first-
place
awards of more than a million dollars; college teams leaving
leagues
for others where the economic rewards are greater; professional
teams
being moved to more economically fertile climates; and lavish
stadiums
being built mostly at public expense.
6 CHAPTER I
The Pervasiveness of Racism
Although conditions have improved greatly over the past fifty
years,
racist attitudes and actions still affect who coaches, positions
played, and
the futures of minorities after their sports career. Just as in the
larger
society, racial minorities in sport are rarely found in positions
of author-
ity. In the Super Bowl, for example, although African American
players
dominate, racism is evident in the dearth of black coaches, team
owners,
publicists, trainers, and media personnel. 11
Male Dominance as the Norm
Men control sport. Almost every major professional, amateur,
and
educational sport organization in the United States is under the
man-
agement and control of men. The proportion of women in
leadership
and decision-making positions-those vith power and influence-
in
sport is quite small; far smaller, certainly, than would be
expected based
on the number of female sport participants. Significant shifts in
the
balance of gender dominance in sports are difficult to find.
Moreover,
women are usually found supporting men's teams, often as
scenery.
Sport perpetuates male dominance by defining sport as a male
activity;
by controlling sport, even women's sport; by giving most
attention to male
sports in the media and through community and school budgets,
facilities,
and the like; and by trivializing women's sports and women
athletes. 12
The Domination of Individuals by Bureaucracies
Conservative bureaucratic organizations, through their desire to
per-
petuate themselves, curtail innovations and deflect activities
away from
the vishes of individuals and from the original intent of these
organiza-
tions. Many sport organizations-the NCAA, intercollegiate
athletic
conferences, professional sport leagues-pride themselves on
having
adopted bureaucratic business practices.
The Unequal Distribution of Power in Organizations
The structure of sport in the United States is such that power is
in
the hands of the wealthy (e.g., boards of regents, corporate
boards of
directors, each professional league, the media, wealthy
entrepreneurs,
https://personnel.11
THE DUALITY OF SPORT 7
the United States Olympic Committees, and the National
Collegiate
Athletic Association). Evidence of the power of these
individuals and
organizations is seen in the exemptions allowed to them by state
govern-
ments and the federal government in dealing with athletes and
owners,
in tax breaks, and in the concessions that communities make to
entice
professional sports franchises to relocate or to remain, and,
incidentally,
to benefit the wealthy of that community.
Sport Is Not a Sanctuary; Deviance Is Found Throughout Sport
Corruption, law breaking, unethical behavior, and other crimes
are
endemic to human societies. Because sport reflects society,
racist, and
sexist organizations, bad actors and bad actions will be found in
sport
as they are in society. Both fairness and unfairness are found.
There
are ethical and unethical athletes, coaches, and athletic
administrators.
It is impossible to imagine the worst about sports anymore.
Cheating
is accepted, drugs are common, rapists in the locker rooms ,
nothing is
beyond belief.
Caveat: While Sport Is a Microcosm of Society, It Is Not Just
a Passive Reflection of Society but It Can Also be an Agent
of Change
Sports are social constructions, that is, 11s part of the social
world they
are created by people in interaction and they can be changed by
people.
Conflict, in the forms oflawsuits, strikes, and demonstrations .
hist01ically
and presently has been used by the less powerful in the spmts
world to
change sport. As sports columnist/activist Dave Zirin puts it:
"Sports has
often acted as a reflection of the national life. At different times
it has
also been a fetter holding back the tide of change. In other
instances, it
has been a Taser, sending an electric jolt into the body politics."
1l
VARIATION ON THE "SPORT AS A MICROCOSM
OF SOCIETY" THEME:THE SUPER BOWL
The Super Bowl is the quintessential sports event in the United
States.
Football, the most telegenic of all team sports, is the most
watched
8 CHAPTER I
American television event (sport and nonspo1t), with 11.J.4
million
watching the 2015 event. In the last fifteen minutes of the game
120.3 million watched-the equivalent of just about e·eryone in
Mexico.t-1
Super Bowl Sunday is unique-a shared, nationwide social event
organized around a single stage at a single time. It is an
unofficial
national holiday; the biggest day for gambling, and the second
biggest
clay in the year for food consumption (trailing only
Thanksgiving).
The Super Bowl brims with the potential for great drama, he ro-
ics, disastrous errors, and excellence in performance all of
which are
heightened by an uncertain outcome. For these and many other
rea-
sons, the game embodies all sport-and shows why the
excitement of
sp01t is so infectious to me and so many others.
But there is another side to the Super Bowl, a side that
diminishes
sport for me. A sp01ts contest, a physical competition between
oppo-
nents, is decided by differences in abilities , strategy, and
chance. The
effort to win under these conditions is the essence of sport,
whether a
playground basketball game , a church league slow-pitch
softball game,
a college rirnlry, or the opposing teams in the Super Bowl. But
as the
le·el of spo1t becomes more sophisticated, sport shifts from
pla:, to work
and from pleasurable participation to pageant1}-pageantry
wedded
to militarism (e .g., fl ym·ers, a giant flag, precision
parachutists landing
on the fifty-yard line, military honor guards, and, military
personnel
honored ).15
Today, spo1t has become a spectacle ruled by money and the
Super
Bowl is the exemplar where we celebrate a $10 billion industry
owned
by the wealthy elite. Television networks pay enormous sums
for
the broadcasting rights to the Super Bmd and then sell ach-
ertising
(at $4 .5 million per thiity seconds in 201.5, that's $150,000 a
second).
Social media such as Twitter, YouTuhe, and Facebook share
profits on
Super Bowl ad·ertising with the NFL. It has a $200 million
marketing
contract Vith Nike. The sale of memorabilia dming Super Bowl
week
b1ings in more than $100 million, which is about twenty-fh·e
times more
than the athletes make cumulath·ely for playing in that game.
OYer the
course of the season , the NFL generates S,51 million in ticket
sales ,
$2.1 billion in merchandising reYenue, an estimated $2.8 billion
in tele-
vision rights, and it receives about $1 billion a year in state and
federal
https://honored).15
9 THE DUALITY OF SPORT
subsidies to cover their capital costs. The NFL commissioner
makes
$4-1: million a year. And, the NFL gets a tax break because it
has been
deemed a nonprofit organi::ation. 16
Violence is glorified in the Super Bowl. Dming the course of
the
game, there are cheap hits aimed at intimidating and perhaps
injming
an opponent. Injuries are commonplace. Some athletes, outside
the
arena, are thugs, rapists, and domestic partner abusers.
Morem·er. there
are instances of rule breaking, such as placing silicone on
jerseys to
make the player harder to grab and the alleged deflating of
game balls
in the Conference Championship game leading to the Super
Bowl in
2015 ("Deflategate") to giYe the New England Patriots and their
quar-
terback, Tom Brady, an advantage in gripping and throwing the
ball.
The e:,,.-penses inrnlved in attending the Super Bowl mean that
most
attendees are affluent. The face value of a ticket to the 2015
Super Bowl
was $800-81,500. These were in short supply because the league
and
the NFL owners are giYen 75 percent of the tickets. The result
is the
aYerage price for a ticket was $10,466 through secondary
sources . At the
game, the cost of parking, souvenirs, and food/drink is
outrageous .
Airfares , lodging, and food costs escalate dramatically chuing
Super
Bowl week. So, the Super Bowl is not for regular fans . It is for
the rich
and famous who engage in conspicuous consumption such as
renting a
mansion for $2,50,000 a week. i;
Racism is evident at the Super Bowl, in the race of the players
at rn1i -
ous positions (African Americans on tlefense, and whites on
offense ).
About 77 pen:ent of the players in the NFL are black, yet there
is a
deaith of African Ame1ican coaches, coordinators, owners,
general man-
agers, trainers, publicists, and media personnel. Likewise, the
Super
Bowl represents the sexist side of sport as it glorifies team and
media
personnel, all but a small fraction of whom are male . 'omen
prmicle
suppmting roles. Their bodies are used to heterosexualize the
festival
as cheerleaders, dancers, halftime performers, and promotional
sex
objects. 1~
Vinning the Super Bowl is vitally important. We Americans
empha-
size the outcome of games rather than the process . Ve glorif)·
winners
and ilify losers. As John Madden, Hall of Fame coach and
broadcaster,
has said, "The biggest gap in sports is between the winner of the
Super
Bowl and the loser in the Super Bowl." 19
I I 0 CHAPTER
The Super Bowl symbolizes the fundamental sports paradox for
me :
it is both magical and materialistic, unifying and divisive ,
inclusive and
exclusionary, e>..vansive and exploitive. These agony and
ecstasy ele-
ments of sport are the subjects of this book. And, these dualities
remind
us that sport reveals so much about ourselves and our society.
VARIATION ON THE SPORT AS A MICROCOSM
OF SOCIETYTHEME:WHAT FOOTBALL AND BASEBALL
TELL US ABOUT OURSELVES AND US SOCIETY20
An important indicator of the essence of a society is the type of
sport
it glorifies. Football and baseball are the two preeminent spo1is
in
American society. Examining these sports, there are a few
similarities,
most notably that both are played mostly by boys and men . 
omen
are involved in supporth·e roles .21 Although there are other
similarities
between the two (e .g., rule breaking and rule bending are
common in
both), the two sp01is are basically opposites and these
differences pro-
,ide insightful clues about Americans and American society.
Baseball was once America's most popular sport. Now football
is the
people's favorite, with more Americans watching football on
Sundays
than attending church. The NFL is the richest sports venture
with about
$10 billion in annual revenue. An estimated $50 million is bet
each week
in Las Vegas alone on football.22 Vhen baseball was the
national pas-
time, the United States was a pastoral, agrarian nation?3
Farmers and
small-town craftsmen, merchants, and laborers worked alone or
with
their families to achieve success. But then America became an
indus-
trial nation , with people moving to the cities to work i n
factories and
to large bureaucracies associated with a large industrial society.
These
bureaucracies require "elaborately choreographed cooperation
among
large groups: success for the team is success for everyone ."2~
In effect,
part of football's appeal is that its structure is similar to the
structure of
the contemporary workplace .
These two sports have fundamentally different 01ientations
toward
time . Baseball is not bounded by time while football must
~dhere to a
rigid time schedule . "Baseball is oblivious to time. There is no
clock, no
two-minute drill. The game flows in a timeless stream with a
rhythm of
https://football.22
https://roles.21
THE DUALITY OF SPORT I I
its own."25 In this way, baseball reflects life in rural America
as it existed
in the not-too-distant past compared to football's emulation of
contem-
porary urban society, where persons have rigid schedules,
deadlines,
appointments, and time clocks to punch.
The innings of baseball have no time limit, and if the game is
tied
at the end of the nine innings, the teams play as many extra
innings
as it takes to determine a winner. Football, on the other hand, is
played for sixty minutes, and if tied at the end, the game goes
into
sudden death. The nomenclature of the two sports- "extra
innings"
compared to "sudden death"-illustrates a basic difference
between
them. There are other semantic differences. A baseball player
makes
an "error," but a football team is "penalized."26 The object of
baseball
is to be "safe at home" while the goal of football is to penetrate
deep
into the opponent's "territory, crossing the enemy's goal line."
In base-
ball, there is no home territory to defend; the playing field is
shared
by both teams. In football, there is "clipping," "hitting,"
"spearing,"
"piling on ," and "personal fouls." Baseball, in sharp contrast,
has the
"sacrifice," and players commit "errors." There is no analogue
in base-
ball for the militaristic terms of football, for example, "blitz,"
"bomb,"
"trap," "trenches," "field general," "aerial attack," and "ground
attack."
Such linguistic differences imply a basic difference between
baseball
and football. Baseball, as seen in its benign verbs (home run
hitters
trot around the bases; pitchers "toe" the rubber),2 7 is
essentially a calm
and leisurely activity while football is intense, aggressive, and
violent.
A baseball player cannot get to first base because of strength,
aggres-
sion, or ability to intimidate. The only way to get there is
through skill
or an opponent's lack thereof. In football, however, survival
(success )
belongs to the most aggressive. Clearly, the source of football's
appeal
is violence. 28
Baseball is a game of repetition and predictable action pla~,ed
over
a 162-game schedule. The players must stay rela'Xed and not
get too
excited. They must pace themselves and not let a loss or even a
succes-
sion of losses get them down. In football, though, losing is
intolerable
because of the short season (sL.ieen games). Thus, football
players must
play each game with intensity. The intensity that characterizes
football
resembles the tensions and pressures of modem society,
contrasted with
the more relaxed pace of agrarian life and baseball.
https://violence.28
I I 2 CHAPTER
The two sports differ in their orientation to change. Baseball
today is
much like it was decades ago. Managerial actions are relatively
predict-
able for the various situations that arise, because there is a
time-honored
way of doing things. Football, on the other hand, is constantly
changing
as coaches devise new offenses and defensive coaches design
new ways
to counteract these changes as well as creating new defenses to
con-
found offenses . Football is also more reliant on technology
than base-
ball. Baseball does use the speed gun, videotaping, computers,
analytics,
and other forms of technology but not nearly as much as
football where
computers are used to evaluate player performance on each
play, to
discover opponent's tendencies in play calling by situation, and
the like.
An interesting contrast between these two sports is the equality
of
opportunity each offers. Baseball promotes equality while
football is
essentially unequal. This difference occurs in several ways.
First, the
usual route to become a professional football player is to first
play in
college . Some baseball players do also, but they have the
option of work-
ing up through the minor leagues. A second way that baseball is
more
egalitarian than football is that it can be played by players of all
sizes.
Football, however, is for big people (with a few exceptions).
Baseball is
also more equal than football because everyone has the
opportunity to be
a star. Except for designated hitters, all players play offense
,md defense,
giving each the chance to make an outstanding defensive play or
to bat in
the winning run. In football, stardom is essentially reserved for
those who
play at the positions that score points. Others labor in relative
obscurity.
This is similar to American society, where the elite few score
the points,
call the plays, and get the glory at the e:-.-pense of the
commoners.
Another dimension on which the two sports differ is
individualism.
Baseball is highly individualistic. It is "a team sport, but it is
basically
an accumulation of individual activities. Throwing a strike,
hitting a line
drive or fielding a grounder is primarily an individual
achievernent."29
Elaborate teamwork is not required except for double plays,
defending
sacrifice bunts, and being in position for cut-off throws. Each
player
struggles to succeed on his own.
As Gerald Cavenaugh has written:
Baseball is each [player] doing the best . .. within a loose
confederation
of fellow individualists.... This reflects a society in which
individual
THE DUALITY OF SPORT I 3
effort, drive, and success are esteemed and in which ,
conversely, failure
is deemed the individual's responsibility.30
Football, in sharp contrast, is the quintessence of team spmts.
EYery
move is planned and practiced in advance. The players in each
of the
eleven positions have a specific task to pertom1 on every play.
E·ery player
is a specialist whose actions are coordinated with the other
specialists on
the team. Each player's personality must be subordinate to the
team's goals
as set by a demanding coach. The parallel between the
organization of a
football team and a factory or a corporation or other
bureaucracies is obi-
ous.31 In each, the intricate and precise actions of all members
doing dif-
ferent tasks are required for the attainment of the organization's
objecti·e.
In summary, baseball represents what we were. It continues to
be
popular because of our longing for the peaceful past. Football,
on the
other hand, is popular now because it symbolize d what we now
are-
an urban-technological-corporate-bureaucratic society. Thus,
the two
sports represent cultural contrasts: country vs. city, stability vs.
change ,
harmony vs. conflict, calm vs. intensity, and equality vs.
inequality.
Each sport contains a fundamental myth that it elaborates for its
fans .
Baseball represents an island of stability in a confused and
confusing
world. As such, it provides an antidote for a world of too much
action ,
struggle, pressure, and change. Baseball provides this antidote
by being
individualistic, unbounded by time, nonviolent, leisurely in
pace, and by
perpetuating the American myths of:equal opportunity,
egalitarianism .
and potential success for everyone.
Football represents what we are. Our society is violent. It is
high!:,·
technological. Change is rapid. It is highly bureaucratized, and
we are
all caught in its impersonal clutches. Football fits contemporary
urban-
corporate society because it is team oriented, highly
technological.
dominated by the clock, rewards aggressive behavior, and
because it
perpetuates inequality.
OVERVIEW
I begin vith a paradox: Sport, a seemingly trivial pursuit, is
important.
Sport is a fantasy-a diversion from the realities of work,
relationships ,
https://responsibility.30
I CHAPTER
I 4
and survival. Sport entertains. Why then do we take it so
seriously?
First and foremost, sport mirrors the human e~-perience, as
noted by
The Nation in its introduction to a special issue on sport:
Sport elaborates in its rituals what it means to be human: the
play, the
risk, the trials, the collecth·e impulse to games, the thrill of
physicality,
the necessity of strategy; defeat, victory, defeat again, pain,
transcen-
dence and, most of all, the certainty that nothing is ce1tain-that
e,·ery-
thing can change and be changed. 1"
Second, sport mirrors society in other profound ways. It shares
with
the larger society the basic elements and e:,vressions of
bureaucratiza-
tion, commercialization, racism, sexism, homophobia, greed,
exploita-
tion of the powerless by the powe1ful, alienation, and
ethnocentiism.
American spmt embodies Ame1ican values- sbiving for
excellence,
winning, individual and team competition, and mate1ialism.
Parents
want their children to participate in spmt because pa1ticipation
teaches
them the basic values of American society and builds character.
Third, sport is compelling because it combines spectacle (a
unh·ersal
human social tendency to combine sp01t and pageantry) with
drama (an
outcome that is not perfectly predictable ), pcrfonnance
excellence, and
clarity (exactly who won, by hm,· much , and in 'hat manner ).
 'e also
know who lost and whv.
Fomth, there is something transcendent about spmt. Fans
celebrate.
Fans high-five strangers. Fans emote with cheers , jeers,
screams . and
tears. As Scott Simon of National Public Radio puts it: "You
can tell
yourself: it's just spo1ts, nothing real; it has nothing to do with
yonr life,
no resonance in the real world oflhing, dying, and struggling.
And you'd
be 1ight. Then, something [magical] happens . . .. And inside,
where
your body cannot kid you, something takes m·er and it feels
real.''-•1
Finallv,
,'
there is the human desire to identif·. with and connect to
something greater than oneself. For athletes, this is being part
of a team,
working and sacrificing together to achieYe a common goal. For
fans,
identif)ing ith a team or a sports hero bonds them with others
who
share their allegiance; they belong and they hm·e an identity.
Esteemed
analyst of sports, Frank Deford puts it this way: "In today's
world,
where we are so fragmented, an arena is one place left where we
come
THE DUALITY OF SPORT I 5
together to share... . That's why the creeps at games who shout
loud
obscenities are not merely being offensh·e. They're breaking a
compact,
which is that all us sports fans must sacrifice a little of our
indiiduality
to, for one rare modern moment, commune."3~
Sport is a pervasive aspect of US society. Participation rates are
high .
.Most children are involved in organized sport at some time in
their
li,·es. Sport is the subject of much conversation, reading
material, lei-
sure activity, and discretionary spending. Over one-tenth of the
World
Almanac is devoted annually to sport, more than is allotted to
politics
business, and science. USA Today, the most widely read
newspaper
in the United States , devotes one-fourth of its space to sport.
E,·en
the Wall Street ]ollrnal has a weekly sports page. A number of
cable
teleision networks provide twenty-four-hour sports cO·erage.
Almost
one-fifth of major network time is devoted to sport. Annually,
the most
watched television e,·ent in the United States is the Super Bowl.
The
amount of sp01ts betting is staggering, with unknown billions
wagered
legally and illegally.
Ve sports fans read the daily sports page with a keen interest in
the
latest scores , win-loss records, favorite athletes, and possible
new col-
lege ret:ruits or trades that improve our belO·ed professional
teams. 'e
know a great deal about sport. Ve know point spreads, c;urrent
statis-
tics, playoff probabilities , biographical information about
athletes and
c;oaches, and more. As children, many of us learned spo1ts
information ,
memorizing incredible amounts of thvia. Moreover, most of us
play
spo1ts, whether as indhiduals or on organized teams, throughout
muc;h
of our lives.
But do we truly understand sport? Can we separate the h)1Je
from
the reality and the myth from the facts? Do we question the way
spmt is
organized? Unf01tunately, many fans and pmticipants alike
have a super-
flcial, unc1itical attitude that takes much for granted. 15 The
purpose of
this book is to examine sport critically and to ask probing
questions.
As a sociologist, I examine all social arrangem ents critically. A
sociolo-
gist asks questions such as: How does sp01t really work?'ho
has power
and who does not? Vho benefits under the existing social
arrangements
and who does not? These questions scrutinize existing m~ths,
stereo-
types, media representations, and official dogma. The answers
to these
questions enable us to demystify sport and truly understand it. I
examine
https://granted.15
I CHAPTER
I 6
sport and the beliefs surrounding it, holding them to the light of
current
research findings and critical thinking in order to
demythologize them.
I focus on shmving how sport really works and, in the process, I
identify
a duality in it, which exists in all human institutions. In other
words,
sport has positive and negative outcomes for individuals and
society,
as we have already seen. My approach will probably raise
questions,
doubts, resistance, and even anger among some readers,
demonstrating
the power of myth. In the process, though, readers will see sport
from
a new angle, one that brings new interpretations and insights to
their
e:'1.-periences with sport.
PARADOXES OF SPORT
The subtitle of this book refers to the paradoxes of sport. The
Random
House Dictionary of the English Language supplies the
following defini-
tion of paradox: ( 1) "any person, thing, or situation exhibiting
an appar-
ently contradictory nature"; and (2 ) "any opinion or statement
contrary
to commonly accepted opinion." l!J
This book is titled Fair and Fout3· because sport is beset by a
number
of contraclictions (definition 1 above), and the common
understanding
of sport is often guided by myth. My goal is to dem)thologize
sport
by calling into question the prevailing beliefs about this
phenomenon
(definition 2 abO·e ). These two dimensions of the term
"paradox" con-
stitute the organizing principle-the essence--of this book.
Sport is inherently contradictory. On the one hand, sport
provides
excitement, joy, and self-fulfillment for the participants. As
former
Olympic athlete Kenny Moore puts it: "To celebrate sp01t is ...
to
celebrate sheer abandon, to savor moments when athletes
surrender
themselves to effort and are genuinely transformed. This is
when spo1t
takes loneliness, fear, hate and ego and transmutes them into
achie'e-
ment, records, art, and powerful example."35
But there is also a dark side, as Moore concedes: "[Sport also
pres-
ents us with] cocaine deaths, steroid cover-ups , collegiate
hypocrisies,
gambling scandals, criminal agents, and Olympic boycotts. Such
failings
show that sport's civilizing, freeing effect on us is incomplete .
'Not every-
one is following the rules. Not everyone is trying."39
THE DUALITY OF SPORT I 7
Put another way, spo1t provides examples of courage,
superhuman
effort, extraordinary teamwork, selflessness , and saciifice. Yet
the images
corn·eyed through sport- violence, greed, exploitation,
selfishness ,
cheating, and contempt for authority-are not always uplifting.~0
Sport is clearly appealing. Ve are fascinated by the competition
and
the st1iing for excellence. Spo1t is compelling because it
transcends our
e,·eryday routine e~-peiiences with excitement, heroics, and
unpredict-
ability. But much about spo1t is also appalling. Paradoxically,
fans often
find the appalling appealing-the iolence, the incredible
amounts of
money, the cheating, and the outrageous behmiors by some
athletes ,
coaches, and owners.
Each chapter in this book takes up a particular paraclm. of
spo1t.
First, sport is both unif)ring and divisi'e. Chapter 2 shows ho'
spmt
can unite warring factions and b1ing different social classes and
racial
groups together. However, it can also reinforce the banicades
that
dhicle groups.
The related topics of chapter .3 are the names , mascots , logos ,
and
1ituals associated rith spo1ts teams, which e,·oke strong
emotions of
solidaiity among follo,,·ers. But these spo1ts symbols hm·e a
potentially
dark side as well. Man' Native Ame1icans and others are
offemled l1' . ,
the use of Nafo·e Ame1ican names (like th e  'ashington
Redskins), 'ar
paint, tomahawks, war chants, and mascots dressed in nati·e
costume .
They feel that these practices stereot)1)e, demean , and tridalize
the
traditions and 1ituals of Native Americans. Similarly, the names
giYen
to ·omen's teams raise parallel questions concerning
stereotyping
(the name Rambelles hardly refers to athletic skills ) and
tii,ialization
(e.g., Vildkittens as a diminutive of Wildcats ). Then there is
the use of
the Rebel flag-the symbol of the Confederacy, racial
segregation , and
Afiican Ameiican enslavement-as the rall)ring symbol for
spo1ts teams
at some Southern schools and for many NASCAR fan s.
Proponents see
the Confederate flag as an inspirational symbol of Southern
he1itage
and Old South piide and tradition . Opponents see this S)1nbol
as send-
ing an inflammatory message about a tradition of racial
oppression and
exclusion.
Sport is a rnle-bound acthrity organized and supenrised by
authmities
and organizations to promote fair play, as shown in chapter -!. It
includes
a socialization process whereby paiticipants learn to play by the
rules,
I I 8 CHAPTER
commit themselves to hard work and teamwork, and practice
good
sp01tsmanship. These positive attributes of sport have given
rise to the
common assumption that sport builds character. Yet these
att1ibutes are
counteracted by unethical coaches and players, the widespread
use of
performance-enhancing drugs, the pampering of athletes, hatred
among
opponents , and the debasement of fair play.
A fourth paradox is the subject of chapter 5: sport is both
healthy
and unhealthy. Sport encourages good physical health.
Obviously, the
physical exercise that sports participation requires is beneficial
because
it promotes endurance, coordination, weight control, muscle
strength,
strong bones, joint flexibility, and increased aerobic (lung and
heart )
capacity. At the same time, however, participants get hurt
during sport-
ing activities. Sport can also damage the health of athletes
through
ove1training, rapid weight loss to meet weight requirements,
excessive
weight gain, and the use of drugs that promote muscle mass,
strength,
and endurance. Demanding coaches may e:.-pect too much from
their
athletes. Parents may d1ive their child athletes too hard, too
fast. Elite
young athletes are especially vulnerable to excessive training
and even
sexual abuse from adult authorities.
Chapter 6 examines two fonns of children's play-peer centered
and
adult centered. Since the latter dominates the sports experience
of chil-
dren today, I focus on the dark side of this phenomenon.
Chapter 7 examines the duality of sport found in its
expressiveness,
on the one hand, and control on the other. Social control is
necessary
for stability in society and all social groups. Social control,
which is a
central feature in sport, has two contradictory consequences. Its
positive
functions lead to consensus and cooperation as everyone pulls
together
to achieve a common goal, as well as stability on the team, in
the orga-
nization, or in the society. The maintenance of the status quo,
however,
is not always good for everyone. Sport, for example, supports
tradition,
but in so doing it helps to reinforce traditional gender roles and
compul-
sory heterosexuality. It helped to maintain racial segregation
until after
'oriel Var II and continues to allow considerable
discrimination against
racial minorities in some sports even to this day.
Chapter 8 demythologizes the prevailing notion that sport is
played
on a level playing field, where talent, strategy, and luck
determine win-
ners and losers . This is not the case when it comes to the
participation of
THE DUALITY OF SPORT I 9
racial mino1ities in some sports (e.g., automobile racing,
bowling, golf,
and tennis). Similarly, gender, sexual orientation, and social
class issues
illustrate how some are favored while others are disadvantaged.
Chapter 9 focuses on the role of the mass media in what we see
and
how we interpret what we see. Most significant, the mass media
act
as the "conductor" of sports-scheduling games, changing rules,
and
infusing great amounts of money into sports, with consequences
for
sustaining big-time college sport, college league realignment,
increased
coaching salaries, and other manifestations of an arms race .
Chapter 10 investigates the contradictions of big-time college
athletics. Sport is an integral part of higher education in the
United
States . Big-time college sport supplies full-ride scholarships to
ath-
letes and generates many millions of dollars for their
institutions, their
communities and corporate Ame1ica. Big-time college sport
unites
its supporters , provides free publicity for the schools, and gives
good
athletes from economically disadvantaged backgrounds the
chance for
a college education. And it is a training ground for future
professional
athletes. Does it, however, fit vith the educational mission of
these
unh·ersities?
A strong case can be made that sport is actually detrimental to
aca-
demics (as chapter 10 e:-..plores). For example , most of these
schools
actually lose money, since scholarship money and other
economic
resources are channeled away from ~cademics and toward
athletics .
And the athletes admitted to these schools tend to perform
below the
student body average on test scores and graduation rates; they
are often
athletes first and students second. In addition, occasional
scandals hurt
the image of the schools involved; the programs and resources
are
disprop01tionately geared toward the male athletes in the
revenue-
producing sports; gender equity is denied; and athletes are
exploited
under the guise of amateurism. The overarching contradiction is
that
big-time school sport is organized as a commercial
entertainment activ-
ity within an educational environment. This arrangement may
have
certain positive consequences, but it compromises educational
goals.
Chapter 11 asks the question: To what degree is sport a
mechanism
of social mobility? Athletes can parlay their skills and
achievements into
college scholarships, careers as professional athletes, coaching
positions,
and other sports-related occupations. Huge amounts of money
are made
CHAPTER I20
by special athletes, many of whom c<;>me from lower
socioeconomic
backgrounds. However, the odds of any one athlete achieving
these
rewards are very slim.
Actually, achieving a professional sports career is extremely
difficult,
no matter how hard the individual works. Sport is a path out of
poverty
for only a very few. Racial minorities are especially vulnerable
to the
appeal of riches and fame through sport, but this is a false hope
leading
to failure for most. Women have even less chance of upward
mobility
through sport than men because fewer college scholarships are
available
to them, as well as fewer professional sport opportunities. Even
those
who do become professional athletes lack lifelong security.
Chapter 12 examines the link between private ownership of
profes-
sional teams and public subsidies for them. Large cities either
have
professional sports franchises or actively seek them. In either
case, the
cities subsidize or offer to subsidize the teams and their wealthy
own-
ers, typically by providing arenas or stadiums, refurbishing
these venues
as needed, charging little or no rent, providing access roads, and
giving
generous percentages on concessions and parking. The rationale
for
such largesse is that professional teams benefit their host citie s
eco-
nomicallv.
✓
This raises some interesting questions : Who benefits
financially
from professional teams and who does not? Do women and men
and
the members of all social classes share in the benefits? Should
wealthy
owners and affluent athletes be subsidized by taxpayers, many
of whom
are not interested in sport? Do men and women in the
community gain
more or less equally from the arrangements? Does a city
actually benefit
economically from having professional teams? Is the profit
margin so
low for professional teams that they can only survive if
subsidized by tax-
payers? Is there a better alternative to professional teams being
owned
by affluent individuals or large corporations who threaten to
move the
team to a city that offers more generous subsidies?
 hile sport is local (i.e., fans identify with their local teams
and
athletes ), it is becoming increasing global, the subject of
chapter 13.
One-fifth of the players in the National Basketball Association
(NBA)
are foreign. More than one-fourth of Major League Baseball
(MLB )
players are not native born ; instead they are mostly from Latin
America.
How does this new ethnic makeup of teams affect the loyalty of
fans?
THE DUALITY OF SPORT 21
Does it increase the hostility toward visiting teams and players?
On the
other hand, does the presence of foreign players on teams build
b1idges
vith other societies?
These paradoxes are considered in this book. Although each
chapter
focuses on a central theme, the book also explores related
contradictions
and myths. Issues of class, race, ethnicity, and gender are also
consid-
ered in each chapter.
Do these contradictions and questions pique your interest about
how sport really works? Or does their critical thrust make you
defensive
about sports? Both are likely reactions, indicating once again
the
contradictory nature of sport. My point is that anyone who truly
wants to
understand sport in American society must accept its inherent
dualities.
Too often we focus on the bright side of the dualities present in
sport,
letting myths guide our perceptions and analyses. I intend to
present the
reality of sport, including the good and the bad. Indeed, I
emphasize the
negative aspects of sport in order to demythologize and
demystify it. Yet
I do not want to forget the magical nature of sport that is so
captirnting
and compelling. Overcoming this basic contradiction-being
critical of
sport while retaining a love for it-will enable us to examine the
nega-
tives surrounding sport with the goal of seeking alternatives to
improve
this vital, interesting, and exciting aspect of social life.
Finally, sports organization can be changed, but this requires a
plan,
a strategy, and an organized effort (th~ topic of chapter 14).
Sociologist
Jay Coakley puts it this way: ·
The growing importance of sports in society makes it more
necessary
for us to take a closer and more critical look at how sports are
defined,
organized, and played. As we do this, some of us will call for
changes
in dominant forms of sports or reject those forms and call for
new and
alternative sports. However, we should not e~-pect widespread,
re"Olu-
tionary changes to occur overnight. Social transformation is
always a
challenging and tedious process. It requires long-term efforts
and care-
fully planned strategies, but it does not occur without a clear
vision of
possible futures and strategic efforts to tum visions into
realities.41
Understanding sport must precede any effort to change it for the
better. That is the goal of this book.
https://realities.41
AP PhotofThemba Hadebe
SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES
The forld C11p atl01ced people from different co1111tries and
religions
to co11w togcthe1: May sport alu;ays pro111ote th e culture
ofe11co1111te1:
- Pope Frnn<:is, Argentinian and soc:cl"r fan
S1mits are 1clwt they arc, and the best thing th ey are is a
co11111w11
11w111ory, a slwred experience that knits a co1111111111ity
togl'the1; fm111
the s11111g to the clesperate,from the prosperous lo the
pe1111iless,fro111
the i11cohl'l"e11tly adolescent to the irretrier;ably adult.
-Bernie Lin<:icome, sportsw1iter for the Rocky Mo1111tai11
S!'rcs
Sports, l11bricated by bee1; is the glue that hold 11~ togethc1:
- Dmill Hosenfelt, from the 110'el Dog Tag~ (2010 )
011 the 11ight in 201..J that a Ca1uulia11 soldier 1ca~ killed
1cl1ilc g1wrd-
i11g the national rear 111e111orial i11 Ottawa, Pittslmrgh
ft111s sang a11
emotional rendition of "O Canada" before the Pe11g11i11s
ga11w against
Philadelphia.
- Jimmy Golen, Associated Pres.'> sports 'liter
23
24 CHAPTER 2
To play this game you 11111st /wr;e fire in you , and there is
nothing that
stokes fire like hate.
-Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers
Nothing builds team 11nity like a good old-fashioned trai11i11g
camp
brawl.
-Rex Ryan, New York Jets coach
On the morning of September 11, 2001, follr commercial planes
tcere
taken ouer by hijackers tclw piloted the planes to netc
destinations, and
the collrse of history teas changed. Two of the planes rammed
into the
World Trade Center in Netc York City, another plLLngecl into
the Penta-
gon. The fourth plane failed in its 1nission, presumably because
of heroic
passengers attacking the hijackers, crashing instead in 111ral
Pe11nsyl-
u111ia. Abot1t three thousand people 1cere killed in this attack
a11d the
sL1bsequ e11t rescue attempts, about the same 1111mber of
Ame1ica11s tclw
died at Pearl Harbor in 19..Jl.
Follo1ci11g this attack by Islamic extremists, the stunned
nation came
togeth e,; rallyin g aroLLnd the flag. Sports played an important
role in
b11ildina this patriotic 11nity. At first, the wlious sports
leagues and
tea111s postponed games out of respect for those tcho died. Th
en, as th e
rescheduled games began,from high school games to
professio11al games,
each 1cas preceded by a wliety of unifying symbolic acts-
11w111e11ts of
silence to reflect on the fallen and the heroic, patriotic songs,
the presen-
tation ofthe flags (some as h11ge as a football field ), militan;
flyoue,~s, and
spontaneous chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" These patriotic displays
bro11ght
the people i11 the stacli11ms and in the teleuision aLLcliences
together in a
ca11se larger tha11 themselves.
The first Super Bou;[ after the September attack, 011 Febnum;
3, 2002,
in Netc Orleans, outdid itself in nationalistic fen.;or. For the
gathering of
131 million US households, the largest assemblage of
Americans since
9111, teler;ision 11et1corks and the NFL took the opportunity
to celebrate
all things American. Fox's three-hour pregame show had as its
theme
"Hope, Heroes, and Homeland," which it advertised in USA
Today as a
"celebration offootball and the American spirit." Includecl'in
the ecent
icas a reenactment ofthe signing ofthe Declaration of
Independence with
SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 2S
famous athletes reciting tcords from that document, Janner
presidents
reading passages of Abraham Lincoln's speeches, Barry
Manilow singing
"Let Freedom Ring, " and Paul McCartney singing his song
"Freedom,"
with military personnel, firefighters, police holding flags, and
young
tcomen dressed as Statues of Liberty. The pageantry before the
game
also included a huge flag and Mariah Carey singing the national
anthem.
At halftime, the NFL presented the band U2 , which sang
seoeral songs
on a stage in front of a huge unfurling scroll listing those whose
lives
tcere lost on September 11. "The American militanJ-industrial-
sports-
ente,tainment complex took a bow before the teorld. . . . [The]
message
teas the nexus of politics and sp01ts, football and nationhood.
"1 And to
top off this orgy offootball and nationalism, the tui11ning team,
in a huge
upset, teas the New England Patriots! And, as the team was
presented
the trophy, the field teas inundated with red, white, and blue
confetti.
Fast Jon.card ten years to the time when Osama bin Laden was
assas-
si1wted, resulting in spontaneous emptions of patriotic ::.eal
with fans
of both teams joining in chants of U-S-A, U-S-A. This was
followed by
organi::.ecl patriotic celebrations at stadiums throughout the
country,
such as Military Appreciation Nights ; displays of football
field-si::.ed
flags , alld military flyoi;ers . As sports commentator Daoe
Zi1in argues:
"Sports has been co-opted, exploited, scarred, and tu med inside
out by
the aftermath of 9111 and the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Some
have
trn11clered if now that bin Laden is depd, life will 'go back to
nonnal'
But . . . this is the new nonnal. "2
THE ROLE OF SPORT IN UNITY AND DIVISION
AMONG NATIONS
Two opposing forces are at work throughout the world today:
increas-
ing intolerance, ideological purity, tribalism, exclusion, and
conflict, as
well as many signs of tolerance, cooperation, compromise,
acceptance
of differences, and inclusion. Just as the world is moving
toward becom-
ing a global community, it is tom by parochial hatreds dividing
nations
and regions into warring ethnic enclaves.3 Sport, too, embodies
these
contradictory elements as it increasingly pulls people apart on
the one
hand and pulls them together on the other.
https://field-si::.ed
CHAPTER 2
26
Sport Unites
International events bring together people from different
countlies
and different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds,
promoting under-
standing and friendships across these social divides. The US
government
uses athletes to promote international goodwill. The State
Department,
for example, sponsors tours of athletes to foreign countries for
these pur-
poses. Sport has also been used to open diplomatic doors. In the
1970s,
when communist China and the United States did not have
diplomatic
relations, the leadership of the two nations agreed that their
athletes could
compete in each country. After this "ping-pong" diplomacy
broke the ice,
the two countries eventually established nonnal relations. In
1998, US
wrestlers were invited to participate in a seventeen-nation
tournament in
Iran, the first American athletic team to visit Iran since the
1979 Islamic
rernlution.  Vrestling is Iran's national sport, and Iran's
president at that
time, Mohammed Khatami, encouraged this breakthrough to
crack "the
wall of distrust between the two nations." Thomas Omestad
described an
important symbolic act that may help to bridge the antagonism
between
Iran and the United States that has existed for over two decades:
It mls only a small, spontaneous gesture. But it worked
emotional magic .
After inning a silver medal ... American Larry "Zeke'" Jones
waved a
hand-sized Iranian flag, and the 2,000 fans packed into a Tehran
arena
went wild with delight. "America! America! " They chanted in
response-
a sudden , unscripted reversal of the ritual "Death to America!"
chorus
that Iranians usually chant at public events .4
Thus sport was a wedge helping to break down the hostility
between
these two countries. Perhaps it is a prelude to normalizing
relations
between the United States and a former enemy. In June 1998,
Iran
upset the United States in a first-round World Cup soccer match
in
Lyon, France. 5 The Iranians celebrated their une.x-pected
victory vildly
but not (and this is crucial) with taunts directed at the United
States.
President Bill Clinton congratulated the Iranians, and the
Iranian presi-
dent was a gracious vinner. (Clinton's gesture was facilitated
because
soccer is not yet an important sport to Americans.)
Since India was divided into two nations-India and Pakistan-
in 1948, they have gone to war three times, ,vith millions killed.
SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 27
The tension between these two nuclear powers is enormous and
unre -
lenting, unleashing religious hatred, as India is Hindu and
Pakistan is
Muslim. However, in 2004, the two nations came together in a
se1ies of
cricket matches, as the team from India, for the first time in
fomteen
years, toured Pakistan for thirty-nine days.
The phrase sporting event can't begin to contain the religious
extrem-
ism, unforgiven deeds, and rabid jingoism that swirl around
each India-
Pakistan cricket match; the game is haunted by battle dead, and
the air
is charged with the ongoing dispute between the two countries
over
control of Kashmir. For generations cricket has been a prQ.y
for war
between the two nations. 6
Temporarily, at least, sport brought these two warring nations
together, promising either better relations between the two
countries-
or an explosion of violence.
Sport can be used to unite groups vithin one country, as Adolf
Hitler
used the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin to unite the German
people
through the accomplishments of Germany's athletes on the
world stage.
According to Richard D. Mandell in his book The Na:::,i
Olympics, the
Olympic festival was a shrewdly propagandistic and b1illiantly
conceived
charade that reinforced and mobilized the patriotism of the
German
masses.' The successes of the GermanTathletes at those
Olympics (they
won eighty-nine medals, twenty-three 'more than US athletes
and more
than four times as many as any other country) was "proof' of
German
superiority.
Similarly, success in international sports competition can
tiigger p1ide
across divisions within a country. For example, even in war -
ravaged Iraq,
with its ethnic and sectarian divides, unity was achieved briefly
in 200i
when the national Iraqi soccer team, composed of Shiites,
Sunnis, and
Kurds, won its first ever Asian Cup, defeating Saudi Arabia.
Spontane-
ous celebrations occurred follmving the victory with people
dancing in
the streets and waving Iraqi flags. 8
Cuba provides another contemporary example of the great
potential
that sport has a mechanism for promoting domestic unity. 9
Fidel Castro,
Cuba's leader, decreed that sport is a right of the people. No
admission
is ever charged to a sporting event. The communist leadership
in Cuba
28 CHAPTER 2
uses sport to unite its people through p1ide in its athletic
achie,·ements.
The most promising athletes are given the best coaching and
train-
ing. Cuba de,·otes 3 percent of its national budget to a sports
ministiy
that encourages and trains elite athletes. In the Pan Ame1ican
Games,
Cuban athletes, from a country with a third the population of
California,
in many times more medals than US athletes on a per capita
basis. In
the 2012 Olpnpics , Cuba ranked third in the number of medals
per
100,000 people (the United States ranked 48th ).10 Cuban
athletes are
spo1ts heroes and heroines, e,·oking intense nationalistic pride
in the
Cuban people and, indirectly, suppo1t for the ruling elite.
Racially, South Af1ica is a nation deeply divided. Sport has
helped to
break down this division, at least in part, in two ways. First,
when the
whites in South Af1ica held an election to decide whether to
dismantle
apmtheid. 69 percent ,·oted to give up their p1ivilege, marking
a rare
peaceful transition of power. One reason for the fa,·orable vote
was
South African president F. '. de Klerk's warning that failure to
pass the
mc,L~ure would return the country to isolation in business and
sport. 11
South Ahica had last pmticipated in the Olympics in 1960 and
had
been barred since then from international competition. Its
apa1theid
racial policies had made it a pmiah country in e'eI)thing from
politics
to sports for three decades. With apartheid dismantled, South
Afticans
could once again show their athletic prowess. This was a
compelling
argument for many whites. Subsequently, South Africa has been
allowed
to compete in the Olympics and in other worldwide
competitions , espe-
cial!~- in rugby, which is ,·ery important to its people.
After the formal fall of apartheid and the election of Nelson
~Iandela,
the spo1ts world accepted South Africa. The World Cup in
rugby was
hekl in South Af1ica in 199,5. President Mandela used the
rugby World
Cup as an opp01tunity to bring the races somewhat closer
together
within his country-to use spmt for the greater good. 12 The
national
rngby team, the Springboks, and rugby itself had symbolized
white
South Africa, since it had been an all-white team. But Mandela,
against
the wishes of his ad,isors, kept the Springbok name and
encouraged
black Afocans to think of this team as their team. In speaking to
a black
audience, Mandela, weming a Springbok cap, said, "This
Springbok cap
does honor to our boys. I ask you to stand by them tomorrow
because
they are our kind." Mandela inspired Sports Illustrated to
comment:
https://48th).10
29 SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES
Our kind . Not [black]. Not white. South African. The rugb_
team
became a symbol for the country as a whole.... Gi,·en the 1ight
time
and place. sport is capable of starting such a process in a
weiety. It i~
only a stait, of course. The hard work lies ahead, after the
crmHls ha'(.>
clisperse<l and the headlines have ceased. South Africa's radal
and een-
nomic ·oes are not behind it. Far from it. But thanks to the
common
ground supplied b:·a rngby pitch, those problems appear less
impming
than they did only a month ago .13
The Springboks, by the way, went on to win the 'oriel Cup ,
defeat-
ing the world's two mgby powers-Australia and New Zealand- in
the
process. For the first time in South Afiica's troubled history, "
·bites and
blacks found thernseh-es unified by a spo1t. Of course, this
kind of unity
is superHcial and temporary, but it is neYe1theless an
instrument that
can help to achie,·e unity in an otherwise divided country.
South Aflicans were also brought together through sport " ·hen
a
white South Aflican golfer, Louis Oosthuizen , and his black
cadd: .
Zaack Rasego also from South Aflica won the Biitish Open in
2010. 11
The player and cackly had worked together since 200:3 and "
·hen
Oosthuizen "On the Open . he hugged his cackly. not as hb
employee .
but as a partner- a hugely symbolic act to both races in South .-
frica.
and the goal of Nelson Mandela to unif), his nation .
Still expeiienc:ing deep racial di,isions, sp01t continues to
mm·e
South Aflica toward some semblancerof racial unit'. In :2010.
South
Af1ica hosted the World Cup, the biggest sporting e,·ent on th e
planet .
The tournament was a huge success with the country recei,ing
inter-
national recognition and a source of piicle for its people of all
races. As
Danny Jordan . the CEO of the World Cup organizing
committee. said:
"You ' re talking about the transformation of a country and a
societ: . Om
past has been a past of apartheid, a past of separation of people
based
on discrimination. This project can actually bind the nation. "1;
Sport Divides
But sport also has the capacity to divide people. Phillip
Goodhart and
Cluistopher Chataway argue that there are four kinds of sport:
spo1t as
exercise, sport as gambling, sport as spectacle, and representati
ve sp01t.
Representati ve sport is
3 0 CHAPTER 2
limited conflict with clearly defined rules, in which
representatives of
towns , regions, or nations are pitted against each other. It is
primarily
an affair for the spectators: they are drawn to it not so much as
the mere
spectacle, by the ritual, or by an appreciation of the skills
invoked, but
because they identify themselves with their representatives . ...
Most people will watch [the Olympic Games] for one reason
only:
there will be a competitor who, they feel, is representing them .
That fig-
ure in the striped singlet will be their man-running, jumping, or
boxing
for their country. For a matter of minutes at least, their own
estimation
of themselves will be bound up with his performance. He will
be the
embodiment of their nation's strength or weakness. Victory for
him will
be ictory for them; defeat for him, defeat for them .16
This keen identification with national athletes frames the
contest as
a S)lnbolic battleground between "us" and "them ." This
attitude, of
course , is exclusionary rather than inclusionary.
Sp01t can encourage division rather than unity. Tensions
generated
in sports matches , such as those that erupted between El
Salvador and
Honduras and between Gabon and the Congo after soccer
matches , have
contributed to the outbreak of war. A full-scale war between El
Salvador
and Honduras followed the clash between fans at the
elimination round
of the 1970 . orld Cup and concluded with bombing raids,
troop move-
ments , and, eventually, two thousand dead. Obviously, the
matches
themselves did not start these conflicts , since the matches
occurred in
an already tense context over land disputes and other
contentious issues .
A sports ernnt between two quarreling countries can (and
occasionally
does ) provide the catalyst for actual war between them.
Losing an international match can cause deep internal division,
whereas unity typically accompanies victory. When Colombia
lost a
recent ·world Cup, riots occurred in the country because the
people
were distressed over their team's play. Incredibly, a player who
had inad-
vertently scored a goal for the opposition was murdered,
presumably for
his failure in sport.
In 2008, the Israeli basketball team was to play Turkey's
national
team in Ankara, Turkey soon after Israel had bombarded Gaza,
includ-
ing bombing Gaza's Palestine National Stadium. Before the
game
could begin, Turkish fans chanted "Israeli killers! " and
Palestinian flags
were unfurled. The police tried to gain control of the crowd, and
after
SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 3 I
ninety minutes, all the fans were expelled from the arena. The
referees
atten;pted to get the teams on the court to play before an empty
arena,
but the Israeli team had no desire to play. The referees declared
the
Turks as winners. 17
Israel's aggressive actions against Palestinians in Gaza inflamed
the
Middle East. This was manifested as Islamic athletes
demonstrated
against Israel. An Egyptian soccer star followed a goal by
raising his shirt
to re·eal the slogan "Sympathise with Gaza." Similarly, a
Spanish soccer
player raised his shirt to reveal a shirt that said "Palestine" in
multiple
languages. 1b
The ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians
erupted once again when the Israeli Air Force bombed the
Palestin-
ian stadium in Gaza, which headquartered the center for youth
sports
programs throughout the Gaza Strip. This action was justified
by the
Israeli government as "collective punishment" following Hamas
rockets
fired on the Israelis. Dave Zirin asks why is a sports stadium
the target.
Answering his own question, he states:
Sports is more than loYed in Gaza.... It's an expression of
humanity for
those living under occupation .... Attacking the athletic
infrastructure is
about attacking the idea that joy, normalcy, or a universally
recognizable
humanity could ever be a part of life for a Palestinian child . ..
attacking
sports is about nothing less than killing~wpe. 19
In 2011, the men's basketball team from Georgetown University
was
engaged in a "Goodwill Tour" of China. An exhibition game
against a
Chinese team composed of players from the People's Liberation
Army
began with rough play that deteriorated into an ugly fight. This
fight in
Beijing's Olympic Stadium was witnessed by Vice President
Biden and
his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Biden's trip to China was to
lay the
groundwork for a reciprocal visit by Vice President Xi.
Basketball, in this
instance, did not foster friendly relations between the two
countries.
Long-standing hatred between nations can keep them from
coop-
erating in common ventures involving sport. In 2014, for
example, the
International Olympic Committee in an effort to reduce the cost
of
hosting the Games decided to allow host cities to move some
competi-
tions to other cities or countries where existing facilities were
available.
https://languages.1b
https://winners.17
32 CHAPTER 2
One idea was to allow South Korea, the host of the 2018 , inter
Games ,
to shift the bobsled and luge events to Japan. South Korea
rejected
this idea because many Koreans harbored resentment against
Japan, its
onetime colonial ruler.20
An interesting development to watch is the emergence of a
Euro-
pean economic community with a common currency, open
borders,
and transgovemmental units to oversee commerce among the
member
nations. Will sporting events among these nations drive a wedge
between
them , making cooperative transnational efforts difficult or
impossible?
Will sport inflame nationalistic impulses, causing fragmentation
rather
than unity? Or can sport help these nations transcend their
nationalis-
tic tendencies by somehow enhancing the goals of transnational
unity
among these countries?
UNITY AND DIVISION THROUGH SPORT
IN THE UNITED STATES
Fans of a team, by definition, are united in their fealty to that
team .
In a sense, they belong to voluntary tribes. They may even call
them -
seh-es a "nation," as in "Steeler Nation" (Pittsburg Steelers ) in
pro foot -
ball or "Buckeye Nation" (Ohio State University) . These
"nations" are
emotionally intense affinity groups and they are important
sources of
community. Columnist Howard Fineman makes that argument:
As neighborhoods and schools become more diverse , marriages
become
more mixed and social hierarchies break down, old lines are
getting
blurry. Voluntary tribes are a way of re-creating a sense of
community. 11
But, of course, intense identification with a "tribe" can have
dhisive con-
sequences. It may lead to shouted obscenities, booing teenagers,
hanging
coaches in effigy, and racial taunts. Such behaviors often result
in fights
between "tribes" at the arena, in bars, or on the streets. It may
lead to
riots follmving a "tribe's" victory or defeat. Rivalries may even
result in a
rabid follower doing something stupid or dangerous. Consider
the case of
the attack on the oak trees at Toomer's Corner. Two majestic
130-year-old
trees at Toomer's Comer in Auburn, Alabama were poisoned
follmving
https://community.11
https://ruler.20
SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 3 3
Auburn's ,ictory over arch rival Alabama in 2010. By long
tradition, when
Auburn University wins a football game, these oaks are covered
with toilet
paper. A sixty-two-year-old University Alabama fan, whose
children are
named Bear (after legendary Alabama coach, Bear Bryant) and
Crimson
T:vde, admitted to poisoning the trees, the symbols of hated
Auburn victo-
ries. As a commentator in Sports Illustrated opined: "This
alleged crime
seems an extreme example of the intense partisanship pervading
college
athletics in general and SEC football in particular. The e:-..-
pression of that
animosity straddles the line between passion and pathology."22
A keen interest in sports, however, can also break up one's
intense
feelings for a sports tribe. The phenomenon of Fantasy Football
does
just that .2-3 In 2014 , about 33.5 million football fans aged
twelve and
older participated in pro football fantasy leagues. The acthity is
very
popular and its paiticipants have grown rapidly. Players in these
leagues
draft players from NFL rosters. Each fantasy player's individual
roster
then is composed of players from a number of teams. As a
result, the
player cares about the performance of players beyond those on
his or
her fi:l-orite team . Greed seems to trump loyalty in this
instance.
Looking at the effect of sport on unity or division at the societal
le,·el ,
distinguished sports commentator Frank Deford makes a strong
case
that spo1t divides: "It is time to recognize the tmth, that sports
in the
United States has , in fact , never beens? divisive. Uniquely
today, sports
lun·e come to pit race against race, men against women, city
against city,
class against class and coach against player."2~
Let's examine how sport unites and divides conside1ing the four
major hierarchies in society: class, race, gender, and sexuality.
The ques-
tion: does sport lead to greater harmony within these systems of
social
stratiflcation? Or does sport increase division? As we shall see,
it has the
potential to work both ways. I emphasize the divisive nature of
sport
because that counters the prevailing myth.
Social Class
Money separates. Historically, sport has been pursued mainly by
the affluent, who alone had the time and the money for such
non-
income-producing activities. The notion of the sports "amateur"
was
a nineteenth-century im ention that the affluent used as a
mechanism
34
CHAPTER 2
of class separation. 25 The major competitions in Europe,
including the
Olympics, were limited to those who could afford the necessary
travel,
equipment, and coaching, and had the leisure to pursue athletic
excel-
lence. More than having the ability to participate, class origins
pre-
cluded international competition for many. John Kelley, a
world-class
rower, was barred from the 1928 Olympics because as a
bricklayer he
had a physical adrnntage over those who either did not work at
all or
did not do manual labor. Ironically, the well-to-do in this case
used their
athletic prowess in international competitions as "proof' of their
superi-
orih· oYer the lesser classes.
But the times haYe changed, or have they? The affluent tend to
live
in enclm·es that are banicaded, at least S)1nbolically, from
those with
whom they do not want to associate. They tend to send their
children to
p1i'ate schools rather than public schools, which restricts their
interac-
tion dth people who possess fewer economic resources. EYen
in the
public schools, class segregation occurs when tests p1ivileging
the main-
stream culture are used to determine what courses students take.
Class
segregation for the affluent also occurs at play. The wealthy
play golf,
tennis, and swim in exclusive country clubs and ski and sail at
e;-pen-
siYe resorts. Does sport break clown these economic and social
baniers
betveen social unequals, or does it reinforce them'?
When in 1990 Ronald Reagan accepted the Theodore Roose'elt
Award, the highest honor bestowed on an individual by the
National
Collegiate Athletic Association, he said:
 Vhen men and ,·omen compete on the athletic field ,
socioeconomic
status disappears. Afiican American or ·hite , Christian or
Jew, rich or
poor ... all that matters is that : ·ou're out there on the field
giving your
all. It's the same way in the stands, where corporate presidents
sit next
to janitors . . . and the)' high-fi,·e each other when their team
scores . . .
whic.:h makes me wonder if it [status ] should matter at all.2r.
This obsernttion, of course, is incredibly naive. It reinforces the
myth
that spo1t is egalitarian. According to the pre'ailing myth, sport
prOicles
oppo1tunity to those with ability regardless of class origins and
because
it promotes interaction across the social classes . Let me, as
sociologists
are wont to do, demythologize.
https://separation.25
SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES l S
Reagan asse1ts that sp01t prmides opportunity for those with
athletic
ability regardless of class 01igin. Does it? The answer is a little
yes but
mostly no. Athletes of humble social origins can become
incredibly
wealthy. African American golfer Tiger oods, for example,
'as the
first athlete to make $1 billion from his achievements,
endorsements,
and personal appearances. The visibility of these and other
athletes lead
many young males, especially African American males , to
belie,·e that
they 'ill become professional athletes if they Ork hard
enough. Ho'
reasonable is this ex-pectation? In two words extremely
improbable, as
is demonstrated in chapters 8 and 10.
iloreoYer, the opportunity for upward mobility is limited to a
fe·
spo1ts . Children from families with limited economic resources
tend
to participate in sports that require little equipment and are
publicly
funded , such as community youth programs and school sp01ts.
Thus
they tend to excel in football, basketball, baseball, track, and
bo,ing.
Children of the affluent, on the other hand, have access to golf
comses ,
tennis courts, and swimming pools, as well as coaching in those
sp01ts,
through prh·ate countty clubs, neighborhood associations, and
parental
subsidies . Morem·er, some sp01ts , such as gymnastics and ice-
skating.
require considerable money for coaching, access , equipment,
and trn,·el
(young elite ice skaters , for example, spend more than
$100,000 annu -
ally ). Ironically, most professional oppo1t11nities for UnH.'ll
athletes
are in sr)()rts in which the affluent h,we a tremendous ach-
antage from
~ L
childhood.
Ronald Reagan's remarks also suggested that spo1t encourages
inter-
action across class lines . Does it? Again, the answer is that
sport 'orks
both ways . Yes , people of all sorts talk to each other about
sports . Pa~t
or upcoming sports e'ents are topics that transcend class lines.
People
in public places often shed the barriers of social dass as the~ ·
discuss
past or future big games with strangers, acquaintances, and
fellm,
workers.
Yes, players on teams may develop friendships with those from
clif-
ferent social backgrounds , thus transcending social class. Yes,
players
from humble origins may be upwardly mobile , increasing th eir
interac-
tion with people across class boundaries. Certainly obtaining a
college
education, which athletic participation facilitates , increases
interaction
across classes.
3 6 CHAPTER 2
But sport scholarships are for the very few. And attending
college on
an athletic scholarship does not necessarily lead to graduation.
Athletes
in the revenue-producing sports are less likely to graduate than
their
nonathlete peers (discussed further in chapter 9) .
President Reagan asserted that CEOs sit next to janitors at
athletic
contests. Nothing could be further from the truth. The social
classes
are not proportionately represented at professional sports events
as the
cost of attending sports contests is too high for many.
According to the
Fan Cost Index, in 2014, a family of four attending a major
league base-
ball game paid an average of $212.46 for tickets, parking,
snacks, two
programs, and two adult caps. For the NFL, it was $479.11, the
NBA
$333.58, and for the NHL it was $359.17. 2' Obviously, these
amounts are
prohibitive for many families since the cost to attend a game
amounts
to more than 30 percent of the average household's weekly
earnings.
Among those who do attend, contrary to Reagan's blurred vi sion
through
rose-colored glasses, CEOs and janitors do not sit side by side.
Seating is
segregated by cost, in a very stratified arrangement. The very
rich enjoy
lm;ury suites, while the less well-to-do are dispersed by the cost
of seat-
ing, with the cheapest seats farthest from the action. The poor,
of course,
are not in the seats at all. If they do attend, they likely are there
as ven-
dors, cooks, janitors, or parking attendants. John Underwood,
writing in
the Neu; York Times, lamented the high cost of attending sports
events:
The greatest damage done by this new elitism is that even the
cheapest
seats in almost every big-league facility are now priced out of
reach of a
large segment of the population . Those who are most critically
in need
of affordable entertainment, the underclass (and even the lower -
middle
class), have been effectively shut out. And this is especially
hateful
because spectator sport, by its very nature, has been the great
escape for
the men and women who have worked all day for small pay and
tradi -
tionally prmided the biggest number of a sport's core support.
As it now
stands, they are as good as disenfranchised-a vast number of the
tax -
paying public who will never set foot inside these stadiums and
arenas. 26
Race
Progress in race relations has been slow and in some instances
seems
to be slipping. Cities are becoming more racially segregated.
Schools
https://arenas.26
37 SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES
are becoming more racially concentrated. The gap between
whites and
African Americans and Latinos is widening in terms of income,
wealth,
education, and employment. With growing immigration and
economic
hard times for the working poor, racial discord increases. Racial
dis-
crimination in housing, lending policies, job opportunities, and
an often
unjust criminal justice system (e.g., racial profiling) continues.
Many
whites, however, believe that minorities are to be blamed for
their
pathologies such as crime, welfare dependency, teenage
pregnancy, and
drugs. In response, many fearful whites build walls, real and
symbolic,
to separate them physically from racial minorities and to
support harsh
political policies toward these minorities. The question here is,
given
these racial realities in US society, does sport reduce or
exacerbate racial
tensions? Is the playing field open or does it reinforce racial
inequality?
In regard to racial harmony, sport works both ways. Clearly,
whites
and their nonwhite teammates make friends across racial lines
through
spmt. Research has found that positive attitudes toward race are
enhanced (1) when players from both races contribute more or
less
equally to team success and (2) when the team is successful.29
Thus, on
integrated teams in which each race needs the other to succeed
and the
team does succeed, members of both races have positive
feelings toward
each other.
In many sports, minority athletes are heroes cheered by their
fans of
all races. That is, fans tend to appreciate~the athletes on their
own teams,
regardless of race. The three most popular athletes in the United
States
(or even the world) are African American: Muhammad Ali,
Michael
Jordan, and LeBron James. But fans who adore their minority
athletes
may vent racial hatred on the minority athletes of opposing
teams.
A strong case can be made that sport divides the races. Histori-
cally, desegregating a sport has intensified racial hostilities.
Because of
America's persistent racial divide, sport sometimes provides the
context
for episodes of racial hostility (in schools, parks, playgrounds,
prisons).
Similarly, games that involve teams representing white schools
and
teams representing African American or predominantly Latino
schools
often provide a setting for racial taunts and violence by pla yers
and fans.
This occurs with some regularity in metropolitan areas when
mostly
white suburban high schools play against high schools from the
inner
city tl1at have a mostly African American or Latino student
body. It also
https://successful.29
3 B CHAPTER 2
occurs in small-town America where recent immigration has
brought
Latinos to once all-white communities.
Race tends to be a factor in the choices that athletes make. That
is,
on integrated teams, players often segregate themselves
voluntarily for
meals, travel arrangements, and leisure activities, and they tend
to select
roommates of the same race . As whites and racial minorities
compete for
positions on a team, each group may feel that the other race is
getting
special treatment, leading to various manifestations of "racial
paranoia."
Integrated teams may be segregated by position, which is called
"stacking." In football, whites are more likely to play on
offense and at
thinking and leadership positions that more often determine the
game's
outcome. African Americans overwhelmingly play on defense
and at
positions that require physical characteristics such as size,
strength,
speed, and quickness. This means that the members of one race
spend
most of their practice time with players of the same race (see
chapter 8
for a more elaborate account of stacking).
Most African American college athletes play for schools that
are
predominantly white (with African Americans sometimes
constituting
less than 5 percent of the student body). They differ from the
rest of
the student body in color and size. They may also differ in
academic
preparation. They often differ in economic resources. Consider
this
hypothetical but common occurrence: a six-foot, ten-inch poor
African
American basketball player from the inner city of Detroit.
Although
he took high school courses that did not prepare him for
college, he is
recruited to play at Tulane University, where the student body is
mainly
from a southern, mral background, 98 percent white, affluent,
and with
average SAT scores of 1,100. He is marginal in a number of
dimensions
in this setting. This marginality from the rest of the student
body is likely
to drive him further into not just the athletic ghetto but, most
partic:u-
larly, the African American athletic ghetto (see chapter 9).311
Moreover,
African American athletes are often segregated in athletic
ghettos on
campus (dorms, meals, courses, majors) and interact with other
athletes
but rarely with other students.
In November 2004, an NBA game between the Indiana Pacers
and
the Detroit Pistons ended in a brawl between players and fans.
Preced-
ing the violence were profane taunts by the Detroit fans aimed
at the
visiting Pacer players . The verbal aggression progressed in
intensity
SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 3 9
"ith objects thrown and players going into the stands to fight the
alleged perpetrators. There are many reasons for this extreme
case of
dolence (e.g., an increasingly uncivil society, alcohol, media
attention
to violence), but let's limit the discussion here to the racial
implica-
tions. About 77 percent of the NBA players are African
American, and
the fans are mostly white. In this riot, "it was not just a case of
players
going into the stands. It was black players going after white
fans." 3 1
NBA players are extremely wealthy vith an average salary in
2014 of
more than $4.5 million. The incomes (salaries and
endorsements) for
the top two NBA stars (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James ) in
2014 were
about $,50 million for each. There is fan resentment toward the
wealthy,
mostly black young men, some of whom do not conform to the
nonns of
middle-class society with behaviors that many consider boorish
, selfish ,
inappropriate, and disrespectful. Their tattoos, cornrows , hip
hop, and
"look at me" stmtting are seen through the eyes of whites as
reinforc-
ing old racial stereotypes. Journalist Mike Tillery argues that
there is "a
canyon between the black player and the white fan and
m·erwhelmingly
white press corps. [This results] in a new phenomenon: the
black ath-
letic boogeyman."32 As black sociologist Harry Edwards puts
it: "Race
is always an issue in America. vVhen the national TV screens
continu-
ously play out a scene of black players and mostly white fans
coming to
blows, the racial context is clear. Race played an aggravating
role in this ,
whether consciously or not on the partr0f both sides."•u
Gender
Ours is a patriarchal society. vVomen are second to men in
power,
earnings, and job opportuni ties. With few exceptions, women
occupy
secondary roles at home, in corporations, in colleges and
universities,
and in voluntary associations. vVomen ex-perience
disc1imination by
lenders, by employers, and by the Social Security system, to
name a
few.1.1
Does sport reinforce this imbalance, or does it work to break
down
gender inequities? As ,vith class and race, a case can be made
for both
sides on this question. On the integrating side, there is the
passage of
Title IX in 1972, which states that no person in the United
States can
be excluded, on the basis of sex, from participation in, can be
denied
40 CHAPTER 2
the benefits of, or can be subjected to discrimination in any
educational
program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. As a
result of
this landmark legislation, there has been a boom in women's
participa-
tion in school athletics. High school programs for girls went
from about
three hundred thousand pmticipants in 1971 to 3.27 million in
2013-
2014 (there were 4.53 million boys). During those years the
number of
women in college sports increased more than fivefold . While
participa-
tion rose substantially since the 1970s, women athletes still
receive less
support than men . For example, in 2013, the gap in recrui ting
dollars
meant that male athletes receh·ed $179 million more in athletic
scholar-
ships than did female athletes.3-j Moreover, there is a huge
gender pay
gap among college coaches36 and men are more likely than
women to
coach women's teams.37
But the implementation of Title IX on many campuses has pit-
ted men against women. To meet the regulations, the various
athletic
depmtrnents h,l·e l:)pically added women's teams, but to offset
the ne'
expenses they have dropped nonrevenue-producing men's sports
such as
wrestling, gymnastics, and swimming. In response, for example,
college-
wrestling ach-ocates h,l·e sued the Department of Education
arguing
that Title IX promotes sexual bias by eliminating men's teams
and
scholarships (re·erse disclimination). That argument fails to
acknowl-
edge that men's football and basketball are excluded from the
equation.
Football especially is Yery e~-pensive with eighl:)1-five full
scholarships,
numerous assistant coaches, and costly travel, but its expenses
are not
tlimmecl to mm·e money to women's programs, making it
impossible to
bling equality to men 's and women's sports. Gender-related
issues, as
they pertain to sp01t, will be more folly elaborated upon in
chapter 8.
Sexuality
Heterosexual sexual orientation is the norm in Ame1ican
societ'.
The .illiams Institute estimates that the percentage of adults in
the
United States who identii)· as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is 3.5
percent.
The percentage 'ho identif as transgender is 0.:3 percent. That
brings
our combined LGBT (l esbian, gay, bisexual, transgende~ ) total
to 3.8
percent or 9 million Amelicans, roughly equh·alent to the
population of
New Jersey.·i~
https://teams.37
41 SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES
This estimate is undoubtedly lower than the actual number,
pdmar-
ily because so many LGBT people hide their sexuality. They do
this
to escape the marginalization, derision, and contempt by
members of
society and the discrimination against them by individuals and
by the
"normal" way in which the institutions of society operate. 39
Homophobic attitudes and behaviors are rampant, especially in
the male sports world. There is the typical culture of the locker
room
where homophobic slurs are common and suspected gays
bullied. 411
Even some coaches question the "manhood" of certain players
as a
motivating tactic (see chapter 7). Although hundreds of gays
ha'e
doubtless been professional athletes, not one of the 3,,500 men
who
play professionally each year in the big four American sports-
football ,
baseball, basketball, and hockey-publicly acknowledged their
same-
sex orientation before 2013. The prime example of "coming out
of
the closet" in 2013 was Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA
player,
who proclaimed in Sports Illustrated: 'Tm a 34-year-olcl NBA
center.
I'm black. And I'm gay."41 He was followed by Michael Sam,
the first
openly gay drafted in the NFL (but later released by the St.
Louis
Rams). Before active players came out, players announced their
same-
sex orientation after their careers ended. 42 In 2014, a Major
League
Baseball umpire for thirty years, Dale Scott, announced that he
was
gay. 4J Athletes, coaches, and team officials were divided on
whether
a team should have gay players . The a,rgument in opposition
was that
this would negatively affect team morale, be a distraction, and
disrupt
normal locker-room routines. Supporters of inclusion argue that
when
a player's same-sex preference is known to his teammates it has
pro'en
to not be a problem, which was the case for Sam at the
Uni·ersity of
Missouri and Derrick Gordon of the University of
Massachusetts, the
first openly gay male NCAA Division I players. 44 The key is
whether
the individual is a quality football player who contdbutes to
team
success.·,;
In the female sports world, athletes, whether lesbian or not,
have
often faced the whispers that they were lesbians. As with male
athletes,
some were homosexual. There were a few pioneers who publicly
came
out of the closet much before men, famous athletes such as
tennis
great Martina Navratilova and basketball legend Cheryl Swoops.
More
recently, Violet Palmer and Brittney Griner, WNBA stars have
broken
https://players.44
https://ended.42
https://operate.39
CHAPTER 242
through the "glass closet."-1r; So, too, has Stephen Alexander,
born
Jen Alexander, who became the first openly transgender high
school
coach. ➔7
Se.•mality is cm·ered in more detail in chapter 7, so here I want
to
focus on the case of Caster Semenya, a South African runner
who at
age eighteen " ·on the women's 800 meters in the 2009 Track
and Field
Vorlcl Championships. Her in was questioned, howe·er,
because she
looked masculine. Vas the "she" really a "he"? ~lany of her
competitors
felt that she had an unfair adYantage . The mling body in track,
the Inter-
national Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), required
her to
undergo sex-determination testing to confirm her eligibility to
compete.
Although Sernenya's birth certificate clearly identified her as
female,
as a mature adult she is not only muscular, but has a husky
·oice, and
she was clear!~- a much better athlete than her female peers.
Did her
"masculinity" make her a "cheat" in track, giing her an unfair
adnmtage
against her more feminine foes?
Testing the sex of athletes began in the 1960s when the Soviet
Union
and other communist countries were suspected of ente1ing men
in
women's eYents . The early testing was simply for doctors to
look for
male anatomy as the,· obserYecl the nude bodies of the
contestants. This . .
hnmiliating practice was replaced by chromosomal tests. In
1967, a
Polish sp1inter E'a Klohukowska became the Hrst athlete to he
barred
from competition based on a gender test.' ' In 19S6, Spanish
hurdler
Maria Jose t-.lartinez-Patino was deprived of her first -place
winnings
when it was discm·ered that she had an X'Y chromosome ,
instead of the
female's X,'. chromosome.
The Caster Semenya case is important sociologically. First, the
test-
ing for gender rnriance is sexist, since there is no equirnlent
biochemi -
cal se-.:-cletermining policing and public humiliation in men's
spmis. If a
man has a mutation that makes lots of testosterone, then he can
count
that as a natural ach-antage. Not so for a wornen.-19
Second, this case alerts us to the social constmction of se'l.ual
identity.
Ve are taught that sex is a binary construct: one is either
female or male.
Actually, there is a biological continuum of sex difference. That
is, the
hormones in question are not naturally exclusive to men.
'omen and
men make androgens, including testosterone. So, too, with the
physical
features of sexual identity.
SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 43
Gender-that is , how we comport and conceive of ourseh'es- is a
remarkably A11icl social construction. Even our physical sex is
far more
ambiguous and Auid than is often imagined or taught. }.{edical
science
has long m:knowleclged the existence of millions of people
whose bod-
ies combine anatomical features that are conventionally
associated with
either men or women ancVor hm·e chromosomal nuiations from
the XX
or XY of women or men.. . . The heretical bodies of intersex
people
challenge the trnllitional understanding of gender as a strict
male/ female
phenomenon. ' hile we are never encouraged to conceiw of
bodies this
"·a:', male and female bodies are more similar than they are
distinguish -
able from each other. ;c'
Or, as sociologist Jay Coakley, has put it:
[The simple binary classification model is ] inconsistent with
bio-
logical e,idence showing that anatomy, hormones,
chromosomes,
and secondary se x characteristics vary in complex ways and
cannot be
di, ided neatly into two sex categories, one male and one
female....
Heal bodies hm·e physiological and biological traits, which are
distrib-
11 ted along continua re lated to these dimensions of
bioc:hemhtry and
app e aran ce. 51
The third sociological point about the Caste r Semenya case is
that
what is "feminine " , ·aries from society to society. Many
Af1icans hm·e
t . .
objected to the attack on Semenya's femininity, because it
imposes "on
the body of Caster Semenya a white, Euro-American ideal of
feminin -
ity." Gh·en the range of values and beliefs concerning gender
and sexu -
ality in the world, what does it mean to impose a singular
definition of
what is male or what is female ?51
Finally, the objection to allowing Caster Semenya to eompete
against women is that the playing field is not leYel- that she has
an
unfair (and, it is daimed, an unnatural) advantage. But athletes
use
all manners of technology and science to gain an ach-antage
m·er their
opponents. Of course, there are illegal drugs, but also there are
,ita-
min supplements, ingesting bee pollen and protein shakes,
training in
hypobmic chambers to gain the advantage of training at high
altitude
while at lower altitudes, Lasik eye surgery, to name a few
performance-
enhancing techniques. How about those who are naturally taller
by
44 CHAPTER 2
sewral standard deviations, should they be excluded from
basketball
competition? Or those who naturally have more than the normal
ratio
of fast-twitch muscles , thus giving them an advantage in the
sprints
o·er those in the normal or below normal ranges? Vhat about
the
adnmtages of wealth or sponsorship to have the best coaching
and
facilities while others are deprived of these advantages? So we
are left
with the question , still unanswered: at what point does the
testosterone
--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas
--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas
--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas
--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas
--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas
--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas
--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas
--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas
--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas

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--0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstas

  • 1. -- 0 THE DUALITY OF SPORT ffo11w11 beings seek ekstasis, a "stepping 011t~ide" of th eir 1w111wl, 111111ulr111e experience. If they 110 lunger find ecstasy in a synagogue, clwrc/1, or 111osq11e, they look for it i11 dm1cc , lllll5ic, sport, sex, or drugs. - Karen Armstrong, historian of religions Spol1 is a u;i11do11; 011 a clw11gi11g soqety. - Dmicl Halber~tam , author For sol/le people, baseball i· like a religion . It has all the ele111e11ts: a creation story, falls from grace, redemption, prophets, heretic5, icons, lituals, te111JJ!es, u:ors/1ip, sacrifice, miracles, sar,iors a11d si11- 11ers-lots of si111wrn. - John Longhurst, Wi1111ipeg ( Manitoba ) Free Press Soccer is like a 90-111ir111te anxiety dream--<Jnc of those fnistrating dreams u:hen you 're trying to get somewhere but something is
  • 2. a/u;ays in the iuay. This is yet another icay soccer is like life. - Simon Critchle>·, English professor of philosophy CHAPTER I l Sports are not just physical contests, yott know,_tl~ ey are also sociol- ogy. They are a reflection of the people and soczetzes that play th em. -Mike Seccombe, Australian journalist The thrill ofcicton; and the agony of defeat-the human drama of athletic competition . -Jim McKay for ABC's Wide Vorld of Sport The subject of this volume is sport in US society. To guide this inquiry, I ham organized the book around two themes: that sport has positive and negative consequences, that is, sport is both fair and foul; and that sport is a microcosm of society. Each of these themes brings into sharper focus the paradox that, on the one hand, we love sport and are fascinated by its magical qualities, yet sport has troubleso me qualities as well. This leads to confusion, as sportswriter Gary Smith has
  • 3. written: All this confusion does it signal a society lost in the wilderness . . . or one finally mature enough to look at questions it has always shut its eyes to? m~ mine.I gnaws at the bone, at every last bit gristle. Beneath it all , he can !> ense 'hat's going on , the vague feeling that people are beginning to ham that their love of sports-the sense of escape and belonging that the:' prmide- is doubling back on them like some hidden undertow, pulling the m out to sea. 1 THEME I: SPORT IS FAIR; SPORT IS FOUL Sociologist Jay Coakley observes that Americans believe in what he calls the "Great American Sports Myth," which is "the widespread belief that all sp01ts are essentially pure and good, and that their purity and good- ness are transferred to those who participate."2 This is the message given at a typical high school sports banquet honoring the school's athletes . The guest speaker, with examples, humor, and sincerity, extols the many i1tues of sports participation. The implications of the "Great American Sports M)th " are, foremost, that sports participation builds ch_aracter. Second, if there are problems, they are because of a few "bad apples,"
  • 4. 3 THE DUALITY OF SPORT not the system. And, third, acceptance of the system makes critical thinking about sport difficult.3 The primary goal of the essays in this book, to the contrary, is to examine the world of sport from a critical perspective: to see how the system works sometimes in beneficial ways and sometimes not. On the "sport is fair" side, there are countless examples of athletes' philanthropy for such public goods as providing college scholarships for poor children, subsidizing public school budgets to keep sports pro- grams alive, and HIV/ AIDS research. There are also numerous exam- ples of athletes who have supported their minority teammates when they were faced vith racial, gender, or sexual orientation bias. Or on a wider scale, they can put themselves in the spotlight drawing attention to the hate and prejudice that plague society. 4 When a video revealed fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma singing racist chants, for example, the head coaches of the football and basketball teams at Oklahoma-Bob Stoops and Lon Kruger-took a stand ,vith their
  • 5. teams by taking part in campus protests against racism. As sportswriter Mike Sandrolini has said, ",Ve must keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of athletes, pro or othenvise, are good, kind, charitable people who strive to play by the rules."5 The dark side of sport can be observed in the sports section of any random issue of USA Today. Chances are you will find one or more examples of athletes accused or founq.guilty of rape, spouse abuse, ille- gal substance abuse, and other criminal activities. There you ,vill find athletes, coaches, and occasionally referees who cheat. Similarly, you might find examples of scandals where schools are accused of illegal recruiting, enrolling athletes in "phantom" courses, failing to enforce regulations promoting gender equality, protecting their accused athletes from court actions that would make them ineligible to play, and pro- tecting the school's image rather than seeking justice.6 Or you will see examples of the governing organization of college sport enforcing rules of amateurism that serve to enrich some individuals and organizations while restricting the money of the workers-the athletes. There are also professional sports leagues that have avoided taking
  • 6. responsibility for failures to protect or compensate their athletes for the long-term effects of head injuries . 4 CHAPTER I But just as we are ready to condemn sports and vow to never watch SportsCenter on ESPN, an act of selflessness, of sportsmanship, restores one's faith in sport. Consider this crown jewel: in the spring of 2008, Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University hit a home run in a softball game against Central Washington University, but she missed first base . When she started back to tag it she collapsed with a serious knee injury. She crawled back to first but could do no more. Her options were limited. If her teammates helped her she would be called out. If a pinch-runner substituted for her, the home run would be counted only as a single. What happened was astounding. When the umpire said there was no rule against it, tu;o of her opponents-Liz Wallace and Mallory Holtman-carried her around the bases, lowering her gently at each base so that she could touch it, thus allowing the three-run homer to count, contributing to their own team 's elimination from the playoffs .7
  • 7. Vow! Double Wow! Vhat are we to make of this contradiction of sport and its actors hav- ing elements of the good and the bad-of being fair and foul? That is what this book is about. THEME II: SPORT AS A MICROCOSM OF SOCIETY Analysts of society are inundated with data. They are faced with the problems of sorting out the important from tl1e less important and with discerning social patterns of behavior and tl1eir meanings. They need shortcuts to ease the task. To focus on sport is just such a technique for understanding the complexities of the larger society. Sport is an institution that provides scientific observers with a convenient laboratory vithin which to examine values, socialization, stratification, and bureaucracy, to name a few structures and processes that also exist at the societal level. The games people choose to play, the degree of competitiveness, the types of rules, the constraints on the participants, the groups that do and do not benefit under the exist- ing arrangements, the rate and type of change, and the reward system in sport provide us with a microcosm of the society in which sport is
  • 8. embedded.~ 5 THE DUALITY OF SPORT COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF SPORT AND SOCIETY9 Suppose an astute sociologist from another country or gala.y were to visit the United States with the intent to understand its values, the system of social control, the division of labor, and the system of stratification. Although the answers could be found by careful study and observation of any single institution, such as religion, education, polity, economy, or family, an attention to sport would also provide answers. It would not take that sociologist long to discern the follOving qualities in sport: The High Degree of Competitiveness Competition is ubiquitous in US society. Competition is the essence of sport. The downside is that competition divides participants into winners and losers. As Jon Wertheim observes, "If there weren't losers, it wouldn't be competition." 10 Americans demand vinners. In sports (for children and adults), vinning is the ultimate goal, not pleasure in the activity. The adulation given to winners is incredible while losers are
  • 9. maligned. Exam- ple: Popular locker room slogans exemplify this divergence: "Show Me a Good Loser and I'll Show you a Loser" and "Lose is a Four - Letter Word." Consider, for example, the difference in how the vinner and the loser of the Super Bowl or the World Series are evaluated. Clearly, to be second best is not good enough. "Nobody remembers who came in second" is the conventional wisdom. The goal of victcfry is so important for many that it is laudable even if attained by questionable methods . "Whatever you can get away with" is another conventional ma.xim. The Emphasis on Materialism Examples of the value that Americans place on materialism are blatant in sport: for example, players signing multiyear contracts, some exceeding $100 million; male golfers playing weekly for first- place awards of more than a million dollars; college teams leaving leagues for others where the economic rewards are greater; professional teams being moved to more economically fertile climates; and lavish stadiums being built mostly at public expense. 6 CHAPTER I
  • 10. The Pervasiveness of Racism Although conditions have improved greatly over the past fifty years, racist attitudes and actions still affect who coaches, positions played, and the futures of minorities after their sports career. Just as in the larger society, racial minorities in sport are rarely found in positions of author- ity. In the Super Bowl, for example, although African American players dominate, racism is evident in the dearth of black coaches, team owners, publicists, trainers, and media personnel. 11 Male Dominance as the Norm Men control sport. Almost every major professional, amateur, and educational sport organization in the United States is under the man- agement and control of men. The proportion of women in leadership and decision-making positions-those vith power and influence- in sport is quite small; far smaller, certainly, than would be expected based on the number of female sport participants. Significant shifts in the balance of gender dominance in sports are difficult to find. Moreover, women are usually found supporting men's teams, often as scenery. Sport perpetuates male dominance by defining sport as a male
  • 11. activity; by controlling sport, even women's sport; by giving most attention to male sports in the media and through community and school budgets, facilities, and the like; and by trivializing women's sports and women athletes. 12 The Domination of Individuals by Bureaucracies Conservative bureaucratic organizations, through their desire to per- petuate themselves, curtail innovations and deflect activities away from the vishes of individuals and from the original intent of these organiza- tions. Many sport organizations-the NCAA, intercollegiate athletic conferences, professional sport leagues-pride themselves on having adopted bureaucratic business practices. The Unequal Distribution of Power in Organizations The structure of sport in the United States is such that power is in the hands of the wealthy (e.g., boards of regents, corporate boards of directors, each professional league, the media, wealthy entrepreneurs, https://personnel.11 THE DUALITY OF SPORT 7
  • 12. the United States Olympic Committees, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association). Evidence of the power of these individuals and organizations is seen in the exemptions allowed to them by state govern- ments and the federal government in dealing with athletes and owners, in tax breaks, and in the concessions that communities make to entice professional sports franchises to relocate or to remain, and, incidentally, to benefit the wealthy of that community. Sport Is Not a Sanctuary; Deviance Is Found Throughout Sport Corruption, law breaking, unethical behavior, and other crimes are endemic to human societies. Because sport reflects society, racist, and sexist organizations, bad actors and bad actions will be found in sport as they are in society. Both fairness and unfairness are found. There are ethical and unethical athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators. It is impossible to imagine the worst about sports anymore. Cheating is accepted, drugs are common, rapists in the locker rooms , nothing is beyond belief. Caveat: While Sport Is a Microcosm of Society, It Is Not Just a Passive Reflection of Society but It Can Also be an Agent of Change
  • 13. Sports are social constructions, that is, 11s part of the social world they are created by people in interaction and they can be changed by people. Conflict, in the forms oflawsuits, strikes, and demonstrations . hist01ically and presently has been used by the less powerful in the spmts world to change sport. As sports columnist/activist Dave Zirin puts it: "Sports has often acted as a reflection of the national life. At different times it has also been a fetter holding back the tide of change. In other instances, it has been a Taser, sending an electric jolt into the body politics." 1l VARIATION ON THE "SPORT AS A MICROCOSM OF SOCIETY" THEME:THE SUPER BOWL The Super Bowl is the quintessential sports event in the United States. Football, the most telegenic of all team sports, is the most watched 8 CHAPTER I American television event (sport and nonspo1t), with 11.J.4 million watching the 2015 event. In the last fifteen minutes of the game 120.3 million watched-the equivalent of just about e·eryone in Mexico.t-1 Super Bowl Sunday is unique-a shared, nationwide social event
  • 14. organized around a single stage at a single time. It is an unofficial national holiday; the biggest day for gambling, and the second biggest clay in the year for food consumption (trailing only Thanksgiving). The Super Bowl brims with the potential for great drama, he ro- ics, disastrous errors, and excellence in performance all of which are heightened by an uncertain outcome. For these and many other rea- sons, the game embodies all sport-and shows why the excitement of sp01t is so infectious to me and so many others. But there is another side to the Super Bowl, a side that diminishes sport for me. A sp01ts contest, a physical competition between oppo- nents, is decided by differences in abilities , strategy, and chance. The effort to win under these conditions is the essence of sport, whether a playground basketball game , a church league slow-pitch softball game, a college rirnlry, or the opposing teams in the Super Bowl. But as the le·el of spo1t becomes more sophisticated, sport shifts from pla:, to work and from pleasurable participation to pageant1}-pageantry wedded to militarism (e .g., fl ym·ers, a giant flag, precision parachutists landing on the fifty-yard line, military honor guards, and, military personnel
  • 15. honored ).15 Today, spo1t has become a spectacle ruled by money and the Super Bowl is the exemplar where we celebrate a $10 billion industry owned by the wealthy elite. Television networks pay enormous sums for the broadcasting rights to the Super Bmd and then sell ach- ertising (at $4 .5 million per thiity seconds in 201.5, that's $150,000 a second). Social media such as Twitter, YouTuhe, and Facebook share profits on Super Bowl ad·ertising with the NFL. It has a $200 million marketing contract Vith Nike. The sale of memorabilia dming Super Bowl week b1ings in more than $100 million, which is about twenty-fh·e times more than the athletes make cumulath·ely for playing in that game. OYer the course of the season , the NFL generates S,51 million in ticket sales , $2.1 billion in merchandising reYenue, an estimated $2.8 billion in tele- vision rights, and it receives about $1 billion a year in state and federal https://honored).15 9 THE DUALITY OF SPORT subsidies to cover their capital costs. The NFL commissioner makes
  • 16. $4-1: million a year. And, the NFL gets a tax break because it has been deemed a nonprofit organi::ation. 16 Violence is glorified in the Super Bowl. Dming the course of the game, there are cheap hits aimed at intimidating and perhaps injming an opponent. Injuries are commonplace. Some athletes, outside the arena, are thugs, rapists, and domestic partner abusers. Morem·er. there are instances of rule breaking, such as placing silicone on jerseys to make the player harder to grab and the alleged deflating of game balls in the Conference Championship game leading to the Super Bowl in 2015 ("Deflategate") to giYe the New England Patriots and their quar- terback, Tom Brady, an advantage in gripping and throwing the ball. The e:,,.-penses inrnlved in attending the Super Bowl mean that most attendees are affluent. The face value of a ticket to the 2015 Super Bowl was $800-81,500. These were in short supply because the league and the NFL owners are giYen 75 percent of the tickets. The result is the aYerage price for a ticket was $10,466 through secondary sources . At the game, the cost of parking, souvenirs, and food/drink is outrageous . Airfares , lodging, and food costs escalate dramatically chuing Super
  • 17. Bowl week. So, the Super Bowl is not for regular fans . It is for the rich and famous who engage in conspicuous consumption such as renting a mansion for $2,50,000 a week. i; Racism is evident at the Super Bowl, in the race of the players at rn1i - ous positions (African Americans on tlefense, and whites on offense ). About 77 pen:ent of the players in the NFL are black, yet there is a deaith of African Ame1ican coaches, coordinators, owners, general man- agers, trainers, publicists, and media personnel. Likewise, the Super Bowl represents the sexist side of sport as it glorifies team and media personnel, all but a small fraction of whom are male . 'omen prmicle suppmting roles. Their bodies are used to heterosexualize the festival as cheerleaders, dancers, halftime performers, and promotional sex objects. 1~ Vinning the Super Bowl is vitally important. We Americans empha- size the outcome of games rather than the process . Ve glorif)· winners and ilify losers. As John Madden, Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster, has said, "The biggest gap in sports is between the winner of the Super Bowl and the loser in the Super Bowl." 19
  • 18. I I 0 CHAPTER The Super Bowl symbolizes the fundamental sports paradox for me : it is both magical and materialistic, unifying and divisive , inclusive and exclusionary, e>..vansive and exploitive. These agony and ecstasy ele- ments of sport are the subjects of this book. And, these dualities remind us that sport reveals so much about ourselves and our society. VARIATION ON THE SPORT AS A MICROCOSM OF SOCIETYTHEME:WHAT FOOTBALL AND BASEBALL TELL US ABOUT OURSELVES AND US SOCIETY20 An important indicator of the essence of a society is the type of sport it glorifies. Football and baseball are the two preeminent spo1is in American society. Examining these sports, there are a few similarities, most notably that both are played mostly by boys and men . omen are involved in supporth·e roles .21 Although there are other similarities between the two (e .g., rule breaking and rule bending are common in both), the two sp01is are basically opposites and these differences pro- ,ide insightful clues about Americans and American society. Baseball was once America's most popular sport. Now football is the
  • 19. people's favorite, with more Americans watching football on Sundays than attending church. The NFL is the richest sports venture with about $10 billion in annual revenue. An estimated $50 million is bet each week in Las Vegas alone on football.22 Vhen baseball was the national pas- time, the United States was a pastoral, agrarian nation?3 Farmers and small-town craftsmen, merchants, and laborers worked alone or with their families to achieve success. But then America became an indus- trial nation , with people moving to the cities to work i n factories and to large bureaucracies associated with a large industrial society. These bureaucracies require "elaborately choreographed cooperation among large groups: success for the team is success for everyone ."2~ In effect, part of football's appeal is that its structure is similar to the structure of the contemporary workplace . These two sports have fundamentally different 01ientations toward time . Baseball is not bounded by time while football must ~dhere to a rigid time schedule . "Baseball is oblivious to time. There is no clock, no two-minute drill. The game flows in a timeless stream with a rhythm of https://football.22
  • 20. https://roles.21 THE DUALITY OF SPORT I I its own."25 In this way, baseball reflects life in rural America as it existed in the not-too-distant past compared to football's emulation of contem- porary urban society, where persons have rigid schedules, deadlines, appointments, and time clocks to punch. The innings of baseball have no time limit, and if the game is tied at the end of the nine innings, the teams play as many extra innings as it takes to determine a winner. Football, on the other hand, is played for sixty minutes, and if tied at the end, the game goes into sudden death. The nomenclature of the two sports- "extra innings" compared to "sudden death"-illustrates a basic difference between them. There are other semantic differences. A baseball player makes an "error," but a football team is "penalized."26 The object of baseball is to be "safe at home" while the goal of football is to penetrate deep into the opponent's "territory, crossing the enemy's goal line." In base- ball, there is no home territory to defend; the playing field is shared by both teams. In football, there is "clipping," "hitting," "spearing,"
  • 21. "piling on ," and "personal fouls." Baseball, in sharp contrast, has the "sacrifice," and players commit "errors." There is no analogue in base- ball for the militaristic terms of football, for example, "blitz," "bomb," "trap," "trenches," "field general," "aerial attack," and "ground attack." Such linguistic differences imply a basic difference between baseball and football. Baseball, as seen in its benign verbs (home run hitters trot around the bases; pitchers "toe" the rubber),2 7 is essentially a calm and leisurely activity while football is intense, aggressive, and violent. A baseball player cannot get to first base because of strength, aggres- sion, or ability to intimidate. The only way to get there is through skill or an opponent's lack thereof. In football, however, survival (success ) belongs to the most aggressive. Clearly, the source of football's appeal is violence. 28 Baseball is a game of repetition and predictable action pla~,ed over a 162-game schedule. The players must stay rela'Xed and not get too excited. They must pace themselves and not let a loss or even a succes- sion of losses get them down. In football, though, losing is intolerable because of the short season (sL.ieen games). Thus, football players must
  • 22. play each game with intensity. The intensity that characterizes football resembles the tensions and pressures of modem society, contrasted with the more relaxed pace of agrarian life and baseball. https://violence.28 I I 2 CHAPTER The two sports differ in their orientation to change. Baseball today is much like it was decades ago. Managerial actions are relatively predict- able for the various situations that arise, because there is a time-honored way of doing things. Football, on the other hand, is constantly changing as coaches devise new offenses and defensive coaches design new ways to counteract these changes as well as creating new defenses to con- found offenses . Football is also more reliant on technology than base- ball. Baseball does use the speed gun, videotaping, computers, analytics, and other forms of technology but not nearly as much as football where computers are used to evaluate player performance on each play, to discover opponent's tendencies in play calling by situation, and the like. An interesting contrast between these two sports is the equality of
  • 23. opportunity each offers. Baseball promotes equality while football is essentially unequal. This difference occurs in several ways. First, the usual route to become a professional football player is to first play in college . Some baseball players do also, but they have the option of work- ing up through the minor leagues. A second way that baseball is more egalitarian than football is that it can be played by players of all sizes. Football, however, is for big people (with a few exceptions). Baseball is also more equal than football because everyone has the opportunity to be a star. Except for designated hitters, all players play offense ,md defense, giving each the chance to make an outstanding defensive play or to bat in the winning run. In football, stardom is essentially reserved for those who play at the positions that score points. Others labor in relative obscurity. This is similar to American society, where the elite few score the points, call the plays, and get the glory at the e:-.-pense of the commoners. Another dimension on which the two sports differ is individualism. Baseball is highly individualistic. It is "a team sport, but it is basically an accumulation of individual activities. Throwing a strike, hitting a line drive or fielding a grounder is primarily an individual
  • 24. achievernent."29 Elaborate teamwork is not required except for double plays, defending sacrifice bunts, and being in position for cut-off throws. Each player struggles to succeed on his own. As Gerald Cavenaugh has written: Baseball is each [player] doing the best . .. within a loose confederation of fellow individualists.... This reflects a society in which individual THE DUALITY OF SPORT I 3 effort, drive, and success are esteemed and in which , conversely, failure is deemed the individual's responsibility.30 Football, in sharp contrast, is the quintessence of team spmts. EYery move is planned and practiced in advance. The players in each of the eleven positions have a specific task to pertom1 on every play. E·ery player is a specialist whose actions are coordinated with the other specialists on the team. Each player's personality must be subordinate to the team's goals as set by a demanding coach. The parallel between the organization of a football team and a factory or a corporation or other
  • 25. bureaucracies is obi- ous.31 In each, the intricate and precise actions of all members doing dif- ferent tasks are required for the attainment of the organization's objecti·e. In summary, baseball represents what we were. It continues to be popular because of our longing for the peaceful past. Football, on the other hand, is popular now because it symbolize d what we now are- an urban-technological-corporate-bureaucratic society. Thus, the two sports represent cultural contrasts: country vs. city, stability vs. change , harmony vs. conflict, calm vs. intensity, and equality vs. inequality. Each sport contains a fundamental myth that it elaborates for its fans . Baseball represents an island of stability in a confused and confusing world. As such, it provides an antidote for a world of too much action , struggle, pressure, and change. Baseball provides this antidote by being individualistic, unbounded by time, nonviolent, leisurely in pace, and by perpetuating the American myths of:equal opportunity, egalitarianism . and potential success for everyone. Football represents what we are. Our society is violent. It is high!:,· technological. Change is rapid. It is highly bureaucratized, and we are
  • 26. all caught in its impersonal clutches. Football fits contemporary urban- corporate society because it is team oriented, highly technological. dominated by the clock, rewards aggressive behavior, and because it perpetuates inequality. OVERVIEW I begin vith a paradox: Sport, a seemingly trivial pursuit, is important. Sport is a fantasy-a diversion from the realities of work, relationships , https://responsibility.30 I CHAPTER I 4 and survival. Sport entertains. Why then do we take it so seriously? First and foremost, sport mirrors the human e~-perience, as noted by The Nation in its introduction to a special issue on sport: Sport elaborates in its rituals what it means to be human: the play, the risk, the trials, the collecth·e impulse to games, the thrill of physicality, the necessity of strategy; defeat, victory, defeat again, pain, transcen- dence and, most of all, the certainty that nothing is ce1tain-that e,·ery- thing can change and be changed. 1"
  • 27. Second, sport mirrors society in other profound ways. It shares with the larger society the basic elements and e:,vressions of bureaucratiza- tion, commercialization, racism, sexism, homophobia, greed, exploita- tion of the powerless by the powe1ful, alienation, and ethnocentiism. American spmt embodies Ame1ican values- sbiving for excellence, winning, individual and team competition, and mate1ialism. Parents want their children to participate in spmt because pa1ticipation teaches them the basic values of American society and builds character. Third, sport is compelling because it combines spectacle (a unh·ersal human social tendency to combine sp01t and pageantry) with drama (an outcome that is not perfectly predictable ), pcrfonnance excellence, and clarity (exactly who won, by hm,· much , and in 'hat manner ). 'e also know who lost and whv. Fomth, there is something transcendent about spmt. Fans celebrate. Fans high-five strangers. Fans emote with cheers , jeers, screams . and tears. As Scott Simon of National Public Radio puts it: "You can tell yourself: it's just spo1ts, nothing real; it has nothing to do with yonr life, no resonance in the real world oflhing, dying, and struggling.
  • 28. And you'd be 1ight. Then, something [magical] happens . . .. And inside, where your body cannot kid you, something takes m·er and it feels real.''-•1 Finallv, ,' there is the human desire to identif·. with and connect to something greater than oneself. For athletes, this is being part of a team, working and sacrificing together to achieYe a common goal. For fans, identif)ing ith a team or a sports hero bonds them with others who share their allegiance; they belong and they hm·e an identity. Esteemed analyst of sports, Frank Deford puts it this way: "In today's world, where we are so fragmented, an arena is one place left where we come THE DUALITY OF SPORT I 5 together to share... . That's why the creeps at games who shout loud obscenities are not merely being offensh·e. They're breaking a compact, which is that all us sports fans must sacrifice a little of our indiiduality to, for one rare modern moment, commune."3~ Sport is a pervasive aspect of US society. Participation rates are
  • 29. high . .Most children are involved in organized sport at some time in their li,·es. Sport is the subject of much conversation, reading material, lei- sure activity, and discretionary spending. Over one-tenth of the World Almanac is devoted annually to sport, more than is allotted to politics business, and science. USA Today, the most widely read newspaper in the United States , devotes one-fourth of its space to sport. E,·en the Wall Street ]ollrnal has a weekly sports page. A number of cable teleision networks provide twenty-four-hour sports cO·erage. Almost one-fifth of major network time is devoted to sport. Annually, the most watched television e,·ent in the United States is the Super Bowl. The amount of sp01ts betting is staggering, with unknown billions wagered legally and illegally. Ve sports fans read the daily sports page with a keen interest in the latest scores , win-loss records, favorite athletes, and possible new col- lege ret:ruits or trades that improve our belO·ed professional teams. 'e know a great deal about sport. Ve know point spreads, c;urrent statis- tics, playoff probabilities , biographical information about athletes and c;oaches, and more. As children, many of us learned spo1ts
  • 30. information , memorizing incredible amounts of thvia. Moreover, most of us play spo1ts, whether as indhiduals or on organized teams, throughout muc;h of our lives. But do we truly understand sport? Can we separate the h)1Je from the reality and the myth from the facts? Do we question the way spmt is organized? Unf01tunately, many fans and pmticipants alike have a super- flcial, unc1itical attitude that takes much for granted. 15 The purpose of this book is to examine sport critically and to ask probing questions. As a sociologist, I examine all social arrangem ents critically. A sociolo- gist asks questions such as: How does sp01t really work?'ho has power and who does not? Vho benefits under the existing social arrangements and who does not? These questions scrutinize existing m~ths, stereo- types, media representations, and official dogma. The answers to these questions enable us to demystify sport and truly understand it. I examine https://granted.15 I CHAPTER I 6
  • 31. sport and the beliefs surrounding it, holding them to the light of current research findings and critical thinking in order to demythologize them. I focus on shmving how sport really works and, in the process, I identify a duality in it, which exists in all human institutions. In other words, sport has positive and negative outcomes for individuals and society, as we have already seen. My approach will probably raise questions, doubts, resistance, and even anger among some readers, demonstrating the power of myth. In the process, though, readers will see sport from a new angle, one that brings new interpretations and insights to their e:'1.-periences with sport. PARADOXES OF SPORT The subtitle of this book refers to the paradoxes of sport. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language supplies the following defini- tion of paradox: ( 1) "any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an appar- ently contradictory nature"; and (2 ) "any opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted opinion." l!J This book is titled Fair and Fout3· because sport is beset by a number of contraclictions (definition 1 above), and the common
  • 32. understanding of sport is often guided by myth. My goal is to dem)thologize sport by calling into question the prevailing beliefs about this phenomenon (definition 2 abO·e ). These two dimensions of the term "paradox" con- stitute the organizing principle-the essence--of this book. Sport is inherently contradictory. On the one hand, sport provides excitement, joy, and self-fulfillment for the participants. As former Olympic athlete Kenny Moore puts it: "To celebrate sp01t is ... to celebrate sheer abandon, to savor moments when athletes surrender themselves to effort and are genuinely transformed. This is when spo1t takes loneliness, fear, hate and ego and transmutes them into achie'e- ment, records, art, and powerful example."35 But there is also a dark side, as Moore concedes: "[Sport also pres- ents us with] cocaine deaths, steroid cover-ups , collegiate hypocrisies, gambling scandals, criminal agents, and Olympic boycotts. Such failings show that sport's civilizing, freeing effect on us is incomplete . 'Not every- one is following the rules. Not everyone is trying."39 THE DUALITY OF SPORT I 7
  • 33. Put another way, spo1t provides examples of courage, superhuman effort, extraordinary teamwork, selflessness , and saciifice. Yet the images corn·eyed through sport- violence, greed, exploitation, selfishness , cheating, and contempt for authority-are not always uplifting.~0 Sport is clearly appealing. Ve are fascinated by the competition and the st1iing for excellence. Spo1t is compelling because it transcends our e,·eryday routine e~-peiiences with excitement, heroics, and unpredict- ability. But much about spo1t is also appalling. Paradoxically, fans often find the appalling appealing-the iolence, the incredible amounts of money, the cheating, and the outrageous behmiors by some athletes , coaches, and owners. Each chapter in this book takes up a particular paraclm. of spo1t. First, sport is both unif)ring and divisi'e. Chapter 2 shows ho' spmt can unite warring factions and b1ing different social classes and racial groups together. However, it can also reinforce the banicades that dhicle groups. The related topics of chapter .3 are the names , mascots , logos , and 1ituals associated rith spo1ts teams, which e,·oke strong
  • 34. emotions of solidaiity among follo,,·ers. But these spo1ts symbols hm·e a potentially dark side as well. Man' Native Ame1icans and others are offemled l1' . , the use of Nafo·e Ame1ican names (like th e 'ashington Redskins), 'ar paint, tomahawks, war chants, and mascots dressed in nati·e costume . They feel that these practices stereot)1)e, demean , and tridalize the traditions and 1ituals of Native Americans. Similarly, the names giYen to ·omen's teams raise parallel questions concerning stereotyping (the name Rambelles hardly refers to athletic skills ) and tii,ialization (e.g., Vildkittens as a diminutive of Wildcats ). Then there is the use of the Rebel flag-the symbol of the Confederacy, racial segregation , and Afiican Ameiican enslavement-as the rall)ring symbol for spo1ts teams at some Southern schools and for many NASCAR fan s. Proponents see the Confederate flag as an inspirational symbol of Southern he1itage and Old South piide and tradition . Opponents see this S)1nbol as send- ing an inflammatory message about a tradition of racial oppression and exclusion. Sport is a rnle-bound acthrity organized and supenrised by authmities and organizations to promote fair play, as shown in chapter -!. It
  • 35. includes a socialization process whereby paiticipants learn to play by the rules, I I 8 CHAPTER commit themselves to hard work and teamwork, and practice good sp01tsmanship. These positive attributes of sport have given rise to the common assumption that sport builds character. Yet these att1ibutes are counteracted by unethical coaches and players, the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs, the pampering of athletes, hatred among opponents , and the debasement of fair play. A fourth paradox is the subject of chapter 5: sport is both healthy and unhealthy. Sport encourages good physical health. Obviously, the physical exercise that sports participation requires is beneficial because it promotes endurance, coordination, weight control, muscle strength, strong bones, joint flexibility, and increased aerobic (lung and heart ) capacity. At the same time, however, participants get hurt during sport- ing activities. Sport can also damage the health of athletes through ove1training, rapid weight loss to meet weight requirements, excessive
  • 36. weight gain, and the use of drugs that promote muscle mass, strength, and endurance. Demanding coaches may e:.-pect too much from their athletes. Parents may d1ive their child athletes too hard, too fast. Elite young athletes are especially vulnerable to excessive training and even sexual abuse from adult authorities. Chapter 6 examines two fonns of children's play-peer centered and adult centered. Since the latter dominates the sports experience of chil- dren today, I focus on the dark side of this phenomenon. Chapter 7 examines the duality of sport found in its expressiveness, on the one hand, and control on the other. Social control is necessary for stability in society and all social groups. Social control, which is a central feature in sport, has two contradictory consequences. Its positive functions lead to consensus and cooperation as everyone pulls together to achieve a common goal, as well as stability on the team, in the orga- nization, or in the society. The maintenance of the status quo, however, is not always good for everyone. Sport, for example, supports tradition, but in so doing it helps to reinforce traditional gender roles and compul- sory heterosexuality. It helped to maintain racial segregation until after
  • 37. 'oriel Var II and continues to allow considerable discrimination against racial minorities in some sports even to this day. Chapter 8 demythologizes the prevailing notion that sport is played on a level playing field, where talent, strategy, and luck determine win- ners and losers . This is not the case when it comes to the participation of THE DUALITY OF SPORT I 9 racial mino1ities in some sports (e.g., automobile racing, bowling, golf, and tennis). Similarly, gender, sexual orientation, and social class issues illustrate how some are favored while others are disadvantaged. Chapter 9 focuses on the role of the mass media in what we see and how we interpret what we see. Most significant, the mass media act as the "conductor" of sports-scheduling games, changing rules, and infusing great amounts of money into sports, with consequences for sustaining big-time college sport, college league realignment, increased coaching salaries, and other manifestations of an arms race . Chapter 10 investigates the contradictions of big-time college athletics. Sport is an integral part of higher education in the United
  • 38. States . Big-time college sport supplies full-ride scholarships to ath- letes and generates many millions of dollars for their institutions, their communities and corporate Ame1ica. Big-time college sport unites its supporters , provides free publicity for the schools, and gives good athletes from economically disadvantaged backgrounds the chance for a college education. And it is a training ground for future professional athletes. Does it, however, fit vith the educational mission of these unh·ersities? A strong case can be made that sport is actually detrimental to aca- demics (as chapter 10 e:-..plores). For example , most of these schools actually lose money, since scholarship money and other economic resources are channeled away from ~cademics and toward athletics . And the athletes admitted to these schools tend to perform below the student body average on test scores and graduation rates; they are often athletes first and students second. In addition, occasional scandals hurt the image of the schools involved; the programs and resources are disprop01tionately geared toward the male athletes in the revenue- producing sports; gender equity is denied; and athletes are exploited
  • 39. under the guise of amateurism. The overarching contradiction is that big-time school sport is organized as a commercial entertainment activ- ity within an educational environment. This arrangement may have certain positive consequences, but it compromises educational goals. Chapter 11 asks the question: To what degree is sport a mechanism of social mobility? Athletes can parlay their skills and achievements into college scholarships, careers as professional athletes, coaching positions, and other sports-related occupations. Huge amounts of money are made CHAPTER I20 by special athletes, many of whom c<;>me from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. However, the odds of any one athlete achieving these rewards are very slim. Actually, achieving a professional sports career is extremely difficult, no matter how hard the individual works. Sport is a path out of poverty for only a very few. Racial minorities are especially vulnerable to the appeal of riches and fame through sport, but this is a false hope leading
  • 40. to failure for most. Women have even less chance of upward mobility through sport than men because fewer college scholarships are available to them, as well as fewer professional sport opportunities. Even those who do become professional athletes lack lifelong security. Chapter 12 examines the link between private ownership of profes- sional teams and public subsidies for them. Large cities either have professional sports franchises or actively seek them. In either case, the cities subsidize or offer to subsidize the teams and their wealthy own- ers, typically by providing arenas or stadiums, refurbishing these venues as needed, charging little or no rent, providing access roads, and giving generous percentages on concessions and parking. The rationale for such largesse is that professional teams benefit their host citie s eco- nomicallv. ✓ This raises some interesting questions : Who benefits financially from professional teams and who does not? Do women and men and the members of all social classes share in the benefits? Should wealthy owners and affluent athletes be subsidized by taxpayers, many of whom
  • 41. are not interested in sport? Do men and women in the community gain more or less equally from the arrangements? Does a city actually benefit economically from having professional teams? Is the profit margin so low for professional teams that they can only survive if subsidized by tax- payers? Is there a better alternative to professional teams being owned by affluent individuals or large corporations who threaten to move the team to a city that offers more generous subsidies? hile sport is local (i.e., fans identify with their local teams and athletes ), it is becoming increasing global, the subject of chapter 13. One-fifth of the players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) are foreign. More than one-fourth of Major League Baseball (MLB ) players are not native born ; instead they are mostly from Latin America. How does this new ethnic makeup of teams affect the loyalty of fans? THE DUALITY OF SPORT 21 Does it increase the hostility toward visiting teams and players? On the other hand, does the presence of foreign players on teams build b1idges vith other societies?
  • 42. These paradoxes are considered in this book. Although each chapter focuses on a central theme, the book also explores related contradictions and myths. Issues of class, race, ethnicity, and gender are also consid- ered in each chapter. Do these contradictions and questions pique your interest about how sport really works? Or does their critical thrust make you defensive about sports? Both are likely reactions, indicating once again the contradictory nature of sport. My point is that anyone who truly wants to understand sport in American society must accept its inherent dualities. Too often we focus on the bright side of the dualities present in sport, letting myths guide our perceptions and analyses. I intend to present the reality of sport, including the good and the bad. Indeed, I emphasize the negative aspects of sport in order to demythologize and demystify it. Yet I do not want to forget the magical nature of sport that is so captirnting and compelling. Overcoming this basic contradiction-being critical of sport while retaining a love for it-will enable us to examine the nega- tives surrounding sport with the goal of seeking alternatives to improve this vital, interesting, and exciting aspect of social life.
  • 43. Finally, sports organization can be changed, but this requires a plan, a strategy, and an organized effort (th~ topic of chapter 14). Sociologist Jay Coakley puts it this way: · The growing importance of sports in society makes it more necessary for us to take a closer and more critical look at how sports are defined, organized, and played. As we do this, some of us will call for changes in dominant forms of sports or reject those forms and call for new and alternative sports. However, we should not e~-pect widespread, re"Olu- tionary changes to occur overnight. Social transformation is always a challenging and tedious process. It requires long-term efforts and care- fully planned strategies, but it does not occur without a clear vision of possible futures and strategic efforts to tum visions into realities.41 Understanding sport must precede any effort to change it for the better. That is the goal of this book. https://realities.41 AP PhotofThemba Hadebe
  • 44. SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES The forld C11p atl01ced people from different co1111tries and religions to co11w togcthe1: May sport alu;ays pro111ote th e culture ofe11co1111te1: - Pope Frnn<:is, Argentinian and soc:cl"r fan S1mits are 1clwt they arc, and the best thing th ey are is a co11111w11 11w111ory, a slwred experience that knits a co1111111111ity togl'the1; fm111 the s11111g to the clesperate,from the prosperous lo the pe1111iless,fro111 the i11cohl'l"e11tly adolescent to the irretrier;ably adult. -Bernie Lin<:icome, sportsw1iter for the Rocky Mo1111tai11 S!'rcs Sports, l11bricated by bee1; is the glue that hold 11~ togethc1: - Dmill Hosenfelt, from the 110'el Dog Tag~ (2010 ) 011 the 11ight in 201..J that a Ca1uulia11 soldier 1ca~ killed 1cl1ilc g1wrd- i11g the national rear 111e111orial i11 Ottawa, Pittslmrgh ft111s sang a11 emotional rendition of "O Canada" before the Pe11g11i11s ga11w against Philadelphia. - Jimmy Golen, Associated Pres.'> sports 'liter 23
  • 45. 24 CHAPTER 2 To play this game you 11111st /wr;e fire in you , and there is nothing that stokes fire like hate. -Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers Nothing builds team 11nity like a good old-fashioned trai11i11g camp brawl. -Rex Ryan, New York Jets coach On the morning of September 11, 2001, follr commercial planes tcere taken ouer by hijackers tclw piloted the planes to netc destinations, and the collrse of history teas changed. Two of the planes rammed into the World Trade Center in Netc York City, another plLLngecl into the Penta- gon. The fourth plane failed in its 1nission, presumably because of heroic passengers attacking the hijackers, crashing instead in 111ral Pe11nsyl- u111ia. Abot1t three thousand people 1cere killed in this attack a11d the sL1bsequ e11t rescue attempts, about the same 1111mber of Ame1ica11s tclw died at Pearl Harbor in 19..Jl. Follo1ci11g this attack by Islamic extremists, the stunned nation came
  • 46. togeth e,; rallyin g aroLLnd the flag. Sports played an important role in b11ildina this patriotic 11nity. At first, the wlious sports leagues and tea111s postponed games out of respect for those tcho died. Th en, as th e rescheduled games began,from high school games to professio11al games, each 1cas preceded by a wliety of unifying symbolic acts- 11w111e11ts of silence to reflect on the fallen and the heroic, patriotic songs, the presen- tation ofthe flags (some as h11ge as a football field ), militan; flyoue,~s, and spontaneous chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" These patriotic displays bro11ght the people i11 the stacli11ms and in the teleuision aLLcliences together in a ca11se larger tha11 themselves. The first Super Bou;[ after the September attack, 011 Febnum; 3, 2002, in Netc Orleans, outdid itself in nationalistic fen.;or. For the gathering of 131 million US households, the largest assemblage of Americans since 9111, teler;ision 11et1corks and the NFL took the opportunity to celebrate all things American. Fox's three-hour pregame show had as its theme "Hope, Heroes, and Homeland," which it advertised in USA Today as a "celebration offootball and the American spirit." Includecl'in the ecent icas a reenactment ofthe signing ofthe Declaration of Independence with
  • 47. SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 2S famous athletes reciting tcords from that document, Janner presidents reading passages of Abraham Lincoln's speeches, Barry Manilow singing "Let Freedom Ring, " and Paul McCartney singing his song "Freedom," with military personnel, firefighters, police holding flags, and young tcomen dressed as Statues of Liberty. The pageantry before the game also included a huge flag and Mariah Carey singing the national anthem. At halftime, the NFL presented the band U2 , which sang seoeral songs on a stage in front of a huge unfurling scroll listing those whose lives tcere lost on September 11. "The American militanJ-industrial- sports- ente,tainment complex took a bow before the teorld. . . . [The] message teas the nexus of politics and sp01ts, football and nationhood. "1 And to top off this orgy offootball and nationalism, the tui11ning team, in a huge upset, teas the New England Patriots! And, as the team was presented the trophy, the field teas inundated with red, white, and blue confetti. Fast Jon.card ten years to the time when Osama bin Laden was assas-
  • 48. si1wted, resulting in spontaneous emptions of patriotic ::.eal with fans of both teams joining in chants of U-S-A, U-S-A. This was followed by organi::.ecl patriotic celebrations at stadiums throughout the country, such as Military Appreciation Nights ; displays of football field-si::.ed flags , alld military flyoi;ers . As sports commentator Daoe Zi1in argues: "Sports has been co-opted, exploited, scarred, and tu med inside out by the aftermath of 9111 and the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Some have trn11clered if now that bin Laden is depd, life will 'go back to nonnal' But . . . this is the new nonnal. "2 THE ROLE OF SPORT IN UNITY AND DIVISION AMONG NATIONS Two opposing forces are at work throughout the world today: increas- ing intolerance, ideological purity, tribalism, exclusion, and conflict, as well as many signs of tolerance, cooperation, compromise, acceptance of differences, and inclusion. Just as the world is moving toward becom- ing a global community, it is tom by parochial hatreds dividing nations and regions into warring ethnic enclaves.3 Sport, too, embodies these contradictory elements as it increasingly pulls people apart on the one hand and pulls them together on the other.
  • 49. https://field-si::.ed CHAPTER 2 26 Sport Unites International events bring together people from different countlies and different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, promoting under- standing and friendships across these social divides. The US government uses athletes to promote international goodwill. The State Department, for example, sponsors tours of athletes to foreign countries for these pur- poses. Sport has also been used to open diplomatic doors. In the 1970s, when communist China and the United States did not have diplomatic relations, the leadership of the two nations agreed that their athletes could compete in each country. After this "ping-pong" diplomacy broke the ice, the two countries eventually established nonnal relations. In 1998, US wrestlers were invited to participate in a seventeen-nation tournament in Iran, the first American athletic team to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic rernlution. Vrestling is Iran's national sport, and Iran's president at that time, Mohammed Khatami, encouraged this breakthrough to
  • 50. crack "the wall of distrust between the two nations." Thomas Omestad described an important symbolic act that may help to bridge the antagonism between Iran and the United States that has existed for over two decades: It mls only a small, spontaneous gesture. But it worked emotional magic . After inning a silver medal ... American Larry "Zeke'" Jones waved a hand-sized Iranian flag, and the 2,000 fans packed into a Tehran arena went wild with delight. "America! America! " They chanted in response- a sudden , unscripted reversal of the ritual "Death to America!" chorus that Iranians usually chant at public events .4 Thus sport was a wedge helping to break down the hostility between these two countries. Perhaps it is a prelude to normalizing relations between the United States and a former enemy. In June 1998, Iran upset the United States in a first-round World Cup soccer match in Lyon, France. 5 The Iranians celebrated their une.x-pected victory vildly but not (and this is crucial) with taunts directed at the United States. President Bill Clinton congratulated the Iranians, and the Iranian presi- dent was a gracious vinner. (Clinton's gesture was facilitated because soccer is not yet an important sport to Americans.)
  • 51. Since India was divided into two nations-India and Pakistan- in 1948, they have gone to war three times, ,vith millions killed. SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 27 The tension between these two nuclear powers is enormous and unre - lenting, unleashing religious hatred, as India is Hindu and Pakistan is Muslim. However, in 2004, the two nations came together in a se1ies of cricket matches, as the team from India, for the first time in fomteen years, toured Pakistan for thirty-nine days. The phrase sporting event can't begin to contain the religious extrem- ism, unforgiven deeds, and rabid jingoism that swirl around each India- Pakistan cricket match; the game is haunted by battle dead, and the air is charged with the ongoing dispute between the two countries over control of Kashmir. For generations cricket has been a prQ.y for war between the two nations. 6 Temporarily, at least, sport brought these two warring nations together, promising either better relations between the two countries- or an explosion of violence. Sport can be used to unite groups vithin one country, as Adolf
  • 52. Hitler used the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin to unite the German people through the accomplishments of Germany's athletes on the world stage. According to Richard D. Mandell in his book The Na:::,i Olympics, the Olympic festival was a shrewdly propagandistic and b1illiantly conceived charade that reinforced and mobilized the patriotism of the German masses.' The successes of the GermanTathletes at those Olympics (they won eighty-nine medals, twenty-three 'more than US athletes and more than four times as many as any other country) was "proof' of German superiority. Similarly, success in international sports competition can tiigger p1ide across divisions within a country. For example, even in war - ravaged Iraq, with its ethnic and sectarian divides, unity was achieved briefly in 200i when the national Iraqi soccer team, composed of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, won its first ever Asian Cup, defeating Saudi Arabia. Spontane- ous celebrations occurred follmving the victory with people dancing in the streets and waving Iraqi flags. 8 Cuba provides another contemporary example of the great potential that sport has a mechanism for promoting domestic unity. 9
  • 53. Fidel Castro, Cuba's leader, decreed that sport is a right of the people. No admission is ever charged to a sporting event. The communist leadership in Cuba 28 CHAPTER 2 uses sport to unite its people through p1ide in its athletic achie,·ements. The most promising athletes are given the best coaching and train- ing. Cuba de,·otes 3 percent of its national budget to a sports ministiy that encourages and trains elite athletes. In the Pan Ame1ican Games, Cuban athletes, from a country with a third the population of California, in many times more medals than US athletes on a per capita basis. In the 2012 Olpnpics , Cuba ranked third in the number of medals per 100,000 people (the United States ranked 48th ).10 Cuban athletes are spo1ts heroes and heroines, e,·oking intense nationalistic pride in the Cuban people and, indirectly, suppo1t for the ruling elite. Racially, South Af1ica is a nation deeply divided. Sport has helped to break down this division, at least in part, in two ways. First, when the whites in South Af1ica held an election to decide whether to dismantle
  • 54. apmtheid. 69 percent ,·oted to give up their p1ivilege, marking a rare peaceful transition of power. One reason for the fa,·orable vote was South African president F. '. de Klerk's warning that failure to pass the mc,L~ure would return the country to isolation in business and sport. 11 South Ahica had last pmticipated in the Olympics in 1960 and had been barred since then from international competition. Its apa1theid racial policies had made it a pmiah country in e'eI)thing from politics to sports for three decades. With apartheid dismantled, South Afticans could once again show their athletic prowess. This was a compelling argument for many whites. Subsequently, South Africa has been allowed to compete in the Olympics and in other worldwide competitions , espe- cial!~- in rugby, which is ,·ery important to its people. After the formal fall of apartheid and the election of Nelson ~Iandela, the spo1ts world accepted South Africa. The World Cup in rugby was hekl in South Af1ica in 199,5. President Mandela used the rugby World Cup as an opp01tunity to bring the races somewhat closer together within his country-to use spmt for the greater good. 12 The national rngby team, the Springboks, and rugby itself had symbolized
  • 55. white South Africa, since it had been an all-white team. But Mandela, against the wishes of his ad,isors, kept the Springbok name and encouraged black Afocans to think of this team as their team. In speaking to a black audience, Mandela, weming a Springbok cap, said, "This Springbok cap does honor to our boys. I ask you to stand by them tomorrow because they are our kind." Mandela inspired Sports Illustrated to comment: https://48th).10 29 SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES Our kind . Not [black]. Not white. South African. The rugb_ team became a symbol for the country as a whole.... Gi,·en the 1ight time and place. sport is capable of starting such a process in a weiety. It i~ only a stait, of course. The hard work lies ahead, after the crmHls ha'(.> clisperse<l and the headlines have ceased. South Africa's radal and een- nomic ·oes are not behind it. Far from it. But thanks to the common ground supplied b:·a rngby pitch, those problems appear less impming than they did only a month ago .13
  • 56. The Springboks, by the way, went on to win the 'oriel Cup , defeat- ing the world's two mgby powers-Australia and New Zealand- in the process. For the first time in South Afiica's troubled history, " ·bites and blacks found thernseh-es unified by a spo1t. Of course, this kind of unity is superHcial and temporary, but it is neYe1theless an instrument that can help to achie,·e unity in an otherwise divided country. South Aflicans were also brought together through sport " ·hen a white South Aflican golfer, Louis Oosthuizen , and his black cadd: . Zaack Rasego also from South Aflica won the Biitish Open in 2010. 11 The player and cackly had worked together since 200:3 and " ·hen Oosthuizen "On the Open . he hugged his cackly. not as hb employee . but as a partner- a hugely symbolic act to both races in South .- frica. and the goal of Nelson Mandela to unif), his nation . Still expeiienc:ing deep racial di,isions, sp01t continues to mm·e South Aflica toward some semblancerof racial unit'. In :2010. South Af1ica hosted the World Cup, the biggest sporting e,·ent on th e planet . The tournament was a huge success with the country recei,ing inter-
  • 57. national recognition and a source of piicle for its people of all races. As Danny Jordan . the CEO of the World Cup organizing committee. said: "You ' re talking about the transformation of a country and a societ: . Om past has been a past of apartheid, a past of separation of people based on discrimination. This project can actually bind the nation. "1; Sport Divides But sport also has the capacity to divide people. Phillip Goodhart and Cluistopher Chataway argue that there are four kinds of sport: spo1t as exercise, sport as gambling, sport as spectacle, and representati ve sp01t. Representati ve sport is 3 0 CHAPTER 2 limited conflict with clearly defined rules, in which representatives of towns , regions, or nations are pitted against each other. It is primarily an affair for the spectators: they are drawn to it not so much as the mere spectacle, by the ritual, or by an appreciation of the skills invoked, but because they identify themselves with their representatives . ... Most people will watch [the Olympic Games] for one reason only:
  • 58. there will be a competitor who, they feel, is representing them . That fig- ure in the striped singlet will be their man-running, jumping, or boxing for their country. For a matter of minutes at least, their own estimation of themselves will be bound up with his performance. He will be the embodiment of their nation's strength or weakness. Victory for him will be ictory for them; defeat for him, defeat for them .16 This keen identification with national athletes frames the contest as a S)lnbolic battleground between "us" and "them ." This attitude, of course , is exclusionary rather than inclusionary. Sp01t can encourage division rather than unity. Tensions generated in sports matches , such as those that erupted between El Salvador and Honduras and between Gabon and the Congo after soccer matches , have contributed to the outbreak of war. A full-scale war between El Salvador and Honduras followed the clash between fans at the elimination round of the 1970 . orld Cup and concluded with bombing raids, troop move- ments , and, eventually, two thousand dead. Obviously, the matches themselves did not start these conflicts , since the matches occurred in an already tense context over land disputes and other contentious issues .
  • 59. A sports ernnt between two quarreling countries can (and occasionally does ) provide the catalyst for actual war between them. Losing an international match can cause deep internal division, whereas unity typically accompanies victory. When Colombia lost a recent ·world Cup, riots occurred in the country because the people were distressed over their team's play. Incredibly, a player who had inad- vertently scored a goal for the opposition was murdered, presumably for his failure in sport. In 2008, the Israeli basketball team was to play Turkey's national team in Ankara, Turkey soon after Israel had bombarded Gaza, includ- ing bombing Gaza's Palestine National Stadium. Before the game could begin, Turkish fans chanted "Israeli killers! " and Palestinian flags were unfurled. The police tried to gain control of the crowd, and after SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 3 I ninety minutes, all the fans were expelled from the arena. The referees atten;pted to get the teams on the court to play before an empty arena, but the Israeli team had no desire to play. The referees declared the
  • 60. Turks as winners. 17 Israel's aggressive actions against Palestinians in Gaza inflamed the Middle East. This was manifested as Islamic athletes demonstrated against Israel. An Egyptian soccer star followed a goal by raising his shirt to re·eal the slogan "Sympathise with Gaza." Similarly, a Spanish soccer player raised his shirt to reveal a shirt that said "Palestine" in multiple languages. 1b The ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians erupted once again when the Israeli Air Force bombed the Palestin- ian stadium in Gaza, which headquartered the center for youth sports programs throughout the Gaza Strip. This action was justified by the Israeli government as "collective punishment" following Hamas rockets fired on the Israelis. Dave Zirin asks why is a sports stadium the target. Answering his own question, he states: Sports is more than loYed in Gaza.... It's an expression of humanity for those living under occupation .... Attacking the athletic infrastructure is about attacking the idea that joy, normalcy, or a universally recognizable humanity could ever be a part of life for a Palestinian child . .. attacking sports is about nothing less than killing~wpe. 19
  • 61. In 2011, the men's basketball team from Georgetown University was engaged in a "Goodwill Tour" of China. An exhibition game against a Chinese team composed of players from the People's Liberation Army began with rough play that deteriorated into an ugly fight. This fight in Beijing's Olympic Stadium was witnessed by Vice President Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Biden's trip to China was to lay the groundwork for a reciprocal visit by Vice President Xi. Basketball, in this instance, did not foster friendly relations between the two countries. Long-standing hatred between nations can keep them from coop- erating in common ventures involving sport. In 2014, for example, the International Olympic Committee in an effort to reduce the cost of hosting the Games decided to allow host cities to move some competi- tions to other cities or countries where existing facilities were available. https://languages.1b https://winners.17 32 CHAPTER 2 One idea was to allow South Korea, the host of the 2018 , inter
  • 62. Games , to shift the bobsled and luge events to Japan. South Korea rejected this idea because many Koreans harbored resentment against Japan, its onetime colonial ruler.20 An interesting development to watch is the emergence of a Euro- pean economic community with a common currency, open borders, and transgovemmental units to oversee commerce among the member nations. Will sporting events among these nations drive a wedge between them , making cooperative transnational efforts difficult or impossible? Will sport inflame nationalistic impulses, causing fragmentation rather than unity? Or can sport help these nations transcend their nationalis- tic tendencies by somehow enhancing the goals of transnational unity among these countries? UNITY AND DIVISION THROUGH SPORT IN THE UNITED STATES Fans of a team, by definition, are united in their fealty to that team . In a sense, they belong to voluntary tribes. They may even call them - seh-es a "nation," as in "Steeler Nation" (Pittsburg Steelers ) in pro foot - ball or "Buckeye Nation" (Ohio State University) . These "nations" are
  • 63. emotionally intense affinity groups and they are important sources of community. Columnist Howard Fineman makes that argument: As neighborhoods and schools become more diverse , marriages become more mixed and social hierarchies break down, old lines are getting blurry. Voluntary tribes are a way of re-creating a sense of community. 11 But, of course, intense identification with a "tribe" can have dhisive con- sequences. It may lead to shouted obscenities, booing teenagers, hanging coaches in effigy, and racial taunts. Such behaviors often result in fights between "tribes" at the arena, in bars, or on the streets. It may lead to riots follmving a "tribe's" victory or defeat. Rivalries may even result in a rabid follower doing something stupid or dangerous. Consider the case of the attack on the oak trees at Toomer's Corner. Two majestic 130-year-old trees at Toomer's Comer in Auburn, Alabama were poisoned follmving https://community.11 https://ruler.20 SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 3 3 Auburn's ,ictory over arch rival Alabama in 2010. By long tradition, when
  • 64. Auburn University wins a football game, these oaks are covered with toilet paper. A sixty-two-year-old University Alabama fan, whose children are named Bear (after legendary Alabama coach, Bear Bryant) and Crimson T:vde, admitted to poisoning the trees, the symbols of hated Auburn victo- ries. As a commentator in Sports Illustrated opined: "This alleged crime seems an extreme example of the intense partisanship pervading college athletics in general and SEC football in particular. The e:-..- pression of that animosity straddles the line between passion and pathology."22 A keen interest in sports, however, can also break up one's intense feelings for a sports tribe. The phenomenon of Fantasy Football does just that .2-3 In 2014 , about 33.5 million football fans aged twelve and older participated in pro football fantasy leagues. The acthity is very popular and its paiticipants have grown rapidly. Players in these leagues draft players from NFL rosters. Each fantasy player's individual roster then is composed of players from a number of teams. As a result, the player cares about the performance of players beyond those on his or her fi:l-orite team . Greed seems to trump loyalty in this instance. Looking at the effect of sport on unity or division at the societal
  • 65. le,·el , distinguished sports commentator Frank Deford makes a strong case that spo1t divides: "It is time to recognize the tmth, that sports in the United States has , in fact , never beens? divisive. Uniquely today, sports lun·e come to pit race against race, men against women, city against city, class against class and coach against player."2~ Let's examine how sport unites and divides conside1ing the four major hierarchies in society: class, race, gender, and sexuality. The ques- tion: does sport lead to greater harmony within these systems of social stratiflcation? Or does sport increase division? As we shall see, it has the potential to work both ways. I emphasize the divisive nature of sport because that counters the prevailing myth. Social Class Money separates. Historically, sport has been pursued mainly by the affluent, who alone had the time and the money for such non- income-producing activities. The notion of the sports "amateur" was a nineteenth-century im ention that the affluent used as a mechanism 34 CHAPTER 2
  • 66. of class separation. 25 The major competitions in Europe, including the Olympics, were limited to those who could afford the necessary travel, equipment, and coaching, and had the leisure to pursue athletic excel- lence. More than having the ability to participate, class origins pre- cluded international competition for many. John Kelley, a world-class rower, was barred from the 1928 Olympics because as a bricklayer he had a physical adrnntage over those who either did not work at all or did not do manual labor. Ironically, the well-to-do in this case used their athletic prowess in international competitions as "proof' of their superi- orih· oYer the lesser classes. But the times haYe changed, or have they? The affluent tend to live in enclm·es that are banicaded, at least S)1nbolically, from those with whom they do not want to associate. They tend to send their children to p1i'ate schools rather than public schools, which restricts their interac- tion dth people who possess fewer economic resources. EYen in the public schools, class segregation occurs when tests p1ivileging the main- stream culture are used to determine what courses students take. Class segregation for the affluent also occurs at play. The wealthy
  • 67. play golf, tennis, and swim in exclusive country clubs and ski and sail at e;-pen- siYe resorts. Does sport break clown these economic and social baniers betveen social unequals, or does it reinforce them'? When in 1990 Ronald Reagan accepted the Theodore Roose'elt Award, the highest honor bestowed on an individual by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, he said: Vhen men and ,·omen compete on the athletic field , socioeconomic status disappears. Afiican American or ·hite , Christian or Jew, rich or poor ... all that matters is that : ·ou're out there on the field giving your all. It's the same way in the stands, where corporate presidents sit next to janitors . . . and the)' high-fi,·e each other when their team scores . . . whic.:h makes me wonder if it [status ] should matter at all.2r. This obsernttion, of course, is incredibly naive. It reinforces the myth that spo1t is egalitarian. According to the pre'ailing myth, sport prOicles oppo1tunity to those with ability regardless of class origins and because it promotes interaction across the social classes . Let me, as sociologists are wont to do, demythologize. https://separation.25
  • 68. SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES l S Reagan asse1ts that sp01t prmides opportunity for those with athletic ability regardless of class 01igin. Does it? The answer is a little yes but mostly no. Athletes of humble social origins can become incredibly wealthy. African American golfer Tiger oods, for example, 'as the first athlete to make $1 billion from his achievements, endorsements, and personal appearances. The visibility of these and other athletes lead many young males, especially African American males , to belie,·e that they 'ill become professional athletes if they Ork hard enough. Ho' reasonable is this ex-pectation? In two words extremely improbable, as is demonstrated in chapters 8 and 10. iloreoYer, the opportunity for upward mobility is limited to a fe· spo1ts . Children from families with limited economic resources tend to participate in sports that require little equipment and are publicly funded , such as community youth programs and school sp01ts. Thus they tend to excel in football, basketball, baseball, track, and bo,ing. Children of the affluent, on the other hand, have access to golf comses , tennis courts, and swimming pools, as well as coaching in those
  • 69. sp01ts, through prh·ate countty clubs, neighborhood associations, and parental subsidies . Morem·er, some sp01ts , such as gymnastics and ice- skating. require considerable money for coaching, access , equipment, and trn,·el (young elite ice skaters , for example, spend more than $100,000 annu - ally ). Ironically, most professional oppo1t11nities for UnH.'ll athletes are in sr)()rts in which the affluent h,we a tremendous ach- antage from ~ L childhood. Ronald Reagan's remarks also suggested that spo1t encourages inter- action across class lines . Does it? Again, the answer is that sport 'orks both ways . Yes , people of all sorts talk to each other about sports . Pa~t or upcoming sports e'ents are topics that transcend class lines. People in public places often shed the barriers of social dass as the~ · discuss past or future big games with strangers, acquaintances, and fellm, workers. Yes, players on teams may develop friendships with those from clif- ferent social backgrounds , thus transcending social class. Yes, players
  • 70. from humble origins may be upwardly mobile , increasing th eir interac- tion with people across class boundaries. Certainly obtaining a college education, which athletic participation facilitates , increases interaction across classes. 3 6 CHAPTER 2 But sport scholarships are for the very few. And attending college on an athletic scholarship does not necessarily lead to graduation. Athletes in the revenue-producing sports are less likely to graduate than their nonathlete peers (discussed further in chapter 9) . President Reagan asserted that CEOs sit next to janitors at athletic contests. Nothing could be further from the truth. The social classes are not proportionately represented at professional sports events as the cost of attending sports contests is too high for many. According to the Fan Cost Index, in 2014, a family of four attending a major league base- ball game paid an average of $212.46 for tickets, parking, snacks, two programs, and two adult caps. For the NFL, it was $479.11, the NBA $333.58, and for the NHL it was $359.17. 2' Obviously, these amounts are
  • 71. prohibitive for many families since the cost to attend a game amounts to more than 30 percent of the average household's weekly earnings. Among those who do attend, contrary to Reagan's blurred vi sion through rose-colored glasses, CEOs and janitors do not sit side by side. Seating is segregated by cost, in a very stratified arrangement. The very rich enjoy lm;ury suites, while the less well-to-do are dispersed by the cost of seat- ing, with the cheapest seats farthest from the action. The poor, of course, are not in the seats at all. If they do attend, they likely are there as ven- dors, cooks, janitors, or parking attendants. John Underwood, writing in the Neu; York Times, lamented the high cost of attending sports events: The greatest damage done by this new elitism is that even the cheapest seats in almost every big-league facility are now priced out of reach of a large segment of the population . Those who are most critically in need of affordable entertainment, the underclass (and even the lower - middle class), have been effectively shut out. And this is especially hateful because spectator sport, by its very nature, has been the great escape for the men and women who have worked all day for small pay and tradi - tionally prmided the biggest number of a sport's core support.
  • 72. As it now stands, they are as good as disenfranchised-a vast number of the tax - paying public who will never set foot inside these stadiums and arenas. 26 Race Progress in race relations has been slow and in some instances seems to be slipping. Cities are becoming more racially segregated. Schools https://arenas.26 37 SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES are becoming more racially concentrated. The gap between whites and African Americans and Latinos is widening in terms of income, wealth, education, and employment. With growing immigration and economic hard times for the working poor, racial discord increases. Racial dis- crimination in housing, lending policies, job opportunities, and an often unjust criminal justice system (e.g., racial profiling) continues. Many whites, however, believe that minorities are to be blamed for their pathologies such as crime, welfare dependency, teenage pregnancy, and drugs. In response, many fearful whites build walls, real and symbolic,
  • 73. to separate them physically from racial minorities and to support harsh political policies toward these minorities. The question here is, given these racial realities in US society, does sport reduce or exacerbate racial tensions? Is the playing field open or does it reinforce racial inequality? In regard to racial harmony, sport works both ways. Clearly, whites and their nonwhite teammates make friends across racial lines through spmt. Research has found that positive attitudes toward race are enhanced (1) when players from both races contribute more or less equally to team success and (2) when the team is successful.29 Thus, on integrated teams in which each race needs the other to succeed and the team does succeed, members of both races have positive feelings toward each other. In many sports, minority athletes are heroes cheered by their fans of all races. That is, fans tend to appreciate~the athletes on their own teams, regardless of race. The three most popular athletes in the United States (or even the world) are African American: Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. But fans who adore their minority athletes may vent racial hatred on the minority athletes of opposing teams.
  • 74. A strong case can be made that sport divides the races. Histori- cally, desegregating a sport has intensified racial hostilities. Because of America's persistent racial divide, sport sometimes provides the context for episodes of racial hostility (in schools, parks, playgrounds, prisons). Similarly, games that involve teams representing white schools and teams representing African American or predominantly Latino schools often provide a setting for racial taunts and violence by pla yers and fans. This occurs with some regularity in metropolitan areas when mostly white suburban high schools play against high schools from the inner city tl1at have a mostly African American or Latino student body. It also https://successful.29 3 B CHAPTER 2 occurs in small-town America where recent immigration has brought Latinos to once all-white communities. Race tends to be a factor in the choices that athletes make. That is, on integrated teams, players often segregate themselves voluntarily for meals, travel arrangements, and leisure activities, and they tend to select
  • 75. roommates of the same race . As whites and racial minorities compete for positions on a team, each group may feel that the other race is getting special treatment, leading to various manifestations of "racial paranoia." Integrated teams may be segregated by position, which is called "stacking." In football, whites are more likely to play on offense and at thinking and leadership positions that more often determine the game's outcome. African Americans overwhelmingly play on defense and at positions that require physical characteristics such as size, strength, speed, and quickness. This means that the members of one race spend most of their practice time with players of the same race (see chapter 8 for a more elaborate account of stacking). Most African American college athletes play for schools that are predominantly white (with African Americans sometimes constituting less than 5 percent of the student body). They differ from the rest of the student body in color and size. They may also differ in academic preparation. They often differ in economic resources. Consider this hypothetical but common occurrence: a six-foot, ten-inch poor African American basketball player from the inner city of Detroit. Although
  • 76. he took high school courses that did not prepare him for college, he is recruited to play at Tulane University, where the student body is mainly from a southern, mral background, 98 percent white, affluent, and with average SAT scores of 1,100. He is marginal in a number of dimensions in this setting. This marginality from the rest of the student body is likely to drive him further into not just the athletic ghetto but, most partic:u- larly, the African American athletic ghetto (see chapter 9).311 Moreover, African American athletes are often segregated in athletic ghettos on campus (dorms, meals, courses, majors) and interact with other athletes but rarely with other students. In November 2004, an NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons ended in a brawl between players and fans. Preced- ing the violence were profane taunts by the Detroit fans aimed at the visiting Pacer players . The verbal aggression progressed in intensity SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 3 9 "ith objects thrown and players going into the stands to fight the alleged perpetrators. There are many reasons for this extreme case of
  • 77. dolence (e.g., an increasingly uncivil society, alcohol, media attention to violence), but let's limit the discussion here to the racial implica- tions. About 77 percent of the NBA players are African American, and the fans are mostly white. In this riot, "it was not just a case of players going into the stands. It was black players going after white fans." 3 1 NBA players are extremely wealthy vith an average salary in 2014 of more than $4.5 million. The incomes (salaries and endorsements) for the top two NBA stars (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James ) in 2014 were about $,50 million for each. There is fan resentment toward the wealthy, mostly black young men, some of whom do not conform to the nonns of middle-class society with behaviors that many consider boorish , selfish , inappropriate, and disrespectful. Their tattoos, cornrows , hip hop, and "look at me" stmtting are seen through the eyes of whites as reinforc- ing old racial stereotypes. Journalist Mike Tillery argues that there is "a canyon between the black player and the white fan and m·erwhelmingly white press corps. [This results] in a new phenomenon: the black ath- letic boogeyman."32 As black sociologist Harry Edwards puts it: "Race is always an issue in America. vVhen the national TV screens
  • 78. continu- ously play out a scene of black players and mostly white fans coming to blows, the racial context is clear. Race played an aggravating role in this , whether consciously or not on the partr0f both sides."•u Gender Ours is a patriarchal society. vVomen are second to men in power, earnings, and job opportuni ties. With few exceptions, women occupy secondary roles at home, in corporations, in colleges and universities, and in voluntary associations. vVomen ex-perience disc1imination by lenders, by employers, and by the Social Security system, to name a few.1.1 Does sport reinforce this imbalance, or does it work to break down gender inequities? As ,vith class and race, a case can be made for both sides on this question. On the integrating side, there is the passage of Title IX in 1972, which states that no person in the United States can be excluded, on the basis of sex, from participation in, can be denied 40 CHAPTER 2
  • 79. the benefits of, or can be subjected to discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. As a result of this landmark legislation, there has been a boom in women's participa- tion in school athletics. High school programs for girls went from about three hundred thousand pmticipants in 1971 to 3.27 million in 2013- 2014 (there were 4.53 million boys). During those years the number of women in college sports increased more than fivefold . While participa- tion rose substantially since the 1970s, women athletes still receive less support than men . For example, in 2013, the gap in recrui ting dollars meant that male athletes receh·ed $179 million more in athletic scholar- ships than did female athletes.3-j Moreover, there is a huge gender pay gap among college coaches36 and men are more likely than women to coach women's teams.37 But the implementation of Title IX on many campuses has pit- ted men against women. To meet the regulations, the various athletic depmtrnents h,l·e l:)pically added women's teams, but to offset the ne' expenses they have dropped nonrevenue-producing men's sports such as wrestling, gymnastics, and swimming. In response, for example, college- wrestling ach-ocates h,l·e sued the Department of Education
  • 80. arguing that Title IX promotes sexual bias by eliminating men's teams and scholarships (re·erse disclimination). That argument fails to acknowl- edge that men's football and basketball are excluded from the equation. Football especially is Yery e~-pensive with eighl:)1-five full scholarships, numerous assistant coaches, and costly travel, but its expenses are not tlimmecl to mm·e money to women's programs, making it impossible to bling equality to men 's and women's sports. Gender-related issues, as they pertain to sp01t, will be more folly elaborated upon in chapter 8. Sexuality Heterosexual sexual orientation is the norm in Ame1ican societ'. The .illiams Institute estimates that the percentage of adults in the United States who identii)· as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is 3.5 percent. The percentage 'ho identif as transgender is 0.:3 percent. That brings our combined LGBT (l esbian, gay, bisexual, transgende~ ) total to 3.8 percent or 9 million Amelicans, roughly equh·alent to the population of New Jersey.·i~ https://teams.37
  • 81. 41 SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES This estimate is undoubtedly lower than the actual number, pdmar- ily because so many LGBT people hide their sexuality. They do this to escape the marginalization, derision, and contempt by members of society and the discrimination against them by individuals and by the "normal" way in which the institutions of society operate. 39 Homophobic attitudes and behaviors are rampant, especially in the male sports world. There is the typical culture of the locker room where homophobic slurs are common and suspected gays bullied. 411 Even some coaches question the "manhood" of certain players as a motivating tactic (see chapter 7). Although hundreds of gays ha'e doubtless been professional athletes, not one of the 3,,500 men who play professionally each year in the big four American sports- football , baseball, basketball, and hockey-publicly acknowledged their same- sex orientation before 2013. The prime example of "coming out of the closet" in 2013 was Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, who proclaimed in Sports Illustrated: 'Tm a 34-year-olcl NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."41 He was followed by Michael Sam,
  • 82. the first openly gay drafted in the NFL (but later released by the St. Louis Rams). Before active players came out, players announced their same- sex orientation after their careers ended. 42 In 2014, a Major League Baseball umpire for thirty years, Dale Scott, announced that he was gay. 4J Athletes, coaches, and team officials were divided on whether a team should have gay players . The a,rgument in opposition was that this would negatively affect team morale, be a distraction, and disrupt normal locker-room routines. Supporters of inclusion argue that when a player's same-sex preference is known to his teammates it has pro'en to not be a problem, which was the case for Sam at the Uni·ersity of Missouri and Derrick Gordon of the University of Massachusetts, the first openly gay male NCAA Division I players. 44 The key is whether the individual is a quality football player who contdbutes to team success.·,; In the female sports world, athletes, whether lesbian or not, have often faced the whispers that they were lesbians. As with male athletes, some were homosexual. There were a few pioneers who publicly came out of the closet much before men, famous athletes such as
  • 83. tennis great Martina Navratilova and basketball legend Cheryl Swoops. More recently, Violet Palmer and Brittney Griner, WNBA stars have broken https://players.44 https://ended.42 https://operate.39 CHAPTER 242 through the "glass closet."-1r; So, too, has Stephen Alexander, born Jen Alexander, who became the first openly transgender high school coach. ➔7 Se.•mality is cm·ered in more detail in chapter 7, so here I want to focus on the case of Caster Semenya, a South African runner who at age eighteen " ·on the women's 800 meters in the 2009 Track and Field Vorlcl Championships. Her in was questioned, howe·er, because she looked masculine. Vas the "she" really a "he"? ~lany of her competitors felt that she had an unfair adYantage . The mling body in track, the Inter- national Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), required her to undergo sex-determination testing to confirm her eligibility to compete. Although Sernenya's birth certificate clearly identified her as
  • 84. female, as a mature adult she is not only muscular, but has a husky ·oice, and she was clear!~- a much better athlete than her female peers. Did her "masculinity" make her a "cheat" in track, giing her an unfair adnmtage against her more feminine foes? Testing the sex of athletes began in the 1960s when the Soviet Union and other communist countries were suspected of ente1ing men in women's eYents . The early testing was simply for doctors to look for male anatomy as the,· obserYecl the nude bodies of the contestants. This . . hnmiliating practice was replaced by chromosomal tests. In 1967, a Polish sp1inter E'a Klohukowska became the Hrst athlete to he barred from competition based on a gender test.' ' In 19S6, Spanish hurdler Maria Jose t-.lartinez-Patino was deprived of her first -place winnings when it was discm·ered that she had an X'Y chromosome , instead of the female's X,'. chromosome. The Caster Semenya case is important sociologically. First, the test- ing for gender rnriance is sexist, since there is no equirnlent biochemi - cal se-.:-cletermining policing and public humiliation in men's spmis. If a man has a mutation that makes lots of testosterone, then he can
  • 85. count that as a natural ach-antage. Not so for a wornen.-19 Second, this case alerts us to the social constmction of se'l.ual identity. Ve are taught that sex is a binary construct: one is either female or male. Actually, there is a biological continuum of sex difference. That is, the hormones in question are not naturally exclusive to men. 'omen and men make androgens, including testosterone. So, too, with the physical features of sexual identity. SPORT UNITES, SPORT DIVIDES 43 Gender-that is , how we comport and conceive of ourseh'es- is a remarkably A11icl social construction. Even our physical sex is far more ambiguous and Auid than is often imagined or taught. }.{edical science has long m:knowleclged the existence of millions of people whose bod- ies combine anatomical features that are conventionally associated with either men or women ancVor hm·e chromosomal nuiations from the XX or XY of women or men.. . . The heretical bodies of intersex people challenge the trnllitional understanding of gender as a strict male/ female phenomenon. ' hile we are never encouraged to conceiw of bodies this
  • 86. "·a:', male and female bodies are more similar than they are distinguish - able from each other. ;c' Or, as sociologist Jay Coakley, has put it: [The simple binary classification model is ] inconsistent with bio- logical e,idence showing that anatomy, hormones, chromosomes, and secondary se x characteristics vary in complex ways and cannot be di, ided neatly into two sex categories, one male and one female.... Heal bodies hm·e physiological and biological traits, which are distrib- 11 ted along continua re lated to these dimensions of bioc:hemhtry and app e aran ce. 51 The third sociological point about the Caste r Semenya case is that what is "feminine " , ·aries from society to society. Many Af1icans hm·e t . . objected to the attack on Semenya's femininity, because it imposes "on the body of Caster Semenya a white, Euro-American ideal of feminin - ity." Gh·en the range of values and beliefs concerning gender and sexu - ality in the world, what does it mean to impose a singular definition of what is male or what is female ?51
  • 87. Finally, the objection to allowing Caster Semenya to eompete against women is that the playing field is not leYel- that she has an unfair (and, it is daimed, an unnatural) advantage. But athletes use all manners of technology and science to gain an ach-antage m·er their opponents. Of course, there are illegal drugs, but also there are ,ita- min supplements, ingesting bee pollen and protein shakes, training in hypobmic chambers to gain the advantage of training at high altitude while at lower altitudes, Lasik eye surgery, to name a few performance- enhancing techniques. How about those who are naturally taller by 44 CHAPTER 2 sewral standard deviations, should they be excluded from basketball competition? Or those who naturally have more than the normal ratio of fast-twitch muscles , thus giving them an advantage in the sprints o·er those in the normal or below normal ranges? Vhat about the adnmtages of wealth or sponsorship to have the best coaching and facilities while others are deprived of these advantages? So we are left with the question , still unanswered: at what point does the testosterone