From the Sports Academic blog:
Sport as Socializing Agent
I would like to begin a conversation on sports acting as socializing activities. Scott and I have talked around this issue some in other posts and comments. The general theory is that sports serve the interests of society by teaching practitioners and spectators behaviors needed or prized in a given time and place. This means that the same sport may socialize practitioners and spectators differently when the historical and social contexts change.
Speaking generally, Victorian era British sports, for example, emphasize social etiquette and restraint. American sports, on the other hand, tend to blatantly defy British decorum and, in the case of baseball, attempt to erase European genealogy. Instead, craftiness (cheating?) and a dogged determination to win are prized. “Stealing,” is even permissible.
I attended a “Philosophy of Sport” conference in England in 2004. Most of the attendees were European and I surprised some when I mentioned that in America, soccer is largely a sport for the upper middle class, played in wealthy suburbs. In Europe, it is a decidedly working class sport, and the matches often attract many disenfranchised, unemployed young men looking to take their anger out on the opposing team or its fans.
I offer these two general examples merely as primers. Over the next few weeks, I invite you to join me in analyzing the socializing effects of a number of sports and games: golf (yes, there is more to be said), tennis, soccer, baseball, fencing, trictrac, football, basketball, and maybe racquetball, rodeo, hockey, and others you might suggest.
What societal values are transmitted through sport/play? How does that process vary by class, race or gender? How do sport and play impact the maintenance of, or evolution of societal values?
Observed superficially, sport and play seem trivial, but as the “Sports Academic” demonstrates, sport is a mirror of who we are and studying sport and play can offer unusual insights into our culture and ourselves. Those careful observations and insights can help lead - if we are motivated and wise - to change.
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