Sports Month at MoMF: The Worst Theme Party

It’s like being at a fraternity’s theme party where there’s just one dude in football pads talking to himself in a dark room alone, muttering “Go team” over and over again. I’ve decided that I haven’t been writing enough, so I’m going to just plunge into an area of research and theory that I haven’t ever really looked at close-up. What follows is anecdotal and probably unsubstantiated at points. It’s how I feel about sports, and I hate talking about feelings. I’m saving how other people discuss and research sports for other posts this month.

I have felt conflicted about my role in academia for a while. Other than adjunct-to-be, I’m not sure where I’m heading or moving into, but I’ve been feeling a slight aversion to many people and procedures at work within academia. I think sports might be a way that I can reconcile that with myself.

While I consider myself a sports fan and have cared about certain teams for a long time, I am looking now to sports as an object because of the potential I think they hold. I think they are incredibly potent examples that permeate a very large portion of the population. It’s very clear that sport is one of the most popular sections of American culture, carrying a very large amount of actual and cultural capital throughout the world. I think it’s an important topic for the culture at-large and, more specifically, for my future students. But I’ll talk about that in a bit.

It’s difficult to avoid sports growing up only half an hour away from Boston. You get sucked in quick when Fenway Park is so close and the Patriots play even closer. I’m sure it’s quite similar for children who grow up all around the U.S. near different cities with various teams. But they don’t all go to grad school and work within disciplines that seem to respond to that child-like passion with displeasure and calls for greater legitimacy. I even did it right there, calling it a child-like passion, invoking that there is something wrong or immature about sport fandom. That was fucking stupid of me.

I don’t know anything about the niche of sports research in the humanities other than it is a niche. I’m not entirely sure what isn’t a niche at this point in time when disciplines and fields are so fragmented and we’re all emanating out from a loose center in order to find a space that isn’t already overly-inhabited. Maybe social media or the internet at large, but those are fucking huge, so why wouldn’t they permeate a bunch of disciplines in a meaningful way? I can make that statement without question, but the idea/object of sport is also an area which could definitely penetrate multiple disciplines on a regular basis. But if that is the case, why don’t I see an article about sport events once a year in the journal of Cultural Studies or Rhetoric Society Quarterly or Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies? Why are these topics instead relegated to minor journals of little readership? Let’s not even go that big. Why didn’t I have a single class period in any one of my courses that dealt with sports in particular. It wasn’t like I was in classes that were nothing more than homogenous pools of the stereotypical nerd, all wheezing, taping their glasses and solving math proofs in their spare time. I was in a department of Media and Communication Studies, which I’m fairly certain sports falls into, but it was a topic that was only ever brought up by students and never by professors.

You can probably tell that it’s a pet peeve of mine that something like the topic of sports, an arena that many students find interesting and engage with regularly, seems like it is a periphery topic at best. Isn’t part of the work of a professor to meet the student halfway with their interests? Or am I just some crazy idealist with a love of sports?

Well, it is probable that I am speaking out of my ass. Maybe I just haven’t had the privilege of professors who care about sports in the same way that I do and, thus, haven’t been privy to the world of the sports academic and that discourse. I’m going to try to fix that a bit this month. I’ve been reading quite a bit about video games recently, so that will be a constant tie-in here as well. In addition to that, I only root for Boston teams because I totally wanted to be cool and fit in as an elementary schooler and those teams have taken up a large part of my memory of sports from those days into today. Many of the examples that I will be using are probably from Boston sports. At some point later in the month, when my focus turns to a few phenomena in Boston sports culture, I’m going to try to talk a bit more about the culture and my growing up in it and becoming a fan. You shouldn’t necessarily care, but I needed an extra issue to fill an entire post and Boston is a strange place.

This month is largely an experiment to see if the topic of sports is somewhere that I see myself entering. Well, that and to see if I can produce a few posts a week for an extended period of time. I’ll be posting every Monday and Friday for this month. It’s only 9 entries, but I haven’t written regularly since my sporadic, yet often, writings on Occupy back in the summer/fall of 2011. Uh…oops?

Below is a schedule of topics that I will be discussing and the dates:

5 – Sports and Identity

8 – Stats Science vs. The “Human Element” of Games: Contradictions Abound

12 – Nate Silver’s Odd Existence: Politics, Sports, and Statistics

15 – Sports Video Games and the Move to the Individual

19 – “Bet You Like that Hand on Your Ass”: Growing up with Boston Sports

22 -Fan Victimization and the Aaron Hernandez Case

26 – “Pink Hats” and Sports Elitism

29 – Underperforming and Clutch Players: Myth and Context

 

This isn’t really set in stone, but that’s a taste of things that I have thought of at this moment. Things might change as I read more and more within this weird academic subfield. As always, I would absolutely love any suggestions that people have of important texts in sports studies. I’ve searched high and low, but I still can’t put my finger on what the central texts or authors of this field/topic are.

July is the heart of baseball season. Seems like this is the perfect time to start this project.

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