There are a few themes that have been repeated over and over again in both casual and more formal discourse surrounding the World Cup. 1. Everyone who doesn’t like soccer feels the need to announce that they think the game is boring. 2. Constant reminders that “Americans don’t like soccer” and other variations on how unpopular soccer is in the United States. 3. There have been various posts about the conservative/right-wing backlash to World Cup and soccer/football in general. The first two I am tired of. But the third, I am still intirigued by. Among those posts:
But the reason I’m interested in this discourse is actually more closely linked to my interest in the sports blogosphere generally and that which is covering the World Cup specifically.
As anyone who knows me (or who has read anything else I’ve written here or elsewhere) knows, I’m firmly on the left side of the political spectrum, invested not only in anti-racism, feminism, anti-homophobia, etc. but also invested in how those things are reflected in and embodied in culture– in the media especially, and in this space, in sports though mostly baseball. Though I haven’t written about it yet, I sometimes feel alienated and even actively uncomfortable with the sexism and homophobia in sports, baseball and the Phillies blogosphere. One of the reasons I write this blog (however infrequently) is as my own small intervention into that politically unconscious world in which I participate yet of which I am critical. When the World Cup started I fished around among twitter friends/academic colleagues for good blogs to follow that took a critical/cultural perspective on the game. I got a couple of good recommendations including the truly fabulous From a Left Wing and others like Pitch Invasion and Run of Play. But what I realized a day or two later is how remarkable it is that those blogs even exist, because in baseball the notion that the game is anything more than a game, the notion that it effects and is effected by broader socio-cultural systems and ideologies, that it matters in fundamental ways, that notion isn’t heard very often (unless it is in context of Jackie Robinson). So while I want to agree with and applaud posts like those above, even more so I want applaud (at least part of) the football blogosphere for its ongoing concern with the relationship between sport/culture and politics. And I suppose also, to thank it for offering an alternative to mainstream sports coverage. yay.
addendum 6/19 New Strategy: stop reading baseball/phillies blogosphere, read soccer instead and apply to baseball. This morning I was reading the last few days of blogposts and Run of Play had two excellent posts that applied brilliantly to some of my current baseball concerns.
First, “Not Watching the World Cup” by Ryan O’Hanlon captures quite nicely how I felt about missing Roy Halladay’s perfect game (in the process of moving, I’d returned my cable equipment that morning), particularly this line: “Live experiences suggest community.” This is also interesting because it points to one of the challenges of (studying) televised sport: it is both live in the sense that it is being broadcast as it is happening, and also live in the sense that it is really happening somewhere and would be happening whether or not it was being broadcast. Both of these aspects I think contribute to the ways in which sports suggest community.
Second, “As Yet Within That House” by Brian Phillips begins with a meditation on opinion formation in the era of saturated media coverage, which applies nicely to the current excess of coverage on Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg and the people who very quickly grew very tired of hearing about the young phenom before he had even pitched a major league inning.
While I am addending my props to the football blogosphere, I will also add a shoutout to Amanda Vandervort’s blog “Soccer Science” and her recent post: “Traditional vs. new media: will women’s sports ever get equal coverage?” I’m particulalry interested in this post because it is in part a response to the recent report from Michael Messner and Cheryl Cooky, “Gender in Televised Sports: News and Highlight Shows 1989 to 2009.” This is an academic, sociological project that has (more) successfully made the rounds of more popular outlets. Vandervoort’s piece usefully takes that study (whose news is not good) and points out how new media are changing sports coverage, essentially moving sports media which has historically been a can’t miss mass media draw in the direction of a niche, more targeted appeal.