Monday, August 15, 2011

Behind the anthropology of sports

Warren Ellis wrote about FreakAngels in two tones. One was the open voice of uncertainty, he noted the story as an almost eternal ongoing. The second was his knowledge of the ending. In the next few days I'm hoping to have written enough to say the same for "blogaday." This is the real "anthropology of sports" and I'm actually writing on posting day. Hello, Mondays! But I'm sure you aren't reading this today. to decide what to write about.

What is the anthropology of sports? It's a dream, of sorts. You get disillusioned with politics and war, you start to think about sports, and you can imagine certain futures. I'm interested in the way that sports develop lives or essences of their own. They have their own presses, superstitions; the players, the coaches, and the owners are guided by slightly different rules, it seems, with their speech, and what does the recent and current legal dealings of the NFL and NBA respectively show other than that sports also deal with ideas of assembly and petitioning of grievance. You've probably noticed that I've written that sentence to catch all the points of the first amendment to the United States constitution. When I think of sports, I imagine the best sort of nationalism, the kind that's tainted with irony, is considered important because, when it comes down to it, it has to do with a game, something that is ultimately "fun." A future where war becomes chess and sports is a great world to imagine. As someone against nationalism, but somewhat on the fence with a word like patriotism, as an Eagle Scout that could probably easily get his card taken away if he answered the wrong person some wrong questions truthfully, I've often considered what exactly it is that creates the support one has for a local or national sporting team or figure. If it could only be harnessed, as I have alluded, to a change in the view of the world... But enough talk about science fiction.

The anthropology of sports is also a place to discuss the real world tales of nationalism and sports evolving hand in hand. The anthropology of sports is an idea I was considering while watching movies like Invictus or documentaries like "The Two Escobars." It's simply an interest in once again the actual lines of boundary. I'm very much intrigued by the idea of nation-building, how it works, is run, and, as you'll know considering the tag of this post, I'm interested in sports. With a story like the one that forms Invictus you have just this, a nation is helped to form by the victories of a rugby team and the good cheer brought by such actions. The positive side of what I have previously termed "emotional capitalism." Anthropology of sports is interested in simply the essence of that term: "emotional capitalism." Because, ultimately, the good feelings created by sports are not your average currency. Colored, once again, by irony. Feeling bad, of course you tell yourself it's just a game. While this might not make you feel better, it's not your mum dying, is it? It can't be that. At its worst. But the plus side, I would argue can be quite amazing. My father following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the late nineteen-seventies, being mildly aware of them for their first few years of existence, before becoming an out and out fan when moving to Orlando and eventually Tampa. I cannot, myself, postulate what it must have meant to him to be on his way to San Diego for Super Bowl XXXVII and to watch his team clobber the Oakland Raiders (who haven't been within scratching distance of a winning season since this Super Bowl, until just the last season where they went 8-8...and fired their coach, after their best record in going on a decade, go figure!). Now there's a story to be told about that Super Bowl in itself, but if at all that would be for another day.

This is an early rendition of the anthropology of sports. The anthropology of sports is a place to talk about the differences between being a fan of a sports team or a player in a sport that is team or individual-driven, a platform to discuss the new compound sports, something like auto racing, which is at least technically, a team sport that is individual-driven (although a good many "teams" might be just one guy...the argument can even be made that each car is a team, as you see a current five-year champion Jimmie Johnson putting down his own pit crew last year, making a switch, and going on to take another feels an echo of caddies in golf in this conversation), and where I might try to muse on the various stuff I've been fed by ESPN. I hate the phrase, but when it comes to SportsCenter, I really do "drink the Kool-Aid," as in I do believe and feel emotion for a lot of the stuff they put together, even though I shouldn't. It seems like Title IX is something you can definitely investigate anthropologically. In fact, I would say that sports reporters in fact do this, considering perhaps how the impact of Title IX changes American women's sports and their impact internationally. Women's tennis, for example, could almost be seen as a funnel sport before Title IX. The opening up of women's sports could thus be seen as the cause of what is now a lack of US strength in women's international tennis. Ultimately, this is good. Sports offer opportunities, and being good at a sport only because you are pigeon-holed into that sport is the sort of negative view that one could possibly get when considering...I don't know, American Samoa? I guess they do have wrestling and soccer as well as football, according to Wikipedia. I'm really just saying this because I'm not trying to say that Title IX is a bad thing, I fully support it, I just think it is an interesting change that has created interesting results.

So that's where I'm coming from. The anthropology of sports is not for anyone. People who find it unbelievably boring to consider what the national dominance of an individual like Michael Phelps can mean for a country, if anything, will find the anthropology of sports more of the same and I must point to the URL if they wish to complain. I can tell you right now, shit's going to get trivial.

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