Thursday, October 3, 2019
Sport Is Neither Solely Media Essay
Sport Is Neither Solely Media Essay Sport is often overlooked regarding its influence on cultural and social structures in society Schirato, 2007 However, research has demonstrated that sport associations and various sport-related special interest groups have a resounding impact on larger societal perceptions. Furthermore, sport serves as a key outlet of cultural expression, and often contributes to national pride (Schirato Webb, 2003). The purpose of this essay is to discuss sports role in society and its impact on these cultural and social structures. Specifically, this essay aims to address sports specific role as a vehicle for cultural homogeneity, as well as a medium for national resistance. Drawing on examples of sports role in the global process and its impact on national identity, this essay provides evidence supporting the argument that this form of cultural expression fulfils multiple societal purposes. This essay concludes with a brief summary and outline of key points. Sport as a Vehicle for Cultural Homogeneity This section discusses the role of sport as a vehicle for cultural homogeneity. First, a definition of cultural homogeneity is provided, along with a general discussion of sports implications for promoting this ideology. The Olympic Games are cited as a specific example of sports facilitating role in promoting cultural assimilation. Finally, football is a key example of sport contributing to homogeneity and this sport is discussed in relation to both the United Kingdom and the European Union. Cultural Homogeneity Cultural homogeneity refers to a sense of societal similitude, in which the majority of the population shares the same ideas, values, and even demographic characteristics (Tomlinson Young, 2006). Contrary to cultural diversity, a culturally homogenous society is one that is generally dictated by political leaders (Stolyarov, 2011). According to Tomlinson and Young (2006), cultural homogeneity provides a number of advantages, such as facilitating national pride and increasing peace within a nations borders. However, Tomlinson and Young (2006) also warn of the perils of a culturally homogenous society. For example, the idea is cultural homogeneity is often one that is forced on citizens by the ruling class, and can inhibit national progress (Stolyarov, 2011). Furthermore, cultural homogeneity stifles independent thinking and can contribute to racism and bigotry toward other cultures (Stolyarov, 2011). Ideally, a balance between cultural homogeneity and cultural diversity must be struc k. Sport is a form of cultural expression that helps facilitate this balance and promotes more positive aspects of cultural homogeneity (Schirato, 2007). In many cultures, sport is essential to national identity (Schirato, 2007). Similarly, sport serves as a vehicle for the expression of nationalist sentiment, (Bairner, 2001, p. 12) allowing politicians to promote a link between sport and national political thought. Olympic Games The Olympic Games have long served as a vehicle for cultural homogeneity, both within the host country and each respective participating nation (Dzankic, 2012). In preparation for the Olympic Games, the host country often experiences increased national uniformity and diminished conflict (Schirato, 2007). For example, during the 2000 games in Sydney, the Olympic Games promoted an effective cultural focal point as increasing migrant problems continued to threaten Australias cultural homogeneity (Magdalinski, 2001). During this time, the Asian economic recession severely affected Australias financial security and the nation experienced widespread societal conflict (Magdalinski, 2001). However, the emphasis on preparing for the games helped to unify citizens, as well as provide an economic boost. Both of these benefits have had a lasting impact within Australias borders (Magdalinski, 2001). The 2012 summer games in London have had a similar impact within the United Kingdom. Concerns existed in hosting the games in London due to the 2011 riots that occurred in various boroughs (Dzankic, 2012). More than 3,000 people were arrested within London and five died from the violence associated with the riots. Although the specific cause of the riots was due to a police shooting, the societal outcry reflected more widespread issues such as racism, class discrepancies, and a general economic decline within the United Kingdom (Dzankic, 2012). Furthermore, the violence exhibited cultural problems such as diminishing social morality and rising criminal behaviour (Dzankic, 2012). As with the Sydney games, London was praised for its high level of security and organisation (Dzankic, 2012). Hosting the games helped unify Londons citizens and enthuse the population (Dzankic, 2012). The economic and social impacts of the games still remain to be seen. However, Dzankic (2012) asserts that t he positive repercussions from hosting the games will be felt for multiple generations within London and the United Kingdom. Football Football serves as a particularly strong vehicle for cultural homogeneity within the United Kingdom and throughout Europe (King, 2000). Research (e.g., Tomlinson Young, 2006) has indicated that football plays a central role in promoting both individual and group identity among its fans. European club football, for example, has developed into a central focus for cultural and economic assimilation within the European Union (King, 2000). Interestingly, this integration has not contributed to increased cultural homogeneity among the union, but has, rather, promoted rising competition between its national members (King, 2000). The cultural homogeneity has become stronger within individual countries and not for the union itself (Tomlinson Young, 2006). Oftentimes, the success of European football clubs serves as an expression of emerging national identities and has significant cultural and economic influences (King, 2000). FC Barcelonas success in recent years is a contemporary example o f the emergence of the Catalan national identity. Sport as a Vehicle for National Resistance This section describes sports role in promoting national resistance. A definition of national resistance is first provided, followed by a discussion of historical examples in which sport has helped support citizens efforts to resistance national politics. Finally, specific examples are presented within the United Kingdom. National Resistance National resistance occurs anytime citizens within a nation express opposition to the overlying philosophical, social, and political ideologies of the ruling class (Schirato Webb, 2003). A number of specific national resistance movements have occurred in developing and developed nations worldwide. Even within the United Kingdom, multiple national resistance movements have occurred among groups that seek to prevent cultural homogeneity and protect the typically conservative values of its advocates (Schirato Webb, 2003). Historical Examples As with cultural homogeneity, sports social and political underpinnings have served as a platform for supporting various forms of national resistance (Bairner, 2001). In a classic example from the 1968 Olympic Games, a group of African American athletes symbolically protested their nations involvement in the Vietnam War by raising their fists on the podium (Bairner, 2001). Ok (2005) also illustrates the political significance of sport in a case study of Korean national resistance to Japanese colonial policy in the early 20th century. Finally, Lin and Lee (2007) assert that sport provided a medium for national resistance as baseball gained widespread popularity in Asia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to these authors, baseball played a central role in advancing the Japanese colonial governments efforts to integrate Taiwanese society (Lin Lee, 2007). However, the Taiwanese were well aware of this political strategy and the acceptance of baseball was met with r esistance (Lin Lee, 2007). Sport can also be viewed as a means of cultural resistance within minority groups against racism and classism (Rowe, 2003). According to Rowe (2003), sport is particularly powerful in the United States as African Americans use sport as a form of resistance to Caucasian racism. In the two most popular sports leagues in the United States, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, the majority of players are of African American descent (Rowe, 2003). In Major League baseball, a large percentage of players are also of African American descent, while Hispanics and Asians also account for a substantial portion of the league (Ok, 2005). According to Carrington (1998), sport has resulted in the development of specifically race-themed sport institutions, and served as a symbolic indicator of cultural identity in opposition to a predominantly Caucasian society. Sport and National Resistance in the United Kingdom One historical example of national resistance within the United Kingdom occurred in the mid-1990s when Sport England began to allocate funding gained from the Sports Lottery (Garrett, 2004). At the time, this funding source was the largest ever made available to sport in the United Kingdom and resulted in a substantial number of voluntary sports clubs at the grass roots level (Garrett, 2004). However, this funding allocation was initially criticised for serving to advance the political goals of the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), and did not necessarily reflect the needs of the population (Garrett, 2004). Voluntary sports clubs varied in their willingness to support the funding conditions, and national resistance resulted due to the discrepancy between the amount of funding allocated and the level of benefit granted to sport within England (Garrett, 2004). The United Kingdom has experienced similar results as the United States in the development of its professional sports leagues (Spracklen, Hylton Long, 2006). Sport has served as a platform for minority groups to resist the contingent notions of whiteness embedded in British sport (Spracklen, Hylton Long, 2006, p. 291). Although sport in the United Kingdom continues to be dominated by Caucasians, the Sporting Equals Racial Equality Standards have helped resist this status and promoted organisational change within United Kingdom sports leagues (Spracklen, Hylton Long, 2006). Sports Role in the Global Process This section describes sports role in the globalisation of a culture and the general global process. The global process is first defined, followed by sports specific role in cultural globalisation. Specific examples of the effects of this increased globalisation are then presented. Global Process The global process is a general term to describe the assimilation and increased congruence of cultures worldwide (Schirato Webb, 2003). Globalisation is caused by multiple factors, including social, cultural, political, and environmental contributions (Schirato Webb, 2003). The 21st century has witnessed the most rapid period of globalisation in history, as more information is shared between cultures than ever before (Schirato Webb, 2003). Any process that contributes to a broader international exchange of information and resources can be considered a form of globalisation, and advances in communication technologies have significantly influenced this phenomenon (Schirato Webb, 2003). Role of Sport There is little question that sport has greatly contributed to globalisation. Major worldwide sporting events, such as the Olympic Games and Word Cup serve as primary examples of this globalisation process. The expansion of sport and infusion of athletes from all over the world into major sports leagues has played a pivotal role in integrating cultural and social ideals (Dzankic, 2012). While few would argue that sport has been at the forefront of increased globalisation in the 21st century, some researchers (e.g., Rowe, 2003) attest that sport may not promote the cultural assimilation than was previously thought. For example, Rowe (2003) asserts that sport is so deeply dependent on the production of national cultural difference that it repudiates the possibility of comprehensive globalization (p. 281). Rowe (2003) contests that sports inherent nature actually promotes a resistance to globalisation, and prevents future cultural assimilation. Though this view is somewhat bleak and over-simplistic, an increasing number of sociologists appear to be adopting the same position (Stolyarov, 2011). Perhaps a more accurate depiction of sports role in the globalisation process is to suggest that it serves not just as a vehicle for cultural homogeneity or resistance, but fulfils both outcomes. The cultural integration that has occurred through major worldwide sporting events is undeniable (Schirato Webb, 2003). Though sport is riddled with deep historic national roots that have been the subject of intercontinental controversy, these barriers have been typically overcome in most cases as sports have experienced more internationally-based governing bodies (Schirato, 2007). Congruence has been reached in most major sports regarding rules and politics and few sports belong to just one nation or another (Giulianotti Robertson, 2009). Effects of Globalisation Giulianotti and Robertson (2009) describe how, in just a few centuries, simplistic pasture games have evolved into complex sports with precise rules, and are competed on a global level. All major sports include athletes from all over the world, and the accessibility of equipment and sports leagues for young athletes has increased at an exponential rate in recent history (Giulianotti Robertson, 2009). However, like Rowe (2003), these authors suggest that sports role in the global process does not necessarily facilitate the most ideal forms of cultural integration. The competitive nature of sport may induce a rise in cultural tension in many cases, and the globalisation of the economic side of sport has been the subject of cultural conflict (Giulianotti Robertson, 2009). As sport not longer serves solely as a form of entertainment, and has significant financial ramifications for many countries, some attest that sport is equally responsible for cultural dissemination (Giulianotti Rob ertson, 2009). Within the United Kingdom, Boyle (2010) further highlights the manner in which sport has changed from a form of entertainment into a capitalist industrial complex (p. 1300). The complex relationship between globalisation and national identity particularly manifests itself in the form of football (Boyle, 2010). The severe economic underpinnings of football within the United Kingdom have contributed to a number of cases of international tension and conflict. When beloved football star David Beckham left Europe to play professional football in the United States, for example, he became the scapegoat for increased cultural tensions between citizens of each nation (Boyle, 2010). Sports Role in the Reproduction of National Identities This section emphasises sports role in the reproduction of national identities. As sport is closely related to the adoption of ones national identity, this form of cultural expression provides an outlet to reproduce these ideals on an international level. A definition and discussion of this process is first presented on a global level. Specific examples related to the United Kingdom then follow. National Identities A national identity refers to a persons feelings of belonging to a particular nation, and the congruence of these feelings with other members of the nation (Boyle, 2010). A national identity tends to develop and evolve over time, and is highly dependent on an individuals acceptance of the political, cultural, and social ideals of his or her country. Although this concept is highly variable, research (e.g., Smith Porter, 2004) illustrates that national identity consistently strengthens through multiple platforms, such as the military and media (Smith Porter, 2004). Role of Sport Sport has also consistently served as one of these key platforms of national identity. According to Bairner (2001), most citizens display increased national pride when a member of his or her country experiences athletic success on a global level. Sport has also been used to symbolically reflect the strength, beauty, and vitality of its citizens. A common perception exists that athletic success translates to economic and political fortitude of a particular nation, and numerous countries distribute large percentages of funding resources into sport programs for this very reason (Tomlinson Young, 2006). Even in smaller nations such as Taiwan, sport plays a role in forming citizens national identities and contributes to civic patriotism (Bairner, 2001). Athletic success further contributes to the global perception of cohesiveness among a particular nation and helps integrate divided ethnic groups (Bairner, 2001). The advantages of sport in reproducing national identities is no more obvious than in the competition between nations to host the Olympic games or other global sporting events (Tomlinson Young, 2006). According to Tomlinson and Young (2006), these events provide a basis for which political ideologies can be spread, emit a global sense of cohesive national identity, and serve as measuring sticks for the evolving social and political environment of an ever-increasing global society. Furthermore, the long-term financial advantages gained from these perceptions of national pride, such as increased trade and foreign investment, far outweigh the initial costs of hosting major sporting events (Dzankic, 2012). Historical Examples During the imperial stages of Britains cultural history, sport was used as a means of training citizens to adopt its values and beliefs (Giulianotti Robertson, 2009). This period had a strong influence on forming the British national identity, and also served to promote both social and political assimilation among lower and higher classes (Rowe, 2003). The results from the adoption of sport continue to manifest in the form of local and national competitions that honour the British crown and celebrate British cultural similitude (Rowe, 2003). Once again, the London Olympics illustrate the links between sports and reproduction of national identity (Dzankic, 2012). While sport is often only viewed for its competitive aspect, Dzankic (2012) asserts that sport has become an increasing symbol of national pride. The level of patriotism displayed at global sporting events such as the Olympics places a spotlight on the nations politics, and sport plays an important role for understanding a nation and its citizens (Dzankic, 2012). Sport goes beyond its superficial physical aspect and serves as a manifestation of all of a nations social, political and cultural elements (Dzankic, 2012). Contributing to sport and rooting for national teams, individuals display their citizenship and exhibit their consolidation to a political regime (Rowe, 2003). In every nation that has hosted the Olympics, England included, the citizens have enjoyed an increased sense of unity and national identity in the years that followed (Dzankic, 2012). Summary and Conclusion Sport is often overlooked regarding its influence on cultural and social structures in society. Sport can be considered a form of cultural expression that promotes more positive aspects of cultural homogeneity. Specifically, the Olympic Games have long served as a vehicle for cultural homogeneity, both within the host country and each respective participating nation. Football also serves as a particularly strong vehicle for cultural homogeneity within the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. National resistance occurs anytime citizens within a nation expression opposition to the overlying philosophical, social, and political ideologies of the ruling class. As with cultural homogeneity, sports social and political underpinnings have served as a platform for supporting various forms of national resistance. Sport can also be viewed as a means of cultural resistance within minority groups against racism and classism. One historical example of national resistance within the United Kingdom occurred in the mid-1990s when Sport England began to allocate funding gained from the Sports Lottery. Globalisation is caused by multiple factors, including social, cultural, political, and environmental. There is little question that sport has greatly contributed to globalisation. Major worldwide sporting events, such as the Olympic Games and Word Cup serve as primary examples of this globalisation process. All major sports include athletes from all over the world, and the accessibility of equipment and sports leagues for young athletes has increased at an exponential rate in recent history. Sport has consistently served as one of these key platforms of national identity. The advantages of sport in reproducing national identities are evident in the competition that exists between nations to host the Olympic Games or other global sporting events. The level of patriotism displayed at global sporting events such as the Olympics places a spotlight on the nations politics, and sport plays an important role for understanding a nation and its citizens. Based on the evidence provided, it can be said that sport is both a vehicle for cultural homogeneity, as well as a medium for national resistance.