Mark Dery on jock culture

Over at True/Slant, former BB guestblogger Mark Dery asks "How Gay is the Super Bowl?" But last Sunday's spectacle is just a launching off point for a classic Deryan rant on jock culture, his own high school gym class, and the "wavering borderline between homosociality and homosexuality" in the locker room. It ends with a great, er, kicker. From the essay:
During the run-up to Super Bowl Sunday, anchorclones, talkshow hosts, politicians, and the rest of the chattering class act as if we’re one big happy congregation gathered in solemn veneration of the Gipper’s jockstrap, displayed in a monstrance. It’s the sheer presumptuousness of the sports-crazed majority that galls the unbeliever most–an obliviousness to the possibility, even, that not everyone shares the One True Faith. It’s the same genial arrogance that makes evangelical Christians so monumentally irritating to those of us who prefer a good exfoliating body scrub to being Washed in the Blood of the lamb. (The religious reference is apt: in our national religion, sports is one aspect of the Holy Trinity, the other two being the Free Market–whose invisible hand, like God’s, moves in mysterious ways, but always for the betterment of all–and Christianity, which in the American vernacular is a bizarre amalgam of self-help pep talk, Left Behind doomsaying, and theocratic fascism). From the gridiron metaphors in your pastor’s sermon to the scripted locker-room banter of local TV newsdudes, joshing about who’s gonna open a can of whupass on who, to the Fantasy Games geek at the office watercooler maundering on about who had six touchdowns and no interceptions in 12 pass attempts this season, posting a 124.3 passer rating, while outside of the red zone his rating on play-action was only 79.7 and his five touchdowns have to be measured, after all, against nine interceptions, the assumption that every red-blooded American–or at least every red-blooded American guy who isn’t a wussy–would give his Truck Nutz for Super Bowl tickets is as unconsidered as it is ubiquitous.
"Jocko Homo: How Gay is the Super Bowl?"

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  1. A culture that involves guys jumping all over each other, then getting in the shower together is GAY?!?

    OH MY GOD!

    1. Well, I always used to joke with my friends that ballet was more macho- I mean, a bunch of limber sweaty women throwing themselves at a guy on stage, doesn’t get more macho than that from most guys’ perspectives.

  2. As a geek, I love watching the jocks dance for my entertainment. Football is a fantastically deep sport, tactically, and the fact that thugs beat themselves to a pulp for my entertainment just makes it that much richer an experience for me.

  3. Unfortunately, I have to live in Oklahoma for the next year. Jock culture is too universal here, it’s quite disgusting. Not to mention most people here insist on going to church 2-3 times a week…

  4. As a nerd and a football fan, I find the hurf durf of rage against the superbowl to be ridiculously immature and idiotic. The superiority complex stench coming off this article smells like shit too. Jocks? Really? Are pro-athletes all muscle bound morons that pick on people with glasses and give atomic wedgies? Are we a group of 4 year olds led to believe in generalizations of this nature? I thought boingboing would be above this. I understand, some nerds were picked on. I get it. Great. But this is ridiculous. Calling them gay is immature. AS immature as a “jock” calling a nerd gay. And posting about it like its funny, thats just stupid.

    1. Despite my comment earlier, I agree 100%, but mine was funnier.

      I think there’s a sizable portion of geekdom that really hasn’t gotten past high school. Well, really, there’s a sizable portion of the population in that boat.

      Let’s say one of the jerks I dealt with in high school were a professional football player. How should that impact my enjoyment of football? It shouldn’t! It’s utterly irrelevant.

      If you like miniature wargaming, you should like football. If you like Sid Meirer’s Civilization.

    2. Professional sports are profoundly homophobic. Maybe you could take some of that anger and direct it at the disease rather than at the people who complain about the symptoms.

      1. Can sports be homophobic? Sure, sport-cultures can be, but do we know that all sports exist in a culture of homophobia more so than non-athletic pop-culture? What about the women’s side of the coin? Many WNBA players have come out while playing to be embraced in the public and by teamates. There are many outspoken advocates for LGBT rights in the NFL. So on and so forth.

        For the record, using the word “gay” as an insult is fundamentally representative of homophobia. Maybe all former BB guestbloggers are homophobic – since we’re painting with suich broad brushes.

        1. do we know that all sports exist in a culture of homophobia more so than non-athletic pop-culture?

          Uh, yes we do. The rest of pop culture is, what? Music. Film, which is based on theater. Literature. Basically, pop culture is what you get called a f*gg*t for being interested in. Y’know, by people who call other people f*gg*ts.

          Sports is what you’re supposed to be interested in, if you’re a dude, because for some reason our testosterone levels are supposed to spike if “our team” wins, and then we think we’re gonna get laid. Or something. Extra bonus: You can be stone-cold stupid and still function perfectly well as a sports fan.

  5. However Gay the Superbowl is, it’s not as gay as that article. It’s such a cliche to equate a hatred of athletics with being stuffed into a gym locker. I’m surprised still to be reading stuff like this. Mr. Dery appears to be thirtyish; he should really get over a bad high school experience. Guys like sports because they like competition. Guys like watching professional sports because they like watching good athletes compete. And lots of people like betting on it. Professional sports serves a lot of purposes, pure joy for one, and in a small way, as an acceptable outlet for aggressive behavior that doesn’t result in public violence or military body counts. How can you have a problem with that? And speaking of the military, were Mr. Dery’s point-of-view shared by the majority of gay men, which I don’t think it is, why or why would they want to join the military – about the closest experience to being back in Nightmare High? Frankly, this piece reads like a really tired, really old, stereotypical view of manhood, sports and male camaraderie – even down to its predictable American Beauty ending. But of course, it’s a personal recollection and his feelings can’t be judged by me. And it’s well written. A therapist would find much to discuss.

    1. …and in a small way, as an acceptable outlet for aggressive behavior that doesn’t result in public violence…

      At least, no public violence you can bring up, once you’ve grown up and gotten over your bad high school experiences.

    2. Yes, yes, yes. I really enjoy watching world-class athletes do something I can’t do. It’s the same reason I love soccer, or will watch bits of other sports I don’t participate in, like skateboarding or winter x games. It’s because I can go “Wow, that man/woman is incredibly skilled and dedicated. Awesome.” It’s not about affirming some cartoonish idea of manhood. The TruckNutz mentality Dery assaults so skillfully (if shrilly) is lame, but not a prerequisite for enjoying sports.

  6. “I hate sports because the guys who beat me up in high school were jocks.”

    “I hate sports because I never stood up to the jocks who beat me up in high school.”
    fify

  7. I agree with several others. This is nothing but a whining former high school nerd who hasn’t gotten over being bullied by the football team. The superbowl is appreciated by more non-sports enthusiasts that any other sporting event in the US. Is every one of these people just some uncultured loser?

    along with being unbelievably self righteous and condescending to anyone who might even consider liking a sporting event, this article is unbelievably hypocritical. i’m sure the author hated being pigeonholed as a “nerd” who only liked pocket protectors and head colds. yet its ok to throw the most tired stereotypes about “jocks” at the most skilled professional athletes playing football today.

    especially this year, when pretty much anyone can appreciate the Cinderella story of the New Orleans Saints, this article is super, super lame.

    1. I don’t see a punchline here. Its certainly sarcastic, but sarcasm doesn’t = funny innately. this is just condescending and snarky. and even you, “the moderator,” is resorting to name calling. just cause i don’t agree with this article, kind of like football, and do enjoy the super bowl i’m a wannabe jock? you’re demonstrating an incredibly low tolerance for other people’s opinions.

      1. you’re demonstrating an incredibly low tolerance for other people’s opinions.

        I find many of the comments here to be bizarrely angry and humorless. Are you saying that nobody is allowed to disagree with you?

    2. Yes, that’s right, those who disagree with you have no sense of humor. Not only that, the band they like sucks.

    1. “It’s the sheer presumptuousness of the sports-crazed majority that galls the unbeliever most”

      I’m an unbeliever – make no mistake – but I possibly find Dery’s writing style more galling then the Super Bowl. Dery’s writing is gay!

  8. This makes me wonder the last time the author has actually stepped foot into a high school. Jocks are the LEAST of high school students concerns now. My girlfriend’s high school got busted for having A HEROIN RING, my high school was routinely locked down for drug sniffing dogs, hell the cops in the hallway hassled us more than the jocks.

  9. I was in high school in the early ’70s, a long-haired peacenik semi-brainiac kid. To get out of gym class I ran on the cross-country and track teams, and managed the swim and tennis teams. Being involved in “their world” gave the jocks an excuse to ignore my feak flag and treat me as a “regular guy.” And so, I got to hear them bitch….

    …About the geometry, algebra, chemistry, physics, english, history, and other teachers who rode them hard for not being able to master the material. Or of being mocked by the band, orchestra, chorale, and theater directors for not being able to read music or memorize lines. Or of the parental disappointment that they couldn’t match the academic records of their siblings and cousins…. 95% of these guys had no athletic future beyond high school; they participated because they wanted to be involved in organized social groups that would accept them and value their efforts.

    Looking back, I realize that a disproportionately high number of these jocks were saddled with ADD, dyslexia, and other impediments to learning. Physicality was their literature, practice was their homework, and the flow of a game was their song; these were tasks they could complete without being lectured on how “lazy” or “undisciplined” or “stupid” they were. In later years it was these characters — as middle-aged adults — who led the way in getting the school system to support assessment, guidance, and curricula to benefit those with learning disabilities.

    With any luck, Dery will someday figure out that high school sucks for pretty much everyone, not just him and his fellow nerfs.

  10. “Gay” as meaning “lame” has deep roots in geek/nerd culture. Regardless, many homosexuals find the term stigmatic in that usage. Because I actually do have friends that are gay and they don’t like it, I don’t use it. In fact, my son and I use the term “blind” and sometimes “mountain climber” to indicate something is sub-par.

    “Sports” as being the over-excited domain of “blind” “mountain climber” “jocks” is well known “fact” that has been observed for over 2,000 years by sentient “beings” which do not “live” under “rocks.” Because I don’t actually have any “friends” who are “jocks,” I have no idea whether they find the “term” objectionable. However, as a “general” principle I “avoid” calling anyone a name better associated with “support garments.”

  11. Bullied by the football team?
    I smoked pot with the football team. (it was the 70’s)
    It’s still stupid. I do know people who are passionate about high school and college football who also think that the NFL is a ridiculous spectacle.

  12. Hi. Long time reader first time etc.

    Looks to me like there’s a lot of bad blood here between football fans and foes. Now I can’t say that I care for football in the slightest, or actually have ever been picked on by jocks, but you know what I think can all enjoy?

    That video from the Chad Vader guys where John Madden dungeon masters a D&D session:

  13. Football is a game of strategy and many people you will find liking it are VERY successful businesspeople. It might do a little good for people to watch it who are on the book smart side of the scale. I remember being the high IQ guy who would believe the “wallet inspector.” It could happen to you.

  14. I can’t believe this conversation and the article that started it. Maybe my humor-radar really IS broken, because the article comes across to me as snarky and nasty, but not the least bit tongue-in-cheek or funny.

    I hope that someday he opens up himself to all the benefits that sports can offer and gets past his incredibly small-minded attitude. Many sports are a great way to stay in shape and an easy way to make friends and meet new people (especially when you move to a new place). And talking about obscure sports stats may be silly and pointless, but certainly no more than discussing the finer points of the newest Apple product or arguing over Linux vs. Windows.

    Its makes me feel sad that someone has stereotyped something that such a large portion of the world enjoys based on a bad experience he had years ago in high-school.

  15. Hold on a second. I don’t get the comments re: using calling the Super Bowl gay as a homophobic slur. I read the title of this article as a commentary on the (extremely prominent but rarely discussed) homoerotic aspects of football.

    I also didn’t get that the author was trashing all jocks but rather a society that has created a hypermasculine caricature that some (not all) athletes feel compelled to conform to.

    Then again I’m just a chick who doesn’t give a shit about football.

  16. High school sucked. It sucked for everyone. Big fucking deal. If you’re older than 19, and still bitching about high school, you’re pathetic.

    1. Does therapy count as bitching? hahaha. I was a bit of a jock so I can’t say I had too rough a time. In retrospect there were people I picked on who I shouldn’t have, just because they were weak and weird. Luckily repressing high school memories works (or doesn’t work) for us bullies as well.

      I liked the linked article, it was funny to me. I’m fine with football, and I’m fine with the gayness. I’m also a heavy metal fan, and heavy metal can be REALLY fucking gay, like leatherbound-machoman-swinging-cock-in-your-face gay. Maybe I’m gay.

    2. Hazing sucked for everyone. Why do people complain about it? They should just accept it for what it is, move on with it, and never bring up what might be wrong with it.

      The important thing is that it shouldn’t affect whether you like football, the free market, and religion. Everyone should like them.

  17. “If Bobby doesn’t love football, he won’t lead a fulfilling life, and then he’ll die.” – Hank Hill

  18. I just wanted to step in and reassure the very sensitive sports fans that have commented here: It’s OK, your love of sport does not make you a gaywad. I’m certain that Mark Dery didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, he just wanted to spend a little time skewering what is evidently a very, very sacred cow.

  19. A rather large percentage of jock culture consists of them trying desperately to convince themselves and others that what they are doing is not remotely gay.

  20. i really enjoy playing sports, but i hate watching them. nerd/jock isn’t binary, like straight/gay isn’t binary, like, duh. that being said, if hating the superbowl makes you gay, i’m on par with liberace.

  21. My neighbors put on a full-on parade for the superbowl. It was cool! They had a ton of friends waving big colorful streamer thingees in the air, drumming, dancing… it was like a little mini Mardi Gras. Then when the Saints won, they marched around again. If sports/superbowl/regional pride brings that out in people, I’m all for it. Did I mention my neighbors are lesbians? Geaux figure! :)

  22. This is a Fail

    I’d love a thumbs up/down feature for readers to rate posts. I think the results would be quite telling.

  23. @44: Of course they would, McLoud. Because the howl of the mob is always the wisdom of crowds. Majority rulez. Which is why AMERICAN IDOL is the summa of our civilization’s achievements. And why Fox News Channel is the most trusted news source in America. And why the 752 Amazon voters who gave GOING ROGUE four stars can’t be wrong.

  24. I have a great sense of humor, but “that’s so gay” doesn’t tickle my funny bone. Just because something aims for sarcasm, doesn’t mean it reaches its target.

    Football is great fun. I’m sorry jocks were mean to this guy, but it doesn’t look like suffering, in his case, has produced great art. Just a stereotyped whine.

    1. I didn’t find it all that sarcastic. Just written with a mean sense of humour that comes from bad personal experiences. I played a lot of small-town sports in the 80s and 90s and I can relate to what he brings up – Kids who are bad at sports get picked on. Coaches riled us up to ‘destroy’ the other teams, taught us to be aggressive and take advantage of weakness. The insults between players were usually sexual and after the game we’d all stand around naked in the shower making gay jokes, afraid that someone might call us gay for glancing at a penis or dropping the soap. Then we’d go out and torture some kid because he was weak and pudgy and possibly gay, just to reassure ourselves. Then we’d go watch big men with shoulderpads and codpieces on TV grab ass and prance around in tights after every touchdown. I’d say sexual development gets affected by all this.

      I quit the bullying around the time I clued in that gay students were slitting their wrists to avoid gym class, but others didn’t. Even those who drop the gay bashing sometimes keep the destroy-the-weak mentality. It’s easy to call people scarred by bullies ‘pathetic,’ as an above poster did, but that kind of damage can have really bad effects for individuals and the community. And on the opposite end, there are broken athletes burnt out by expectations of coaches and parents. No wonder Mr. Dery is so sarcastic. It’s completely absurd that people are screwed up because of games. Frankly, we’re so screwed up that I doubt a more ‘serious’ analysis of how sports affects our national sexual psychology would elicit a different reaction. As Dery points out.. it’s “Piss Christ blasphemy.” (I have to remember that one).

  25. To go on a slightly different tangent, hating football does not equal being anti-sports or anti-athlete, whatever Americans might think.

    It’s just that gridiron football is the shittiest sport ever invented by the human race.

    (Hint: start with doing something about all the milling-around bullshit that results in a 3-hour “football game” broadcast containing about 40 minutes of actual game play.)

  26. I’m not being fair – I do find most of the article unfunny, and full of projections. But those parts that rise above sarcasm offer some moving recounts of growing male. I want to acknowledge that, but at the same time recommend the writer consider that those who play, and thos who enjoy, the sport aren’t just turning in poorly scripted performances of gender.

    1. now that I read your other post, I feel bad for directing that one at you. It was more of a general rant than a BethNOLA-is-wrong rant, anyways. :-D

      1. No big deal. I hated gym, I hated the girls’ locker room because I was gay and knew I was in hostile territory – I can believe all the stories guys tell about growing up dealing with all that enforced masculinity and contradictions. But I still love football, and the Saints just won the Superbowl.

        Google “Scott Fujita” and enjoy reading about a smart, liberal football player who’s not afraid to speak his mind. It’s not just ectomorphs who can be “intellectually topheavy.”

  27. “From the gridiron metaphors in your pastor’s sermon to the scripted locker-room banter of local TV newsdudes, joshing about who’s gonna open a can of whupass on who, to the Fantasy Games geek at the office watercooler maundering on about who had six touchdowns and no interceptions in 12 pass attempts this season, posting a 124.3 passer rating, while outside of the red zone his rating on play-action was only 79.7 and his five touchdowns have to be measured, after all, against nine interceptions, the assumption that every red-blooded American—or at least every red-blooded American guy who isn’t a wussy—would give his Truck Nutz for Super Bowl tickets is as unconsidered as it is ubiquitous.”

    There isn’t much to be said one way or the other for someone who writes a sentence with 121 words in it.

  28. What used to be male bonding is now homosociality? Am I going to called a homo just for having guy friends?

    1. If you and your friends wear tight pants and slap each other on the butt as a way of saying “good job”, then yes, we get to call you a homo. ;)

  29. I’m with the “this guy needs to move on with his life” crowd. The author’s strong negative bias essentially exhibits the exact kind of prejudiced behavior he decries.

    Saying something to the effect of, “Those guys are such losers – they’ll never get what it’s about” goes both ways.

  30. As a guy, I can understand the attraction of playing sports but I just don’t get why people get so excited about watching.

    Supposedly, everyone in New Orleans is gloriously happy because “their team” won the Super Bowl. What makes the Saints New Orleans team? Is everyone on the team from New Orleans? Nope. Is anyone on the team from that city? I don’t know but I would not be at all surprised if the answer is no. Did the Super Bowl take place in New Orleans? Nope. This in particular has always baffled me. Indianapolis and New Orleans are playing for the championship but neither of their cities gets to benefit from the tourism dollars that the game brings? Miami lost but they get hundreds of millions of dollars?? Who invented this system?

    I keep seeing interviews of people on the street in New Orleans who happily proclaim “WE DID IT!”. Just how did the people of New Orleans participate in this great victory?

  31. And doesn’t virtually every pro-football comment on here pretty much prove what he says about One True Faith? In Canada we have the same thing with hockey. It’s nauseating. And I was a nerd who wasn’t picked on by the jocks in highschool. There were bigger targets available and I was thankfully pretty invisible until I discovered the value of nerd-chic and the effect that had on certain types of really hot girls.

  32. Antinous:

    Professional sports are profoundly homophobic.

    Grimc:

    Johnny Weir would disagree.

    Johnny Weir’s opinion carries no additional weight (as you seem to be implying), since he is not, nor has he ever been involved in professional sports.

  33. I think someone should tell Mr. Dery that, while these things invariably *do* still happen to some people at school, things have gotten better in most of the country.

    The ‘weak’ still get picked on- but in middle school more than high school, in my experience. Also, there are now a lot more sports options for people than the traditional football, baseball, and basketball. Many nerds and geeks- terms of pride!- embrace other sports if they don’t go for those- sports like lacross, soccer, fencing, or martial arts.

    In my school, the majority of marching band members were also part of one sports team or another, and those members pretty much all agreed that the band was the more physically challenging activity.

    There are lots of groups to join in schools today, based around a whole host of activities and interests. Except for gym class a few times a week, you can pretty much avoid interacting with jocks altogether. Oh, unless you’ve got crazy parents who insist on signing you up for stuff you hate.

  34. If the image had Demarcus Faggins in the background, could it be featured on BoingBoing, or would that be offensive?

  35. Was Mr. Verys’ article shrill and vindictive? Was it also quite accurate in its portrayal of jock culture? Yes on both.

    Football culture is obviously homoerotic to even the most casual observer. Dery’s account of the former Marine sports coach being a repressed, self-loathing homosexual is not just some Hollywood trope as “Teller” would suggest; it’s incredibly common among the Marines I know (e.g. my dad, his best friend, his other best friend, my best friend from high school). Military culture, sports culture, “prey on the weak” culture, it’s all the same deeply insecure in-groupers who have found strength in banding together and committing violence against “outsiders”. This isn’t some self-serving hypothesis on Dery’s part, the exact same behavior has been observed among chimpanzees (Google “chimpanzee war”, first result).

    On a personal note, in the early ’90s I was a band geek and our marching band was the winningest competitive band in the state of California (Mountain View High School, home of Google). We took the entire state three years in a row, the final year being my senior year. Meanwhile the football team flailed and lost about as many games as it won. Football and the other “sports” teams got massive funding, endless praise from administrators and parents and front page articles in the local newspapers, while the band got a third page 200 word blurb in the high school rag. While we know that the plural of “anecdote” is not “fact”, to say that football enjoys a sacred status in American culture is just stating the obvious, unflattering truth.

    At least we don’t have soccer hooligans. Those guys are freaks.

    1. If you find football or Marine commercials erotic then enjoy them for that. Each to his own.

      Xopher: if only we could all go fuck ourselves, that would be a load off our minds!

  36. People who are saying “you should be over high school by now” obviously had a better time in high school than some of us. In fact, I suspect that some of those saying that here were probably bullies in high school, minimizing the importance of bullying because they still feel guilt for doing it.

    Let me tell you something: there were times in my high school days when access to firearms would have turned me into a school shooter, because the only thing I lacked to kill my tormentors was the means.

    I personally found it healing to attend my 10-year reunion. I discovered that many of those same guys had turned into decent human beings. Not the kind of people I’d hang out with, but not the monsters I thought they were in high school. Well they were monsters, but mostly because teenagers, by and large, are pretty monstrous (at least wrt how they treat each other).

    Sometimes the effects are permanent. I can’t enjoy most comedy, because almost all of it (today) is based on one person being humiliated while others laugh, and I identify with the humiliated one (no matter how much they deserve it). It’s no fun. I don’t laugh; I feel sick.

    Don’t tell me to “get over it” unless you’ve a) “gotten over” everything that’s ever happened to you and b) made amends to everyone you’ve ever mistreated in your life. Otherwise, g fck yrslf.

  37. Xopher: if only we could all go fuck ourselves, that would be a load off our minds!

    Hard to see how it wouldn’t count as homoerotic, too.

  38. Hy Mrk,
    ftr rdng yr nsty rtcl, thnk knw why y gt pckd n n hgh schl.

    I’m an atheist, and actually what this reminds me of is the pain-in-the-ass whining that some of my fellow-atheists take in regards to Christmas: All those presumptuous stores assuming we all celebrate! The check-out girl who wished me a Merry Christmas! THE NERVE!!

    You know what? In our ever fractured society, I think its great that we can all share something of a common experience like the Super Bowl. Things like this are becoming rarer all the time.

    1. In other words, you’re saying that most people will assume you share their common interest in sports, and if you complain about it you can expect to be picked on.

      And somehow, that invalidates his point that interest in sports are too mandatory in our society. Do you really not see any irony in this?

  39. To be fair, Dery’s rant (in a good sense) concerns the Big Three Jock Sports: football, baseball & basketball.

    Athletics are fun. Give us alt-sports players and fans some ‘spect.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that the more obsessed someone is about (Big Three) spectator sports – and definitely the louder they are – the worse physical shape they’re in and they’re less likely to actually be able to play that sport themselves.

  40. BdgBill – perhaps you mean your questions to be rhetorical, perhaps not. But I’ll respond anyway.

    “Supposedly, everyone in New Orleans is gloriously happy because “their team” won the Super Bowl. What makes the Saints New Orleans team? Is everyone on the team from New Orleans? Nope. Is anyone on the team from that city? I don’t know but I would not be at all surprised if the answer is no.”

    Some of the players are from Louisiana, such as Tracy Porter, who intercepted Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter. He’s not the only one. But you can also do a little googling and read what some of the other Saints have to say about living in New Orleans, what the city means to them, how they feel about moving here, after Katrina.

    “Did the Super Bowl take place in New Orleans? Nope. This in particular has always baffled me. Indianapolis and New Orleans are playing for the championship but neither of their cities gets to benefit from the tourism dollars that the game brings? Miami lost but they get hundreds of millions of dollars?? Who invented this system?”

    These questions strike me as odd. It’s a league, so the championship game moves around. But New Orleans certainly benefitted. People came here from all over the country to watch the game. Why? Because it’s a fun place to be. Because the Saints are a regional team, watched in Mississippi and Alabama, and the Florida panhandle, not just New Orleans. Because lots of people were displaced by the storm, but came home to share this event with their friends and families. Again, you can do a little googling and get a good idea of the impact of the Superbowl on the New Orleans economy.

    “I keep seeing interviews of people on the street in New Orleans who happily proclaim “WE DID IT!”. Just how did the people of New Orleans participate in this great victory?”

    It’s about community. Watch a game played in the Superdome sometime, and hear how much the crowd noise contributes to the game. Read interviews with New Orleanians and Saints players and coaches and see what they have to say about the emotional ties between the city and the team.

    I realize you mean to mock the idea that sports and sports teams have actual, meaningful roles in peoples’ lives. I suppose that amuses you.

    1. I realize you mean to mock the idea that sports and sports teams have actual, meaningful roles in peoples’ lives.

      “Roles,” yes. “Meaningful,” no.

      1. Because you get to judge what’s meaningful for other people? Okay, if that makes you feel better about yourself.

        1. But it’s not organic, Beth. It’s crassly manufactured through millions of dollars of corporate PR and tens of that in airtime and tens of that in tax-subsidized venues. All to deliver eyeballs to schlock advertisers.
          Don’t get me wrong, I like sports (see my above comment), but these aren’t authentic. They’re manufactured product to draw the rubes in (or even better, con them into buying venues for gajillionaire team owners).
          But they didn’t come from some grassroots demand, from us. Playing sports does, viewing local games live does. I’m unsure the broadcast spectacles are the same. These are programmed, Pavlovian, and absurdly subsidized while other crucial needs go unmet.

          1. Your comments make me think of that brilliant Simpsons episode when Homer remembers watching the Bowl with young Abe Simpson, who says to child Homer something like, “We’ve gotta support this Super Bowl thing or it will go away!”

            That said, De Certeau has a lot of interesting stuff to say about how consumers remake and reshape the cultural products that elites foist off on them. For example, didn’t all of the players in Sunday’s game get their start in “organic” ways like playing ball with childhood friends, watching local games, etc.? Mightn’t they still be living some of those vectors while being televised to the masses? Don’t threads like this, or M. Dery’s lovely essay, or the “Gay” joke photo posted earlier, constitute organic responses to the mass-media phenomena? Isn’t it more of a continuum than an either/or sort of thing? Etc. I guess I’m mainly wondering how authentic the authentic card is in post-postmodern 2010….

  41. What makes “organic” meaningful? It’s just a buzzword. Fans love their teams for a multitude of reasons. There’s not a single, one-dimensional relationship from fan to corporation, there’s a matrix. For example, once the Saints made it through the playoffs, the NFL suddenly saw a marketing opportunity and tried to claim copyright over the image of the fleur-de-lis and the “Who Dat” phrase. They failed – there was a massive response here on the part of fans, local artists and entrepreneurs, and media. The NFL doesn’t own the game, it doesn’t own the players = keep your eye on the free agency thing currently in play = it owns a piece of the puzzle, but the picture’s much more complex. Tdawwg points out correctly that the guys on the field came to their position “organically” – playing at school or in little civic teams. So the fans in the stadium, out tailgaiting, or sitting on the couch.

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