Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sports-- Fan Side

Looking back on my previous post I realized there was a bit too much going on it and there was a bit of a scope shift. There are a lot of different aspects of sports and its role in politics and society. There is the role of the athletes in these sports and the potential to build partnerships, collaboration and the concept of team with each other, but there is also the role of the audience (the fans). How do sports impact fans watching the events? As a fan you stand behind your team on the local, national and international arenas. You support the team through their losses and wins. This has potential for both good and bad in my mind.

Going negative first; an audience that stands behind one team can come into conflict with members who support the opposition. While it seems silly, to me at least, that people would bring their aggressions out because of sports it does happen. Devout Packer fans and avid Patriot fans have been known to get into physical fights. When teams win, people can become violent, for example, there were riots all over Massachusetts when the Red Sox finally won the World Series again, and it would have been a very bad time to be a Yankees fan in MA. By setting up the concept of team there is the inherent dichotomy of "us" versus "the other" established by sports. Although we try and use sports to solve aggressions (for example, the Olympics as a means to be "friendly" competition) sometimes it ultimately perpetuates the violence because of the dichotomy. By dividing up into teams, and by audiences picking a side to support there becomes a barrier between each side and this has the potential to create harm.

I don't think that there's necessarily a good solution to solving this. I think it's good to be aware that sports can bring about violence because of the "other" which it creates. Bringing this to the international arena, this has broader implications in that it enforces the notions of nation and state. As long as people are continuing to support their nation's team (for example, at the Olympics) then there will always be a barrier between peoples. In a time when we talk more and more about the globalization of the world, the lowering of international barriers, etc. it seems interesting that we still have things which will still reinscribe into traditional notions. Will this ultimately matter? It's hard to say.

On the positive side, sports can create a sense of commraderie and unity. At a local level, people from all over the country can come to the UW with nothing in common except the sport teams that they support. This can help create a sense of community as well. Sports can act as common ground for people from all different backgrounds and all different walks of life. Sports, as I mentioned in my previous post, can also create a sense of identity. I cited the example of Nigerian identity being at elevated levels when Nigerian teams were performing well and then decreasing when the events were over. (The question of how long reaching the effects of sports can be will be something I'll touch a upon later). When there is something to be proud of people will stand behind it and support it, it is human nature after all. And this support can build identities which were not there in the first place.

For an international implication, this can result in nation building. When there are states which are comprised of many different ethnic groups the role of sports can be important in creating a sense of national identity. By having people from different ethnic groups, or beliefs, etc come together around a sport they can find common ground as I mentioned earlier. This common ground, if repeated can help develop and strengthen ties between people and possibly lead to the strengthing of a national identity.

So, on the one hand sports can be dangerous in that they create a divide between people. But on the other hand it can also act as a creation for common ground. Internationally this seems to be a complicated issue because you would want to use sports as a means to create nations, but with globlization it can ultimately be detrimental in that it inherently creates an "us" versus "them" mentality. So then, what is the balance? How important should the role of sports be?

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