The Underdog: An Important Aspect of Sports Culture

 

Every year march roles around in the United States and sports fans from across the country tune in to watch March Madness: college basketballs 68-team, single elimination tournament, due to the sheer excitement and unpredictability in which it brings. This past march, UMBC, a smaller college in Baltimore, Maryland, captured the hearts of the fans as they became the first 16-seed to defeat a 1-seed since the tournament expanded in 1985. They became the buzz around all of social media and sports headlines, gaining fans that did not even know this school existed before this year. They were painted as the “underdog” or the “cinderella story” by sportswriters across the nation and continued their success into the second weekend where they were eliminated in the sweet 16 by Kansas State, a more talented, put together team. This poses two questions. First, “how is it that a team like UMBC, or any other team that is less talented than the team they are facing actually come out on top?” and second,  “what is it about the underdog story that captures the attention and hearts of people across the globe?”

The “underdog” concept is not something new to the world. It has been ingrained in cultures throughout the history of time. Everyone loves a good story of someone or something that possesses less skill or talent than an other, and still finds a way to come out victorious, but why has this become a phenomenon that people are so quick to associate with and support. One explanation is offered by Daniel Enberg, in his article “The Underdog Effect,” “when you are living in an unequal society, the long-shot offers something precious”(Enberg, 2). Even in today’s society people tell themselves that they are underdog and they adopt the mentality that comes along with it. A mentality that encapsulates heart, hustle, grit, and determination as its key values to follow. This mentality provides confidence for people in any situation, no matter how difficult or daunting and it provides them hope in a society that is chalk-full of people that are seen as higher skill, or more established than themselves.

This mentality perfectly adapts to sport: athletes want to believe that if you put in the required time and effort, there is no task, or team that can’t be taken down. In fact, sports players/teams often happily adopt the underdog role because they thrive and perform better against others expectations. It takes the pressure off of a team and allows them the freedom to go and play the game they know how to play, not letting outside factors influence them. Further, being an underdog does not mean that a team or an individual lacks faith, it means that no matter the obstacle, they always believe they have a shot. When this mentality is adopted, it creates a spirit and an emotion around the game that is exciting and eventually leads to the “huge” upsets that sports fans are so quick to recall today.

Speaking of fans, the athletes are not the only ones affected by the underdog mentality. Fans view underdogs as more likeable and down the earth; they are more relatable and that is why they are so quick to root for them. In 1991, two Bowling Green St. University professor, Dr. Jimmy Frazier and Dr. Eldon Snyder, published a study in which they were attempting to detect the role that an underdog effect has on students predicting the winner of a game. Students were told that two undisclosed teams were competing in a best of seven game series and which team A was “highly favored.” Accordingly, students picked team B to win 81% of the time, reinforcing the doctor’s estimations and even surpassing them as to which the underdog effect would play a role. (Frazier & Snyder, 382). Another factor also contributing to the underdog effect, is that fans love to root for the improbable. When fans watch games they want their excitement to be maximized which leads them to root for the team or individual that is not as talented. More research done based on Frazier and Snyder’s experiment extends to the sports betting world. When a fan is voting on a team that is the underdog, they bet more money than what they would bet on the favorite just due to the sheer fact that winning when betting on the underdog is just that much more exciting (Enberg, 5). Fans and athletes embrace the underdog mentality making it an important element of sports culture.

There is many other examples of underdogs in our culture; from movies like “Rocky” and literature like “The Lord of the Rings” all the way down to the Bible, the idea of the underdog is beloved. For athletes it provides a mindset that allows them to take on the daunting obstacles and opponents that come in the way. For fans it provides a relatability and excitement to sports that will always be cherished and remembered. In other words, the underdog is a concept that is prevalent in our everyday culture and in our sports culture so next time you find yourself rooting for a team that you didn’t even know existed before the game, you can always remember the underdog effect.

Works Cited

Engber, Daniel. “Why Do We Love to Root for the Underdog?” Slate Magazine, 30 Apr. 2010, www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2010/04/the_underdog_effect.html.

“The Power of the Underdog.” The UK’s Leading Sports Psychology Website, 31 Mar. 2015, believeperform.com/performance/the-power-of-the-underdog/.

The Underdog Concept in Sport Jimmy A. Frazier and Eldon E. Snyder Sociology of Sport Journal 1991 8:4, 380-388

The Munich Olympics: A Resurgence of Vulnerability

Scan Apr 25, 2018 at 10_53 PM-2enmzvw

In 1972, the Munich Olympics ended tragically with the death of a total of eleven Israeli Olympians at the hands of Black September Palestinian terrorists (Schiller and Young, 2). While only two Israelis were killed on the spot, the other nine died in captivity because of a hesitant, too-small police force, only worsening the blow (Schiller and Young, 2). Furthermore, tensions flared among individuals and nations that, due to anti-Israel ideology, did not really oppose what had occurred (Schiller and Young, 211). This was a dreadful blow to Israel. Only hours before, it was believed that such a violently catastrophic event would never occur because of the nature of Olympic sport.

“In the early hours of 5 September, members of the Palestinian group Black September had broken into the Olympic village, shot dead two members of the Israeli Olympic team, and taken nine of their compatriots hostage in a day-long siege that turned Munich into ‘the cockpit of world events.’ When this seismic moment of globally televised terrorism ended in a farrago of police errors that led to the death of all the Israeli captives, the bleakest day in the histories of the Olympic movement and the young Federal Republic was complete” (The 1972 Munich Olympics, 2).

The Munich Olympics started quite positively for the Israeli team. Their relationship with Germany perhaps “emotionally fragile” but otherwise on positive terms, they received a positive and cordial welcome in the Opening Ceremony of the Games (Schiller and Young, 187, 188). In fact, despite the tensions of the era, each team was appropriately, if stiffly, welcomed (Schiller and Young, 187). Germany was relieved: this was its opportunity to replace its disturbing Nazi history in a powerful way. They could extend sincere hospitality and respect to Israel on popularly-watched, global scale.

German vice-chancellor and foreign minister Walter Scheel described the opportunity as, “the unique opportunity to use the worldwide interest in sport to draw attention to the portrayal of our development…and to project to the rest of the world the image of a modern Germany…” (Schiller and Young, 3). Sport, it was believed, was a place where political tensions could be put aside and that people could unite themselves on the field, brought together for a mutual love of the game. In Germany’s eyes, then, the Olympics was a chance for the international community to enjoy themselves in Germany or to enjoy watching their beloved team in Germany, to see a new Germany of peaceful tolerance. If sport was known to foster at least a momentary cordiality between otherwise-tense nations, why did the terrorist attack occur in 1972?

Indeed, Israelis were pleased to have the opportunity to present themselves on the international sporting stage as well, hoping to forge positive connections with European countries (Schiller and Young, 90). Furthermore, their resounding victory at home in The Six-Day War, only a few years prior, gave Israel an air of confidence and strength, and began an era of economic prosperity (ʻAdwān Sāmī ʻAbd al-Razzāq, Dan Bar-On, Eyal J Naveh, and Peace Research Institute in the Middle East, 220, 222). Despite their history of oppression, they saw within themselves a developing strength, a sense that they were a force to be reckoned with.

Thus, as the Israeli Olympic team entertained themselves at a musical in Munich the night before tragedy struck (Schiller and Young, 194), they likely felt quite confident and sure and, most importantly, hopeful. This would not last long: the very next day, September 5, the tragedy occurred (Schiller and Young, 2). The American journalist Jim McKay, looking back on the event, said: “It was the end of innocence for all of us” (Schiller and Young, 187).

This very sentiment, “the end of innocence,” ultimately explains the reasoning behind this terrorist attack. Israel was proving too successful in light of The Six-Day War and the restoring relationship with Germany. Black September believed that if they could not destroy Israelis at home, they could abroad (Sachar and Ovid, 699).

In fact, on such a globally important stage, a stage rooted in peace and tolerance, these Palestinians had the opportunity to make a statement against the Jewish state that could reverberate powerfully, perhaps more powerfully than war over land holdings, but the whole world was watching the Olympics with an expectation of peace. If Black September could damage Israel’s confidence and growing power in front of the whole world, they perhaps believed, they could move toward their physical and ideological destruction. They tarnished Germany’s reputation and, certainly, their own in the wake of their event, but they believed they had met their mark and were moving toward their ideological goals.

Ultimately, the terrorist attack in Munich brought to the forefront the severity of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. The attack proved so shocking, however, because these territorial, political, and ideological tensions collided with Olympics sports in an unprecedented, never-before-seen way. With the entire world watching, Palestine made a clear statement, ushering in realizations of inescapable conflict in the one space that usually broke free from such tensions.

Bibliography:

ʻAdwān Sāmī ʻAbd al-Razzāq, Dan Bar-On, Eyal J Naveh, and Peace Research Institute in the Middle East. 2012. Side by Side : Parallel Histories of Israel/Palestine. New York: New Press.

Sachar, Howard Morley, Oved Iaácov, and Paul Avrich Collection (Library of Congress). 1976. A History of Israel. New York: Knopf.

Schiller, Kay, and Christopher Young. 2010. The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany. Weimar and Now, 42. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Tessler, Mark A. 2009. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. 2Nd ed. Indiana Series in Arab and Islamic Studies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Tomlinson, Alan, and Christopher Young. 2005. National Identity and Global Sports Events : Culture, Politics, and Spectacle in the Olympics and the Football World Cup. Suny Series on Sport, Culture, and Social Relations. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Getting into Baseball Heaven: The Fine Line on What Acts are Considered Sin

Image from MLB.com

 

Those inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame are regarded as baseball royalty. Players who are inducted are gods among men and are granted access to what many call baseball heaven. But, the Hall of Fame is riddled with controversy over who gets in. To be inducted, players must be voted in by a committee of writers and must meet many qualifications.

As players from the steroid era become eligible for the Hall of Fame, there is the question of why players who broke the rules of baseball are inducted into the Hall? Joe Jackson and Pete Rose played the game at a superior level but are banned from the Hall because they bet on baseball. Where do the MLB and the Hall of Fame committee draw the line on what acts deserve lifetime bans from baseball and rejection from the Hall of Fame?

Betting on Baseball has been Taboo since the Black Sox Scandal of the 1919 world series. The Chicago White Sox had been paid to throw the world series and baseball has not been the same since. The 1919 White Sox team changed baseball by giving it its first major case of gambling and fixing games. Kennesaw Mountain Landis was the judge who presided over the hearing and became the first commissioner of baseball. As commissioner, he immediately worked to “clean up baseball” by expelling all eight White Sox who had been acquitted and focused on “gamblers” and “outsiders” as those responsible for ruining the game of baseball (Bachin 2003).

Eight men were acquitted but banned from baseball forever by Landis. Of those eight men, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson ranges as one of the most iconic. Jackson posted a career batting average of .356 which is third all time. Also, Jackson’s numbers from the world series suggest that he never planned on losing those games. He posted a .375 average which was the highest for both teams (Pruitt 2018).

Pete Rose is another case that involves gambling. On the field, it is just to say that Pete has earned his way into the Hall (Mitchell 1999). He holds MLB records for most career hits, most career games played, and is the only player to play at least 500 games at five different positions. Yes, it is true that Pete Rose bet on baseball, but many believe that he never bet against his team. In fact, there is evidence that he always bet on his team to win.

Rose also posted a career batting average of .303 which puts him ahead of 2017 Hall of Fame inductees Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, and Tim Raines’s who all have career batting averages below .300 (“Hall of Fame Batting Register”). So, why have I compared Rose to these three players? These three 2017 inductees are all suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s).

Players will push their bodies to the limit to attain peak performance on the field. For some, this may mean using drugs to enhance their performance on the field. Baseball was thriving due to players using these drugs. Baseball had become a hitter’s game in the steroid era and home runs became more and more common. The long ball drew in large crowds waiting to see the next batter drive one out of the yard.

PED’s put players above the rest of those who worked hard and played by the rules. But, there is not as big of an outrage over this compared to gambling. It is plausible to think that this is because gambling ruins the game of baseball and PED’s may be helping it. Gambling leads to fixing games and this leads to doubt in whether fans are watching a real game or a fixed game. This would ruin attendance and cause the game’s popularity to plummet. PED’s, however, draw fans in. They bring massive crowds to the ballpark in anticipation of seeing pitchers throw 100 mph fastballs and hitters crushing 450-foot home runs.

The question remains about what is a proper reason to keep a Hall of Fame caliber player out? Though there are players who have used PED’s that are still denied entry into the Hall of Fame, such as Barry Bonds, there is still the possibility that other cheaters, like Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens, could make it in. All players mentioned are incredible athletes but have still broken the rules of the game.

Who is to say PED users should be allowed in the Hall when players like Jackson and Rose are not? Hall of Fame votes are based on the opinions of writers on the selection committee and it is unknown how their stance on PED’s will change in the future. Joe Jackson and Pete Rose will remain out of the Hall of Fame but baseball fans know they have earned a spot in it.

 

 

Suggested Reading:

Bachin, R. (2003). At the Nexus of Labor and Leisure: Baseball, Nativism, and the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Journal of Social History, 36(4), 941-962. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790358

“Hall of Fame Batting Register.” Baseball-Reference.com. Accessed April 24, 2018. https://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/hof_batting.shtml.

Mitchell, Cleta Deatherage. “The Rise of America’s Two National Pastimes: Baseball and the Law.” Michigan Law Review 97, no. 6 (1999): 2042-061. doi:10.2307/1290242.

Pruitt, Sarah. “Did Shoeless Joe Jackson Conspire to Throw the 1919 World Series?” History.com. February 20, 2013. Accessed April 24, 2018. https://www.history.com/news/ask-history/did-shoeless-joe-jackson-conspire-to-throw-the-1919-world-series.

 

 

Race, Class, and Sport: Duke Lacrosse 2006

It was like something out of nightmare. One moment three white college students were competing to win an NCAA Division 1 championship, and the next they were accused for the racially-charged gangrape of a black exotic dancer, their faces splattered on the front page of every newspaper, their season suspended, over. This was the reality of the 2006 Duke Men’s Lacrosse team.

npr.org
Image of a newspapers account of the rape allegations. (npr.org) 

Today, these three students are declared to be innocent with distinction. Evidence proves that. They did not commit the crime. Yes, the accuser, Crystal Mangum, was hired to dance at the party where this allegedly happened, but she was severely intoxicated and asked to leave by the hosts after being paid. But, she claimed rape, igniting a massive media circus that had the perfect bend of racial and class properties. As Dan Orkent, former editor for the New York Times, puts it: “it was white over black. It was male over female. It was rich over poor. It was educated over the uneducated. My god, all the things we know happen in the world coming together in one place. And the journalists start to quiver with the thrill when something like this happens” (ESPN Fantastic Lies Documentary). The case exploded in the media, portraying it as a hate crime and the abuse of privileged white kids over a black woman. The media made the accused students seem absolutely guilty without due process, which ruined their reputations across the country, even leading to the cancelation of the rest of the Duke lacrosse season and the firing of head coach Mike Pressler because of his support of his players.

This incident illuminates greater questions regarding race, class, and sport. What role has popular sport played in the social interactivity of early 21st century United States? This article aims to prove how sport, specifically lacrosse, can serve to heighten class distinctions and differences based upon the culture surrounding that sport.

Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in America. Having been around for over 100 years, it is now just achieving national popularity at the turn of the millennium. However, only today is lacrosse starting to branch out into lower socio-economic markets. Over a decade ago, and still to a lesser extent today, lacrosse was believed to be the “rich-man’s” sport. It traditionally has been dominated by high-class privileged white families from the Northeast. For these reasons, when the Duke lacrosse scandal was made public, it started a class war between privileged whites and lower-class black communities. An initial news story reporting on the case in 2006 states how there were “near daily protest rallies” (npr.org, 2006). Black and lower-class communities were fired up at the thought wealthy white college students could potentially get away with the abuse of a black single mother with children who was scraping by to get money.

Beyond this event, there were already poor perceptions of the lacrosse team. Robert Mosteller explains how “other stories of boorish behavior had been in the local press, generally involving alcohol and rowdy parties,” which led to complaints from community neighbors (Mosteller, p. 1352). This divide extended beyond race as well, with a neighbor where the fabricated assault took place stated, “I’m sort of assuming [the rape] happened… because they’ve been such arrogant kids… if you ask them to be quiet, they shout unpleasant things at you, and I’m white” (Mosteller, p. 1353).  The Duke lacrosse team also had a decent portion of athletes who had priors for drunkenness and rowdy behavior (Mosteller, p. 1354). This shows how even before the incident, there was already a mental distinction between entitlement and the lower-class. The prior information on the lacrosse team accumulating arrests was “characterized by some as a stereotype of out-of-control jocks with a sense of entitlement” (Mosteller, 1354). People saw this lacrosse team as entitled rich kids who believed they could do and get away with anything, including the rape of a black escort.

With these class distinctions already being propagated because of lacrosse culture, the Duke lacrosse case was the perfect incident for these distinctions to explode. The case sent shockwaves around the country, with people perceiving it as white, entitled lacrosse players from upper-classes abusing their privilege on someone from a lower-class black social standing. People feasted on the biased news coverage, which only could have made class differences and conflict between the rich upper-classes and poorer lower-classes stronger, and this was in direct result of lacrosse culture and the Duke Lacrosse case. Ultimately, the analysis of this incident shows how sport can play a large role in driving classes apart from each other.

Works Cited/Further Readings/Viewing

Mosteller, Robert P. “Duke Lacrosse Case, Innocence, and False Identifications: A Fundamental Failure to Do Justice.” Fordham Law Review 76 (2007): 1337-1412.

Fantastic Lies. Documentary. Directed by Marina Zenovich. 2016. ESPN Films.

Primary Sources

“Duke Lacrosse Players Arrested on Rape Charges.” NPR.org, April 18th, 2006. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5348321

When Athletes Protest

The Take-A-Knee movement is the most recent step in the long history of African American athletes fighting for their rights on the field. The position of Black athletes in sports has a controversial and much debated impact on their lives and the rights of African Americans. On one sideline, athletics provides a platform for African Americans to express issues they feel strongly about. In the case of Michigan State University’s football team during the 50s and 60s, the program acted as a position for “black athletes to challenge segregation both on and off the field” (Smith 2007). On the other sideline, sports and the emphasis put on them can lead to the destruction of the Black male, followed by the destruction of the Black female and family. John Gaston discusses the impact of media and the great emphasis on young African Americans being athletes over scholars as destroying the Black athletes ability to function outside of the realm of sports (1986). Both sides have valid points, using similar lines of evidence to show the faults in the logic that racism takes advantage of in sports. While there are pros and cons to these views, the impact of African American Athletes for the Civil Rights movement has a positive effect, pushing to the forefront of discussions the inequality that existed in the past and is still present today.

As a student athlete, I was told upon my signing that I would be representing the school. Everything that I was doing would be public and anyone would be able to see that I played volleyball and that I would need to act accordingly because I was in an elevated position, in the public eye. And that was just at a Division 3 school. Athletes in prominent positions at Division 1 schools or in professional games have even more attention on them and with that publicity comes a responsibility, if they chose it. For African American athletes, sports can put them in a position that allows for their voices to be heard. Modern athletes like Colin Kaepernick have decided to use this privilege to express their dissatisfaction with the way racial equality is being handled. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way”. This decisive moment in the 2016 49ers preseason paved the way for greater discussions about the issues of race that were not being addressed. This one choice by Kaepernick spread across the NFL, through all other levels of athletics and across the seas. And during the anthem at some of my own volleyball games, girls were kneeling in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

Michigan State’s Football team acted in a similar way to Kaepernick. They protested practices after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. This action fully merged the “revolt of the black athlete” that was taking place with the Black Power movement. All of this was taking place a few short months before the 1968 Olympics and the Black Power Salute and during the middle of the Vietnam War, where athletes like Muhammad Ali were protesting the draft.

Just like Kaepernick and the black Michigan State players, Tommie Smith and John Carlos used their athletic privilege to challenge the treatment of African Americans. Smith and Carlos knew that there would be consequences to this form of protest and they met it head on. Carlos stated later that “I had a moral obligation to step up. Morality was a far greater force than the rules and regulations they had.” The podium was as much as stage as the track they ran on to claim the medals. They removed their shoes to protest poverty and wore beads and scarves to protest lynchings. Jackets were also unzipped to show support for all working class people, regardless of race. The “USA” written on the uniforms were also covered to “reflect the shame I felt that my country was traveling at a snail’s pace toward something that should be obvious to all people of good will.” Smith and Carlos were met with opposition, being booed during the anthem and being asked to leave the stadium after the anthem was done playing. To this day, this decision is being discussed and framed within the Black Lives Matter movement and the Take a Knee movement, showing that the fight is for every athlete, if they so chose to raise a fist and take a knee.

Sources:

Gaston, John C. 1986. “The Destruction of the Young Black Male: The Impact of Popular Culture and Organized Sports.” Journal of Black Studies. Vol. 16 No. 4; pp. 369-384.

Smith, John Matthew. 2007. “‘Breaking the Plane’: Integration and Black Protest in Michigan State University Football during the 1960s.” Michigan Historical Review. Vol. 33, No. 2; pp. 101-129.

Thomas, P.L. 2014. “Speaking Truth to Power: Invisible Young Men: African American Males, Academics, and Athletics.” The English Journal. Vol. 104, No. 1; pp. 75-78.

Images from Google.

Tiger Woods Effect on the Game of Golf

The game of golf is noted to have been created in 1457 in Scotland. The game has transformed tremendously since then which has led to the creation of the Professional Golf Association in 1916 by mostly club pros from around the United States. Eldrick Tont Woods, better known publicly as Tiger Woods, is easily considered as one of the best golfers to play the game, and has been a major contributor and icon to the association. In this blog, I will argue that Tiger Woods has affected the game of golf more than any player ever while focusing on his contributions to the globalization of the sport and television ratings.

Globalization of sport has taken on many historical faces. The process of globalizing golf has similarities and differences with its competitors like rugby, cricket, and soccer. The most fundamental similarity is that these were all sports that were spread to different parts of the world mainly through European colonialism. A major difference amongst these previously mentioned sports and golf is that golf remained a game primarily for the wealthy to play for many years. This can be credited to the typically high costs of playing golf and the fact that golf is not a team sport. The “Tiger Woods effect” on the game of golf from a globalization perspective has been truly remarkable. I will prove that during Tiger’s peak years, golf changed from a hobby solely for wealthy businessmen into a game for ordinary people.

Tiger’s own genetic makeup provides a platform for him to transcend the idea of intermingling cultures and globalization. His lineage contains traces of Caucasian, Asian, African, and Native American ancestry which caused him to coin the term “Cablinasian” to help describe himself and his heritage. Due to Tiger’s minority status, his charisma, and his dominant style of play, he ultimately attracted both a younger and a more diverse audience to the sport of golf. In fact, before Tiger Woods turned professional in August of 1996, the United States was averaging the construction of about 140 golf courses per year. Following Tiger turning pro, the United States more than doubled their average of golf courses constructed each year to 306 for the next twelve years on the premise that Millennials and Generation Z would pick up the sport at a faster rate fueled by the belief that Tiger would be the face of golf for years to come (Napton 2008). A real-life example of this belief was shown during the formation of the Tiger Woods Foundation in 1997 that promoted the participation of minorities and young players in the United States and around the world (Napton 2008). Essentially, the major upside to the market for Tiger Woods was clear in the United States, and the rest of the world was not far behind. The construction of courses in Japan, South Africa, Australia, and many more nearly doubled as well.

Tiger Woods affected the game of golf in its entirety in a multitude of ways. The Professional Golf Association is an organization that has constantly had to put an emphasis on the amount of television spectators it receives during broadcasted tournaments, most especially during majors such as The Masters, The U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. No player positively affected the number of viewers these tournaments received than Tiger Woods. There is a variety of reasons that contribute to this phenomenon. Perhaps the most prominent reason was Tiger’s ability to absolutely dominate the field. In an individual sport like golf, it really is amazing as to what Tiger accomplished and with the margin of victory he typically did it. Tiger was famous for setting records for victories in majors by the largest margins in history. Some examples of these are his 1997 Master’s victory by twelve strokes and his famous, record-breaking fifteen shot victory in the U.S. Open in 2000. The effect on TV ratings is stunning. Figure 1 shows the Tiger Woods effect on ratings during two of the major tournaments during peak years with the nominal figures representing viewers in millions.

(Figure 1)

As shown in Figure 1 Tiger Woods nearly doubled the number of viewers for the US Open from 2013 to 2014. The realization that one player is that vital to the PGA and the game of golf is absurd. This effect on TV ratings can be seen in modern sports today with LeBron James in the NBA and Tom Brady in the NFL, however these do not come close to comparing with the effect of Tiger Woods.

As most of the world knows, in 2009 Tiger faced a severe publicity nightmare when the news came out that he was unfaithful to his wife. Following this, Tiger faced multiple injuries that took a large toll on his ability to compete over the next several years. Other instances from his personal life were appearing in the news as well such as an alleged DUI and his statement to take a course on medication management. However, after brutal publicity and injury battles, it was this year in 2018 when Tiger played in the 82nd Masters tournament that caused the television ratings to go from just under eleven million in 2017 to over thirteen million in 2018. CBS has credited a large part of the ratings spike to Tiger’s return. The Tiger effect on the game of golf still exists today.

 

 

Recommended Readings:

Napton, Darrell E., and Christopher R Laingen, “Expansion of Golf Courses in the United States.” Geographical Review, no.1 (2008): 24-41

“Tiger Woods Fast Facts.” CNN. April 09, 2018.                                               https://www.cnn.com/2013/05/30/us/tiger-woods-fast-facts/index.html

Stromberg, Joseph. “Tiger Woods’ Impact on TV Ratings and Ticket Sales.” Vox. July 17, 2014.                   https://www.vox.com/2014/7/17/5910289/tiger-woods-british-open-tv-ratings

Sports Media across the Ages

Originally, sports and their components were founded on the idea of masculinity, heroisms, and competition. Sports were played for entertainment purposes and as a way to occupy the mind. Anyone could play them and do so in any available space. But as sports developed, they grew into more competitive events with different outcomes– professional teams were developed, huge stadiums were built, and the idea of sport changed. With the rise of capitalism and industrialization came the rise of media and its specific attention to sports. Media and sports have circular relationship with one another—media and its writers and broadcasters used sports to generate topics of discussion for publication and the heightened popularity of sports can give some credit to the attention it received from different forms of media over the years (Wenner, 1989). Researchers such as Wenner (1989) explored the cyclical relationship between media and sports (and its popularity) and how waves of industrialization and modernization were factors in that. Big surges of sports popularity, especially focusing on specific aspects of sports such as certain sports, games, players and even plays, comes from the attention it receives from media. Media jumped on sports stories and used that as a leverage to become commercial enterprises.

With the upswing of capitalism in the 1830’s, sports were used as a way for broadcasting agencies to gain popularity, generate profit, and to compete in the broadcasting economy. The history of sports journalism dates way back and was enhanced by the growth of industrialization and the success of sport as a new cultural American institution. As journalism advanced from political biases pleasing a specific group of people to a commercialized enterprise, sports shifted from a local pastime to a competitive industry that span across the nation. Sports journalism began in the 1820s and 1830s with magazines specializing in sports stories, primarily focusing on boxing and horse racing. At first, sports stories covered big events such as rival matches against the United States and other countries but by the end of the 19th century sports writers began to create their own routines and customs and focused more on specific American sports (Bryant and Holt, 2006).

In the 1830s and 1840s newspaper journalism was on the rise (Wenner, 1989). The development of the penny press, which allowed for a mass-production of tabloid-style newspapers, allowed for the price of newspapers to drop which encouraged a new audience—middle-class people could now afford to buy the newspaper and therefore the circulation of news, including sports writings, increased. Instead of relying heavily on consumption and circulation of the news articles, newspapers began to rely heavily on advertising to pay for their costs. Because of the mass production and high circulation of newspapers during this time, the popularity of sports increased due to the amount of people reading the stories and following along with sports journalism. Because of mass production, journalists began looking for topics that would be interesting to all people rather than a certain group and sports fit that idea perfectly.

Between the 1880 through the early 1900s America saw a surge in industrialization which brought about many technological advancements. One of this was the radio. In the United States, radio broadcasting became popular in the 1920s. The 1920s, in general, were a big era for sports and commonly known as the “Golden Age of Sport” (Wenner, 1989). The media and sports journalism used this booming era for sports to commercialize and advertise their mediums. By 1929, one third of Americans had a radio in their house (Wenner, 1989) meaning that a good number of Americans had access to listen to sports coverages and stay up to date with sporting events and news. This made American sports jump with attention and popularity. News coverages during this Golden Age of sport also help to popularize modern sports—in 1880, 0.04% of a newspaper was dedicated to sports coverages and by 1920 there was an increase of up to 20% of newspaper coverages included sports stories.

Currently, television is the most popular form of sports broadcasting and coverages although the radio, newspapers, and magazines have not completely washed away. Major and professional sports leagues have contracts with huge commercial broadcasting firms, local stations, cable networks, etc. allowing their teams and games to be displayed on television. The emergence of television broadcasting of sports has led to increased interests on sports broadcasting rights (but that’s a topic for another day). Recently, the NFL gets about half its revenue from broadcasting while the NBA and MLB get about a third of their revenues from broadcasting (Cave and Crandall, 2001).

As the progression of sports media has changed over time, so has the popularity of sport and its role as a commercial enterprise. From sports being played for fun on the streets and in any open field to being the headlines of magazines, newspapers, talk shows, and television stations, sporting events, whether played or watched, have been played a big role in American pastime. Media, not only commercialized sport, but allows people who do not typically have access to sport a chance to watch and keep up. American sports are a big part of our national identity and media has helped encourage that tradition.

References:

Cave, M., & Crandall, R. (2001). Sports Rights and the Broadcast Industry. The Economic Journal,

111(469), F4-F26. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2667955

Raney, A. A., & Bryant, J. (2006). Handbook of sports and media. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis

Group.

Wenner, L. A. (Ed.). (1989). Media, sports & society. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

One Island, Two Teams: Explaining the Divide in Irish Soccer

Republic of Ireland’s Robbie Keane and Gareth McAuley of Northern Ireland thejournal.ie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The small island of Ireland is divided into two even smaller countries, and it came as a surprise to me, while watching the Euro Cup in 2016, to learn that each of these countries have their own international soccer teams. I couldn’t help but wonder, why not compete together to strengthen the chances of being competitive? However, research into the subject matter revealed a complicated story behind why the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland choose to compete separately—a story that mirrors the tale of how the island became divided to begin with.

Today in Ireland, there are two main soccer associations: the Irish Football Association (IFA) and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). The IFA is the governing body in Northern Ireland, and it was founded in 1880 by a collection of football clubs in Belfast. Conversely, the FAI is the governing association for soccer in the Republic of Ireland, and it was founded in 1921, 41 years after the IFA.

The original intention of the IFA was to be the sole governing soccer association for all of Ireland. This intention was short lived. The result of sectarian conflict, which was present for centuries but heightened in the early 1900s, was an Anglo-Irish treaty and the partition of Ireland into a British-controlled Northern Ireland, and a pseudo-independent Irish Republic in the south. The treaty was signed in 1921, the same year the FAI formed and the Irish soccer divide began.

Undoubtedly, there were a combination of events and forces that contributed to the formation of the FAI. One often cited reason, however, is an infamous decision made by the IFA during the Irish Cup (a tournament crowning a club in Ireland as champion). A semi-final draw between Shelbourne, a Dublin club, and the Lurgan club Glenavon necessitated that the match be replayed. Since the first match had been played in Belfast, a primarily protestant city in Northern Ireland, many assumed the next match would be played in Dublin, a predominantly Catholic city in southern Ireland.

This was not the case. The IFA decided that the match should be replayed in Belfast, and many within Ireland were outraged. Those offended by the decision insisted that this event was one of many examples of a ‘Belfast bias’: the perceived preferential treatment that Belfast, and other protestant cities in the north, received from the IFA.

This was a tipping point, and shortly after the IFA’s decision, various soccer clubs and associations gathered in Dublin to form the FAI. Importantly, the FAI insisted that it would govern the game throughout all of the 32 counties of Ireland. This was an overtly political gesture, since it laid claim to counties which had been partitioned to Northern Ireland.

Attempts at reconciliation between the two soccer associations occurred in both 1924 and 1932 and both failed. Each party contested which parts of Ireland belong to which organization, a discussion that was similarly being had in the political arena: which counties belong to the Irish Republic and which to Northern Ireland? The disputes continued for decades, and it resulted in the boundaries for soccer jurisdiction matching the boundaries for the now-separate countries.

In order for the FAI to establish itself during its early years, not only was it important to succeed in politically spirited discussions with the IFA, but also to receive international recognition. Doing so would help ensure legitimacy and recognition for Irish soccer in the Republic. However, their closets neighbors, Britain, understandably were reluctant to cooperate with an organization who stood directly opposed to the IFA and British initiatives in Northern Ireland.

In 1923 the FAI found a breakthrough when the French FA decided to send one of their best clubs to compete against Ireland. This importantly granted a level of international legitimacy to an organization that was still unrecognized by its neighbors in England, Scotland and Wales. Following this, the FAI was accepted into FIFA and given jurisdiction over the 26 counties in south Ireland. This left the IFA with only 6. Today, the two organizations remain the governing soccer institutions in their respective counties. Tensions between the two remain as well.

Currently, debates rage over eligibility issues for players who want to play for the Republic and live in the North and vice versa. A recent example is James McClean, who declared his intention to play for the Republic of Ireland despite spending his youth competing for Northern Ireland.

Former Republic of Ireland manager, Brian Kerr, offered his comments saying, “I know some of the northern players have an identity with the Republic because of the communities they’re living in. I think over time that can change.” This is not the only case of a player from the North defecting to play soccer for the Republic.

This reflects how closely aligned sporting cultures and national identities are in Ireland. In this case, McClean was eager to align his sporting career with the national (and political) identity he felt suited him. Herein lies the reason the island’s soccer teams remain divided: sectarian wounds and nationalist identities are still present, still a source of tension, and still at the center of cultural attitudes toward sport. Given the historical account of Ireland in the 20th and 21st century, it is inevitable that the soccer divide will embody more than just a game.

Works Cited:

The Irish Soccer Split, Moore, C., Cork, Cork University Press, 2015

An Ugly Divide in the Beautiful Game, Cormac Moore  https://www.independent.ie/life/an-ugly-divide-in-the-beautiful-game-34787152.html

It’s Time the IFA Sang a New Song as Player Eligibility Rows Rumble On, Brendan Crossan http://www.irishnews.com/sport/opinion/2017/03/17/news/it-s-time-the-ifa-sang-a-new-song-as-player-eligibility-rows-rumble-on-966797/

Nothing But Inconsistency: The NHL and Player Safety

 

The protection of players’ health and strict concussion protocols are all the rage in pro contact sports. The NHL is no exception. However, it all sounds great in the news and on paper. Depending how you look at it, the reality unfortunately looks more like a joke, is infuriating or shows an indefensible lack of consistency. Two incidents a week ago, again raise questions about how serious the league is about player safety. On Saturday the Nashville Predators forward Scott Hartnell (6’.2”, 315 lb.) delivered a late hit on Buffalo Sabres defenseman Victor Antipin (5’.11”, 175 lb.). The hit was so vicious that Antipin had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. According to Buffalo news outlets, Antipin suffered a broken nose, facial lacerations, dental injuries and a concussion. For Antipin the season is over. And the league’s reaction? Nothing. No hearing in front of the Department for Players Safety or DOPS and no supplementary discipline. Most longtime hockey observers expected a 3-5 game suspension. Buffalo coach Phil Housley didn’t mince words to show his disappointment with the league’s decision. “Well, I do know that our player was taken off on a stretcher, has a broken nose, facial lacerations and missing teeth. So, in that respect, I strongly disagree with the NHL decision. It’s unfortunate for Victor because I thought he had a solid game and I don’t believe he’ll be playing the rest of the year. We feel for him … I just felt with that situation, it wasn’t handled the right way.”

One day later, on Sunday, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand demonstrated the viewers on NBC how he intends to deal with players who strip the puck of him. He just turns and cross-checks the player, in this case Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, in the face. Cross-checking in the face is considered a cheap shot and dirty. And the league’s reaction? Marchand has to pay $ 5,000 fine.

What do Hartnell and Marchand in common? They are both repeat offenders, meaning they both have been suspended before. Both players are known for agitating, cheap shots and illegal hits. But they are both also a picture of the NHL’s hypocrisy when it comes to player safety. George Orwell famously said that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. He must have had the NHL in mind. After every questionable hit, elbow to the head, interference or cross-check, fans and observers are never certain about what the DOPS will do. The application of rules and their enforcement seem random. Will he get a suspension, will he not get a suspension? The whole process feels opaque. Would Hartnell and Marchand have gotten away the way they did if superstars like Sidney Crosby or Rick Nash would have been on the receiving end? It is safe to assume that suspension would have been more forthcoming. Why do fans feel that players from big market teams end up with lesser punishment than players from small market teams? And how about dirty hits by superstars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Alex Ovechkin? They often face less scrutiny then a player who plays on the third or fourth line. For example, Brad Marchand is technically not considered a repeat offender according to league rules. For that you need to commit the same offense within the last 18. Cross-checking instead of hitting somebody with the elbow in the face, no problem.

The main goal of the DOPS is to reduce player injury in game while trying to keep up with the game’s constant changes from year to year. In order to fulfill such a task, the DOPS will often overcorrect, resulting in crack downs on certain violations in a given season. To give an example, in 2009 Mike Richards of the Philadelphia took out David Booth of the Florida Panthers with a brutal hit. In reaction the NHL, along with the DOPS, made changes as to how a player could be hit and defined that if a player were to be unsuspecting and completely vulnerable that such a hit on said player would be considered a “blindside” hit and would be penalized and strictly enforced. Then there was the famous “Sean Avery” rule which was a crack down on contact with a goaltender around and in front of the net. After an incident with Avery, a New York Rangers enforcer, facing New Jersey Devils goaltender Marty Brodeur where he stood up Brodeur, trying various questionable antics in an attempt to provide a screen. After this occurred, DOPS in the following 2009 season sought to protect goalies but instead overprotected them, setting a precedent that could not be touched whether the contact was accidental or not. These are some examples of where the DOPS and NHL show how they are very reactionary entities and therefore focus on issues as they arise in order to promote and ensure player safety. With this the DOPS has many times proven ineffective because of the many infractions it has overlooked and given illegal plays attention that came much too late. This often feeds into the problems of no or little punishment to clearly cheap and nasty hits

The other question naturally is who is enforcing the league rules and is supposed to guarantee player safety, in other words who makes the decisions and explains why a player gets a suspension or not. The DOPS has been and is run by former NHL players with questionable records, Brandon Shanahan, Stephane Quintal and now George Parros. Parros used to be an enforcer in his NHL career. He played 474 games and averaged 5:56 minutes of ice time per game. He accumulated 1,092 penalty minutes and had 169 fights. He was what is called a tough guy. The same is true for Shanahan and Quintal. It does send out the wrong message. Just considering the optics. You have ex-enforcers who used their fists to police the game in charge of discipline, safety and health of players. Seriously?

Fans, players, coaches and owners know that nothing will change to the of player safety as long as there are some players are “more equal than others” along with the DOPS on somewhat of a time delay with a tendency to be very selective in its decisions and punishments. The NHL is farther away than ever from a change of the culture of the game. Just ask Antipin.

Suggested readings:

Momenian, Donya. “NHL must address players’ safety without resorting to suspensions”. Collegiate Times. October 25, 2017. Accessed April 8, 2018. http://www.collegiatetimes.com/opinion/nhl-must-address-players-safety-without-resorting-to-suspensions/article_a13b7110-b99a-11e7-9e08-0b0f0e535f40.html

Cyrgails, Brett. “Putting friends in charge of player safety is an NHL gaffe”. New York Post. January 19, 2018. Accessed April 8, 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/01/19/putting-friends-in-charge-of-player-safety-is-an-nhl-gaffe/

Harrington, Mike. “Housley fuming, Sabres players surprised Hartnell didn’t get suspended”. Buffalo News: Hockey. April 2, 2018. Accessed April 8, 2018. http://buffalonews.com/2018/04/02/housley-fuming-sabres-players-surprised-hartnell-didnt-get-suspended/

Wyshynski, Greg. “Why Brad Marchand was fined – and not suspended – for his cross-check against the Flyers”. ESPN. April 3, 2018. Accessed April 8, 2018. http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/23004184/nhl-why-brad-marchand-was-fined-not-suspended-cross-check-philadelphia-flyers

FIFA: Budweiser, Corruption, and Cuckoo Clocks

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA, was the first globally established organization for football. Created in 1904, it was meant to govern international games between different regions. Comprising of only European countries at first, it quickly expanded to include countries from all over the world. Using the Olympics as a basis, they created an international tournament known as the World Cup in 1930. The World Cup itself is a tournament that has had controversy surrounding it since the beginning when Europe hosted the 1934 and 1938, causing issues with Latin American countries as they believed that the tournament would rotate between the two continents. This controversy has continued in modern times, with most if not all the recent tournaments having their respective issues. Like the 1938 World Cup, these modern controversies have been centered around the influence of governments, which creates the perception of the World Cup being a political event rather than a sporting one.

In 2006, the tournament was held in Germany, a decision which a satirical German magazine has taken credit for. For the 2006 World Cup, South Africa and Germany made it to the finals of the bidding process. It had been a long and difficult process, and it was looking that the vote would end up in a tie, in which case the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, would have cast the tie breaker. It was widely believed that he would have voted for South Africa but was denied the chance when Charlie Dempsey of New Zealand abstained. (Newman) The reason for his abstention is rather interesting, as he had been under a lot of pressure leading up to the vote from both sides. As a joke, a German satirical magazine sent him a gift basket containing sausages and a cuckoo clock, asking that he vote for Germany. This has been cited as causing him to abstain from the vote, and Dempsey even seemed to acknowledge that, saying, “This final fax broke my neck,” (Newman) the fax being the note that was included with the gift basket. Unfortunately, this was a rather satirical take on what has become the largest issue in FIFA, that being bribery.

Bribery in sporting events is something that is not new but is something that has increasingly become apparent in FIFA. The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa, a decision which has also come under attack due to new information alleging that South Africa bribed FIFA officials and the then vice-president of FIFA. Much of this information came out in 2015, and it was found that South Africa paid over ten million USD to secure the bid. (Telegraph) The information alleges that it was Morocco that won the bid, which was found out when officials talked to one another afterwards and found that the votes did not match. Rather than having a recount, they allowed the tournament to be held in South Africa despite seemingly knowing this fact. (Telegraph) Disregarding the bribery taking place, the 2010 World Cup also brought up the issue of human rights, and whether a country should even host the tournament if the infrastructure was not in place.

In 2014 this issue of infrastructure was readily seen during and leading up to the world cup in Brazil. In Brazil there were massive protests about the amount of public money being spent on the event. Money which was spent on building stadiums and other infrastructure around where the tournament was being held in a rush to be ready for the tournament. This rush to be ready led to multiple safety issues, such as collapsing buildings, fires, and the death of eight workers. (Bowersox) This all came at a time in which the government of Brazil itself was in turmoil, with multiple scandals affecting the highest levels of government. They also faced external pressure and were forced to change a law regarding the sale of alcohol at soccer games that came to be known as the Budweiser Bill. (Marcaleti)All of this and more showed that there were issues in selecting Brazil as the location for the World Cup, issues that have seemingly been ignored based on the decisions for the 2018 and 2022 locations for the World Cup.

All of these controversies have shown that the World Cup is becoming a political tool rather than a soccer tournament. The question then becomes what to do about it, which is something that the 1938 World Cup can help with. Protesting the World Cup worked then, and there is the chance that it will work again. Even if it doesn’t, teams and governments need to be held accountable as well as understand that they are part of the problem as well.

 

 

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/sport/2000/2006_world_cup_decision/823768.stm

Bowersox, Zack. “Naming, Shaming, and International Sporting Events: Does the Host Nation Play Fair?” Political Research Quarterly 69, no. 2 (2016): 258-69. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44018008.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/fifa/11657442/Fifa-in-crisis-Morocco-won-2010-World-Cup-vote-not-South-Africa.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/07/07/the-world-cup-goes-on-and-so-does-the-law-a-few-controversial-bills-being-discussed-at-times-of-soccer/?utm_term=.772234b78fe0