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Mega-events offer outlet for against-the-grain analysis & critique

posted by Sports, Media & Society
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 3:03pm EST

Marie Hardin, associate director of the Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University, takes a look at the interaction of sports coverage and U.S. culture.

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Sports mega-events like the Super Bowl, the World Cup, and the Olympics offer grand stages for the participants (athletes & others), organizations, and institutions associated with each; these mega-events also provide an opportune stage for analysis and critique of the relationships between -- on the one hand -- these very participants, organizations, and institutions, and -- on the other hand -- culture, society, politics, and economics. That is, of course, if those offering the analysis and critique can manage to be heard over the cheerleading.

Several articles have caught my eye recently as intriguing analysis and criticism concerning the NFL and society. Each are, in my opinion, definitely worth a read:

NPR's Michele Martin looks at concerns about football-related long-term brain injury from the NFL down to pee wee. Further, she goes on to point out the social toll our exuberant emphasis on youth sports may have: "this might be particularly insidious in sports dominated by poor kids, especially poor black kids, because the people involved are so busy congratulating themselves on how they are saving the kids from ruin."

The Washington Post's Sally Jenkins considers whether "Jerry World" -- referring to Cowboy's owner Jerry Jones' new $1.15 billion stadium -- is the direction the league should be going in. While Jenkins acknowledges that the Super Bowl can be a valuable source for civic pride, this Super Bowl highlighted for her that "luxury can be debasing." She points out that everyday fans have been priced out of the spectacle, while the taxpayers in most of the NFL's U.S. metropolitan areas have been asked to pick up much of the tab for stadium and luxury box construction over the past 15 years.

Finally, progressive sportswriter Dave Zirin has been on a tear of late (see here, here, and here), highlighting the non-profit, public ownership of the Green Bay Packers by the citizens of Green Bay -- a unique arrangement in U.S. professional sports (NFL bylaws, interestingly, say that no other NFL franchise is allowed to employ a similar ownership structure).

Zirin has been busy of late...

** He's got a new book out, "Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love."
** His new documentary "Not Just a Game: Power, Politics, and American Sports" (produced by the good folks over at the Media Education Foundation) is getting attention within academic circles and in major sports media outlets.

-T.C.

As posted in "Mega-events offer outlet for against-the-grain analysis & critique"

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