Monday, October 5, 2009

MediaSport: Technology and the Commodification of Postmodern Sport

By Michael Astle.

In his article “MediaSport: Technology and the Commodification of Postmodern Sport”, Michael Real discusses the relationship between the social rituals embodied by and connected with various sporting events and activities, and the attempts of the media to create saleable commodities from and within this popular field of endeavour (Real, 2002).

Real examines how the media has created a postmodern sporting canvas using the “pastiche” style (Real, 2002, p. 21). By broadcasting an array of cultural options to prospective buyers, devotees may choose which wondrous elites they would rather have to impress them. Provided some degree of interest in a given sport is shared by a sufficient quantity of people within any local society the media excludes no sport, unless perhaps it is popular within a rival society. Just as each religion has its own creeds, symbols of faith and ritualistic practices, so too sporting codes and teams have followers who recite specific cheers, wear certain clothes and behave in predictable unison according to predetermined patterns which are rehearsed from one game, season or event to the next. As no fundamentalist within any religion would show signs of belonging to another, neither would a devout supporter of one sporting group pretend to champion another. The media has latched upon these external factors enjoyed by devoted fans, which may have no direct impact upon the sport, and hyperbolised their importance thereby creating a cult mentality within the sporting arena.

The article appears to discuss whether the media is a parasite for sport or if the two have a symbiotic relationship. However whilst Real repeatedly raises examples of how the original ideals of modern sports have been destroyed by the propaganda of interfering media entities, especially in the last fifty years, he duplicitously concludes by protecting the industry which would publish his findings and instead simply states that the relationship between the media and sport can “easily become unbalanced” (Real, 2002, p. 26). Although he mentions a few examples, such as the Super Bowl of American football, where sport and the media are able to benefit from one another, it is clear that the media did not enter into such an arrangement for the benefit of the sport or else sports dominated by female participation would be covered as often as those dominated by male participation (Kane, 1996).

As sport has traditionally been viewed as a masculine activity, the physically dramatic element thereof has a pivotal role. Of all the elements of “deep play”, drama has the most direct effect on the actual game which is of central importance to the “deep fan” (Real, 2002, pp. 24-25). The psychological effects of drama churn the cogs which draw all the other elements together in a moment of intensity. It is this intense emotional involvement of the faithful upon which the media has been able to feed and grow as sport was progressively built into a sophisticated commercialised modern religion from what was once a celebration of athletic ideals.

Works Cited

Kane, M. J. (1996). Media Coverage of the Post Title IX Female Athlete: A Feminist Analysis of Sport, Gender, and Power. Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, 3(1), 95-127.

Real, M. (2002). MediaSport: Technology and the Commodification of Postmodern Sport. In L. A. Wenner (Ed.). Mediasport (pp. 14-26). London: Routledge.

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