Searching for Sociability in the Stands: A Theory of Sports Spectating

in Journal of Sport Management
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It is argued that the social forces of urbanization, individualism, interpersonal competition, technology, and geographical mobility have brought greater and greater numbers of strangers into people's everyday lives and have made the achievement of primary, social ties with relatives, friends, neighbors, and workmates more difficult. As a result, many are forced to satisfy their needs for sociability in less personal, less intimate, less private ways. It is proposed that sports spectating has emerged as a major urban structure where spectators come together not only to be entertained but to enrich their social psychological lives through the sociable, quasi-intimate relationships available. The changing nature of the sociability experience in America presents sport managers with interesting challenges and opportunities. A number of recommendations are offered for maximizing the gemeinschaft possibilities of sports spectating facilities. By giving greater attention to the individual and communal possibilities of their events, sport managers can increase spectator attendance while rendering an important public service.

Merrill J. Melnick is with the Department of Physical Education and Sport, State University of New York, College at Brockport, Brockport, NY 14420.

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