The Great American Football Ritual: Reproducing Race, Class, and Gender Inequality

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Douglas E. FoleyUniversity of Texas, Austin

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An ethnographic study of one football season in a small South Texas town is presented to explore the extent that community sport is, as various critical theorists have suggested, a potential site for counterhegemonic cultural practices. Football is conceptualized as a major community ritual that socializes future generations of youth. This broad, holistic description of socialization also notes various moments of ethnic resistance engendered by the Chicano civil rights movement. Other moments of class and gender resistance to the football ritual are also noted. Finally, the way players generally resisted attempts to thoroughly rationalize their sport is also described. In spite of these moments of resistance, this study ultimately shows how deeply implicated community sport—in this case high school football—is in the reproduction of class, gender, and racial inequality. The white ruling class and the town’s patriarchal system of gender relations are preserved in spite of concessions to the new ethnic challenges. When seen from a historical community perspective, sport may be less a site for progressive, counterhegemonic practices than critical sport theorists hope.

Douglas E. Foley is with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712.

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