The relationship between the media sports fan and the sporting event closely parallels the position of the ritual participant acting out a mythic celebration. Such identification between the viewer/participant and the event has been characterized as “deep play” by Geertz (1973). However, this fan experience in the modem era is shaped not just by human face-to-face interaction, as was Geertz’s famous Balinese cockfight; instead, a specific media technology and commercial advertising provide the structure through which the public accesses media sports. This study examines grounded data on audience size and composition, advertising, commercial infrastructure and incentives, and other institutional aspects of the political economy of mass-mediated sport. What do cultural and ritual theory contribute to our understanding of the mass-mediated sports experience of today’s “deep fan”?
Michael R. Real is with the Dept. of Telecommunications and Film, and Robert A. Mechikoff is with the Dept. of Physical Education, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-0171. Request reprints from Dr. Mechikoff.