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Sport Mediatization, Connected Fans, and Playfulness: An Introduction to Parasocial Pretend Play

Jeffrey W. Kassing

In consideration of sport mediatization, mobile media, and fandom, this work introduces and outlines the phenomenon of parasocial pretend play. This is achieved by examining the popular television show Ted Lasso, which chronicles the activities surrounding fictional English football club AFC Richmond. Viewer involvement with the show, parasocial interaction with its characters, and social media use by connected fans combine to facilitate this new opportunity for playful collective engagement. By connecting concepts from parasocial interaction and play, the assessment theorizes about and documents how parasocial pretend play transpires. It also identifies factors that may disrupt parasocial pretend play, discusses the potential for its misuse, and details apparent variations of the practice.

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Escape Narratives and Regional Identity: A Case Study of the Story of Joe Burrow

Michael Clay Carey and Betsy Emmons

This case study analyzes the news media’s framing of National Football League (NFL) quarterback Joe Burrow and his background during the 2019 football season, from the announcement of Burrow as a Heisman trophy finalist to the aftermath of his selection as the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. With his heightened visibility on the field, Burrow’s background was increasingly of interest to football fans and sports journalists. It was not Burrow’s fairly “typical” family background as the child of a football coach in a nuclear family that received the most attention, but the Appalachian town of Athens, OH, where Burrow was a high school student, that became an important narrative. Emerging theme analysis suggests that sports journalists often extended idealized narratives to frame Burrow as an overcomer of a systemic cultural background with which he did not immediately identify. That narrative often utilized stereotypical representations of rural Appalachia as a place dominated by cultural poverty, highlighted representations of engrained hopelessness and lack of agency in the region, and reinforced problematic understandings of the nature of structural poverty and the ways it may be effectively challenged. The research addresses gaps in the literature about the college student-athlete in nuanced conversations about race and class in athlete-to-career narratives and notes the ways an athlete may call on such mediated tropes to extend a narrative for possible community or self-benefit.

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Interview With Sohyun Cho, Two-Time Captain of South Korea’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Team

Kyuhyun Choi, Ju Young Lee, and Alex Gang

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A Case-Study Examination of the Apologia and Antapologia of U.S. Track and Field Athlete Shelby Houlihan

Robert Hoffman, Chris Corr, and Christina L.L. Martin

In June 2021, U.S. Track and Field athlete Shelby Houlihan announced that she had tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug nandrolone and would not be competing in the upcoming Olympic trials. Maintaining her innocence, Houlihan engaged in numerous defense strategies claiming that a contaminated pork burrito accounted for the positive test. Given the unique nature of Houlihan’s defense, the present case study sought to examine both Houlihan’s use of apologia to defend herself against doping allegations and the antapologia (i.e., response) to Houlihan’s attempts at image repair. Analysis of Houlihan’s apologia suggests that despite her status as a relatively unknown female athlete, the use of social media facilitated the implementation of image-repair tactics typically used by more recognizable athletes and other public figures. The investigation of antapologia implies both a new approach to antapologia and that less recognizable athletes’ attempts at image repair are taken less seriously.

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Interview With Anthony Edgar, Former Head of International Olympic Committee Media Operations, Chair of the International Olympic Committee Press Committee

Wei Wei and Changjie Chen

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Passionate About Esports: Esports Players’ Motivation to Participate in and Watch Esports Events

Yong Chae Rhee and Kyungun Kim

Alderfer’s ERG (i.e., existence, relatedness, and growth) theory of motivation (1969) was adopted in this study to analyze individuals’ motivations for engaging in esports. This study investigated the relatively new field of esports viewership and participation by concentrating on the motivating factors behind esports consumption to establish whether esports viewership and participation are distinct markets that stand alone or are comparable to or complement each other for consumption. The study was conducted using qualitative methods consisting of semistructured focus-group interviews. The transcript was coded using open, axial, and selective coding to develop themes fitting within the ERG theory. The current study found similarities and unique findings in esports participation and consumption motivation factors under the ERG groups. Practical applications are proposed for employing the results of the study to further marketing and development efforts in this field.

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Volume 16 (2023): Issue 3 (Sep 2023): Special Issue—Social Media and Sport Communication: Critiquing the Scholarship

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Managing Organizational and Media Stress: The Case of Elite Norwegian Skiers

Elsa Kristiansen, Barrie Houlihan, and Hans Anton Stubberud

This case study focuses on how Norwegian ski jumpers performed in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and the following FIS (International Ski and Snowboard Federation) ski flying World Championships 2022 in Vikersund, Norway, despite organizational conflict at the management level and intense and sustained media coverage the entire season. Five athletes (one third of the elite squad) were interviewed about how they coped with the stressors. The results revealed two main responses: One group avoided, as far as possible, hearing or reading about the conflicts and tried to stay in their “bubble” and focus on preparing for competition. The other group chose to follow the conflicts and was more willing to interact with the media, therefore experienced a higher degree of perceived stress, and consequently needed to employ a wider range of coping strategies. The findings highlight the importance of a consistent and effective management strategy in helping athletes to focus on training and competition preparation and insulate them from stressors generated by organizational turbulence and conflicts.

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Life After the Gridiron: Examining Retired National Football League Athletes’ Self-Presentation Strategies and Follower Engagement on Instagram Personal and Business Pages

Felipe Tamayo, Natasha T. Brison, and Hailey A. Harris

As athletes enter a new chapter in their lives retiring from their sport, the challenge of upholding and enhancing personal brands arises. There has been extensive research on athlete brand building via social media; however, there have been few studies analyzing how athletes build their own brands and brand extensions postcareer, particularly former National Football League (NFL) players. Sixteen retired NFL athletes were examined using Goffman’s theory of self-presentation to determine strategies used for building personal brand extensions and obtaining follower engagement via Instagram. Through a content analysis, a total of 2,933 Instagram posts were analyzed, and the findings from this study revealed that former NFL players with fewer followers received higher engagement rates, and retired NFL players made more backstage type of posts on personal pages compared with front-stage posts. Implications, recommendations, and future research suggestions also are discussed within the paper.

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An Analysis of Agenda Setting and Framing of American Marathon Television Coverage

Michael Clemons and Austin C. Bogina

This study examined nationally televised marathon coverage of three major U.S. marathons (the Boston Marathon, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and the Tata Consultancy Services New York City Marathon) to understand how able-bodied men and women, and men and women using wheelchairs were represented. Just under 8 hr of coverage was analyzed for clock time and the descriptions of athletes divided by divisions of able-bodied men and women and wheelchair athlete men and women. Able-bodied women received the majority of clock time in Boston and Chicago, while able-bodied men received the majority of clock time in New York City. Athletes using wheelchairs, both men and women, received much smaller amounts of coverage, especially in New York City. Women received more announcer mentions in all three races, with a heavier focus on their background, coaching, and emotion, although the only statistically significant category was emotion. Experience and race strategy/training were heavily emphasized for all divisions. Through this analysis, race producers have more guidance on how to cover future marathons in a more equitable and appropriate manner.