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Rethinking the Relationships between Sport and Race in American Culture: Golden Ghettos and Contested Terrain

Douglas Hartmann

This article proposes a new way of thinking about the relationships between sport and race in the U.S. It is critical of sport’s racial form and function but does not overlook its unique and potentially progressive characteristics. This theoretical framework is generated through an extended review and critique of longstanding popular beliefs and post-1970s scholarly critiques thereof. It draws most heavily from the latter but also argues that academic critics have been too quick to dismiss the opportunities for racial resistance and change available through sport and, thus, failed to grasp the full extent to which sport is implicated in American racial formations. In contrast, sport is portrayed as a “contested racial terrain.” This formulation, in combination with the “golden ghetto” metaphor, not only conveys the complexity of racial dynamics in sport but also reveals the broad public significance of sport in a racialized culture.

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Autoethnography and Narratives of Self: Reflections on Criteria in Action

Andrew C. Sparkes

A small number of sociologists of sport have opted to produce what have been defined as autoethnographies or narratives of self. These are highly personalized accounts that draw upon the experiences of the author/researcher for the purposes of extending sociological understanding. Such work is located at the boundaries of disciplinary practices and raises questions as to what constitutes proper research. In this paper, I explore this issue by focusing upon the criteria used by various audiences to pass judgment on an autoethnography/narrative of self that I submitted to, and eventually had published, in a leading journal. The problems of having inappropriate criteria applied to this work are considered, and the charge of self-indulgence as a regulatory mechanism is discussed. Reactions to a more trusting tale are then used to signal various criteria that might be more relevant to passing judgment upon this kind of tale in the future.

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New Writing Practices in Qualitative Research

Laurel Richardson

New writing practices in qualitative research include evocative writing—a research practice through which we can investigate how we construct the world, ourselves, and others, and how standard objectifying practices of social science unnecessarily limit us and social science. Evocative representations do not take writing for granted but offer multiple ways of thinking about a topic, reaching diverse audiences, and nurturing the writer. They also offer an opportunity for rethinking criteria used to judge research and reconsidering institutional practices and their effects on community. Language is a constitutive force, creating a particular view of reality and the Self. No textual staging is ever innocent (including this one). Styles of writing are neither fixed nor neutral but reflect the historically shifting domination of particular schools or paradigms. Social scientific writing, like all other forms of writing, is a sociohistorical construction, and, therefore, mutable.

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Firm but Shapely, Fit but Sexy, Strong but Thin: The Postmodern Aerobicizing Female Bodies

Pirkko Markula

This paper aims to reconstruct the cultural dialogue surrounding the female body image in aerobics. To do this I have used several methods: ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and media analysis. I found that the media ideal is a contradiction: firm but shapely, fit but sexy, strong but thin. Likewise, women’s relationships with the media image are contradictory: They struggle to obtain the ideal body, but they also find their battles ridiculous. I interpret my findings from a Foucaultian perspective to show how the discourse surrounding the female body image is part of a complex use of power over women in postmodern consumer society. In addition, I assume a feminist perspective that assigns an active role to the individual aerobicizers to question the power arrangement.

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Disqualifying the Official: An Exploration of Social Resistance through the Subculture of Skateboarding

Becky Beal

This paper describes some of the ways in which popular culture may be a site of social resistance. The subculture of skateboarding is described as one form of popular culture that resists capitalist social relations, and the skateboarders’ particularly overt resistance to an amateur contest provides a framework for characterizing their daily and more covert behaviors of resistance. Although social resistance has the potential to change dominant social relations, it is often limited by contradictions and accommodations. In this case, the skateboarders’ sexist behavior is one of their significant contradictions. Finally, some implications of social resistance are addressed.

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Fanship and the Television Sports Viewing Experience

Walter Gantz and Lawrence A. Wenner

Employing a uses and gratifications paradigm, we expected that audience experience with televised sports would vary on the basis of fanship, with fans having a qualitatively different, deeper, and more textured set of expectations and responses than nonfans. Fans were expected to respond in similar ways, regardless of gender. Telephone interviews were completed with 707 adults residing in Los Angeles and Indianapolis. Fanship was operationalized using cognitive, affective, and behavioral bases. In this study, fanship made a difference, with fans clearly more invested in the viewing experience. Male and female sports fans reacted and responded in almost identical ways, although men generally were an insignificant shade more involved than women. However, since more males are fans, the televised sports viewing experience in many households may not be shared, even when husbands and wives watch the same TV sports program.

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Body Talk: Male Athletes Reflect on Sport, Injury, and Pain

Kevin Young, Philip White, and William McTeer

This paper examines how participation in physically demanding sport, with its potential and actual injurious outcomes, both challenges and reinforces dominant notions of masculinity. Data from 16 in-depth interviews with former and current Canadian adult male athletes indicate that sport practices privileging forceful notions of masculinity are highly valued, and that serious injury is framed as a masculinizing experience. It is argued that a generally unreflexive approach to past disablement is an extraordinary domain feature of contemporary sport. The risks associated with violent sport appear to go relatively unquestioned by men who have suffered debilitating injury and whose daily lives are marked by physical constraints and pain.

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Accepting the Risks of Pain and Injury in Sport: Mediated Cultural Influences on Playing Hurt

Howard L. Nixon II

This paper considers the nature and implications of cultural messages about risk, pain, injury, and comebacks in sport that are mediated by a popular American sports magazine. The analysis is based on evidence from a content analysis of Sports Illustrated articles, the results of which suggest that athletes are exposed to a set of mediated beliefs about structural constraints, structural inducements, general cultural values, and processes of institutional rationalization and athletic socialization that collectively convey the message that they ought to accept the risks, pain, and injuries of sport.

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Burnout among Adolescent Athletes: A Personal Failure or Social Problem?

Jay Coakley

Most explanations of burnout among young athletes identify chronic, excessive stress as the cause. Strategies for preventing burnout emphasize techniques that help athletes control stress and adjust to the conditions of sport participation. However, informal interviews with 15 adolescent athletes identified as cases of burnout suggest that the roots of burnout are grounded in the social organization of high performance sport; these roots are tied to identity and control issues. The model developed in this paper conceptualizes burnout as a social problem grounded in forms of social organization that constrain identity development during adolescence and prevent young athletes from having meaningful control over their lives. This model is intended as an alternative to more widely used stress-based models of burnout. Recommendations for preventing burnout call for changes in the social organization of high performance sport, changes in the way sport experiences are integrated into the lives of young athletes, and changes in the structure and dynamics of relationships between athletes and their significant others.

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Making Decisions: Gender and Sport Participation among British Adolescents

Jay Coakley and Anita White

This study explored the dynamics of how young people make decisions about their sport participation. In-depth semistructured interviews were conducted with 34 young men and 26 young women, ages 13–23 (only 3 were older than 18), from predominantly working-class families residing in an industrial area southeast of London. Interviews focused on descriptions of sport experiences, how young people defined and interpreted those experiences, how this influenced decisions about participation, and how participation was integrated into the rest of their lives. We found that young women and men shared concerns about their transition into adulthood and had common desires to develop and display personal competence and autonomy. However, these common concerns were significantly mediated by gender. Furthermore, gender differences were found in the ways sport experiences were defined and interpreted, in the ways that constraints related to money, parents, and opposite-sex friends operated, and in the ways that past experiences in physical education and school sports were incorporated into current decisionmaking about sport participation.