The Oglala Lakota basketball teams of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are one of the most competitive programs in the state of South Dakota. They are, however, competing for state honors in one of the most racist climates in the country. My ethnographic study looks at how the Lakota navigate these perilous waters. Using Turner’s view of performance; and Scott’s theories of cultural resistance, I have characterized Lakota basketball as ‘engaged acrimony.’ Teams representing subaltern communities may use sport to carve out spheres of resistance that force those socially more power communities to grudgingly acknowledge the momentary reversal of the social order. Additionally, in these symbolic victories the Lakota craft narratives of victory that fuel cultural pride and further their resolve to withstand the racist climate they live in.
This study examines racial tolerance through the intersection of the media, fans, and the Boston Red Sox. Through the 1998 season Red Sox home games in which Dominican Pedro Martinez pitched attracted large numbers of Latinos. This marked the first time that large numbers of people of color regularly attended Fenway Park. Media reports simultaneously promoted both an awareness of this cultural phenomenon and portrayed it as widely applauded. In presenting a story of Boston’s “embracing the ace,” the media reports also wound up pushing a view of widespread approval of the new Latino presence both in Fenway and society at large. This study sought to compare the impressions of widespread exuberance for Martinez and the Dominicans at the Park with actual interviews of those Anglos at the Park. It also sought to examine what motivated the Dominicans to attend in such large numbers and to so publicly celebrate their identity. The results showed that Anglos held a fractured view about Dominicans: a very positive view of Pedro Martinez as a Dominican but a fairly evenly split view of Dominicans in general. For their part, Dominicans were unconcerned with what Anglos thought and came to the game only to lend support to their Latino hero, as well as bask in his reflected glow. One methodological conclusion arrived at is that media content analysis must be cross checked against some sort of data and must not be assumed to accurately reflect social reality.
Alan M. Klein
While the projection of ideal images is very important in American culture, it is in the subculture and sport of bodybuilding that it gets carried to the extreme. A 4-year study of bodybuilding’s mecca—Southern California—revealed a fundamental set of discrepancies between what the subculture projects as ideal and what actually goes on. These discrepancies are examined to determine which ones result from changes that have taken place in body-building and which are structural to it. It is shown that as the sport/subculture altered its image to achieve cultural respectability, it inadvertently created new problems. The shifts are examined within the context of studies of deviance and point to the need for long-term ethnography in sport sociology.
Alan M. Klein
Alan M. Klein
This study examines the political-economy of baseball in the Dominican Republic from a critical perspective. As such, the presence of American major league teams is seen to have a deleterious structural effect on the autonomy and quality of baseball in the Dominican Republic. In particular, in attempting to develop the game, U.S. interests—like those of other multinationals—are underdeveloping the game. A second dimension to this study views baseball as an American popular cultural form that functions to soften the regular, hostile responses of Dominicans to American political and economic domination of their country. Thus, while serving to reproduce U.S. control, baseball takes on the appearance of a benevolent, even helpful, cultural institution.
Alan M. Klein
This study examines the social and cross-cultural aspects of masculinity through an ethnographic assessment of a Mexican League baseball team. The institution and meaning of “machismo” are examined along three indices of emotion: expression of vulnerability and hurt, reactions to children, and expression of physicality. The view widely held by North Americans that Latino and Latin American men are one-dimensional machos is critiqued. It is argued that, rather than comprising a single category, machismo exists along a continuum of masculinity from more to less macho. Cross-cultural comparisons of masculinity between Mexican and Anglo baseball players were also observed, with Mexican players shown as more capable of exhibiting “tender” emotions than their North American teammates. Finally, the study of emotions is shown to also have social consequences for nationalism.
Jeffrey Benedict and Alan Klein
Arrest and conviction rates, for male collegiate and professional athletes accused of felony sexual assault against women are compared with national crime data to determine whether elite athletes receive preferential treatment by the criminal justice system. The research is based on 217 criminal complaints against athletes filed with police between 1986 and 1995. The findings indicate that allegations of sexual assault involving collegiate or professional athletes are far more likely to result in an arrest and in an indictment. Nonetheless, athletes are significantly less likely to be convicted.
Alan M. Klein
In looking at the “Americanization” of sport in other societies, we are essentially looking at a version of cultural colonialism. Sport, as a segment of popular culture, is certainly an effective form of promoting cultural hegemony. However, this essay argues for the use of cultural resistance as an opposing notion. Based on the author’s study of Dominican baseball, the picture of a tension between hegemonic and resistant cultural forces is summarized and offered as a model to other sports researchers. The Dominican study examined the structural properties of major league baseball’s domination of the sport in the Caribbean. Resistance to major league baseball was not structurally apparent and required looking at more subtle indices. Fans’ preferences for symbols, content analysis of the sports pages in Santo Domingo, and examples of concrete behavior were looked at. Other researchers may find different indices more appropriate, but the use of sport related phenomena are felt to be valuable sources.