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Timothy Jon Curry

This study examines the effects of winning a college letter on the sport identity of athletes participating at different levels of competition. The sample consisted of 276 male and 229 female athletes drawn from similar teams from three colleges in Ohio. The colleges were affiliated with the NCAA Divisions I and III and the NAIA. It was hypothesized that winning a letter would strengthen the sport identity, and that athletes participating at the higher level of competition would have the greater sport identity. Results confirmed both hypotheses. In addition, the sport identities of male and female athletes were compared. Importantly, no significant gender differences were found in the rating of sport importance, hours spent in sport, and the social relations obtained through sport. Men, however, showed greater competitive motivation and women greater identification with the role of athlete.

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Marni Brown, Erin Ruel and Stephanie Medley-Rath

In light of the increasing participation of girls/women in sport, we investigate the attitudes of high school boys and girls toward potential increased opportunities for girls’ to participate in sport. There has been little research on high school students’ attitudes toward girls’ sport participation decomposed by gender and athletic status. We find that, on average, high school students are supportive of increased opportunities for girls to participate in sport. Girls are more supportive than boys on average. While there is no difference among girls by athletic status, male competitive athletes show the most negative attitudes toward opportunities for girls to participate in sport compared with male noncompetitive athletes. Lastly, racial minority groups express positive attitudes toward increased opportunities for girls to participate in sport compared with whites.

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Stephan R. Walk

A constitutive view of metaphor is used to examine speeches of Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. This analysis shows Johnson’s establishment of the metaphor of the footrace to describe life in the United States and Reagan’s attempt to contest this metaphor. Johnson’s rhetoric appealed to the notion of the “starting line” and the need for government to establish equal competitive conditions. Reagan appealed to the “runners” and argued that individual competitors need to rely on athletic “character” rather than government to succeed. It is argued that attention to the sport metaphor in public discourse as well as to the theoretical points raised in its analysis is needed in the sociology of sport.

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Kenneth Sheard

This study takes an activity, birdwatching, which would appear to fall into the category of leisure activity, and argues using Norbert Elias’s theory of civilizing processes that birdwatching incorporates many of the characteristics of “civilized” sport. The focus is not on birdwatching per se but upon specific types of birdwatching activity: birding and twitching. The suggestion that birding is symbolic hunting is examined, and it is argued that the link between a relatively benevolent and scientific interest in birds and the “real” sport of hunting is historically much closer than often recognized. It is further suggested that the post-war popularization of birdwatching in Britain led to its routinization and a decline in its excitement-generating properties. Competitive birding restored some of the activity’s sport-like excitement, but birding was itself routinized and supplemented by twitching, an even more sport-like activity.

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Debra Gimlin

While violence among the fans of competitive sports has received much scholarly attention (e.g., Elias & Dunning, 1986; Giulianotti, 2005), far less has been written about aggression targeted at community athletes like public runners. Yet accounts of such harassment figure prominently in runners’ own narratives. This article explores the phenomenon of runner harassment through these accounts and my own experiences as a long-time public runner, drawing first from the literature on fan aggression and second, from sociological work concerning behavior in public places more generally (e.g., Gardner, 1980, 1995; Goffman, 1963). It argues that jogger harassment can be understood in relation to the particular bodily form that running takes—that is, to the sweating, disheveled, panting body of public running—which both violates rules of public vs. private bodily display and signals an unacceptable degree of “involvement” (Goffman, 1963) in the activity and, ultimately, the self.

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Linda Kalof

Blood sport—the practice of pitting animals against each other (or against humans) in bloody combat to the death—is a tragic form of human entertainment that has been resilient since antiquity. While animal blood sport is a form of human driven sport related violence that involves the abuse and suffering of other animals (Young 2012), it also provides an “identity prop” (Dunning 1999): all male competitive sports and games provide men with a way to demonstrate masculinity by feminizing opponents (Dundes 1997). This theoretical argument has not been systematically analyzed in the sociology of sport, and my essay is an attempt to fill that gap. I examine animal blood sport with a focus on its connection to the validation of masculinity and heterosexuality.

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Gordon A. Bloom and Michael D. Smith

Cultural spillover theory holds that the more a society tends to legitimate the use of violence to attain ends for which there is widespread social approval, the greater the likelihood of illegitimate violence. This study was a test of cultural spillover theory as it applies to hockey violence. Based on data from a representative sample survey of Toronto hockey players and a comparison group of nonplayers, we tested the proposition that violence in hockey “spills over” into violence in other social settings. The results offer support for a cultural spillover explanation of hockey violence. Older players in highly competitive select-leagues were more likely to approve of violence and to act violently in other social settings than were younger select-league players, house-league players, and nonplayers of all ages.

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Jimmy A. Frazier and Eldon E. Snyder

The tension and excitement of competitive sport is created by the indeterminacy of the contest that is based on an approximate equity between the contestants. Yet players and teams vary in competence and prestige, and those with less competence are frequently labeled as the underdog. While winning is valued, cross-cutting values often create sentiments for the underdog, that is, the desire for the underdog to overcome the inferior status and upset the favored opponent. Social support for the underdog reflects a utilitarian perspective that helps maintain an emotional interest in a contest; additionally, underdogs receive support from the social value of equity. At a microlevel, the underdog status is often used to increase the level of motivation and performance. Data gathered from university students are used to support the positions taken in the paper.

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Nancy Theberge

This article examines elite athletes’ understandings of the relationship between sport participation and health. Data are taken from interviews with 20 male and female athletes. Athletes’ assessments of the impact of sport on health and wellbeing include attributions of negative, positive, and, most often, mixed outcomes. In these elite athletes’ conceptualizations of health, injury and illness are subordinated to a view of health as capacity, and the primary frame of reference in which they consider capacity is their immediate competitive careers. Respondents’ accounts of efforts to manage the threats to their health that are posed by their sporting activity frequently convey a disembodied notion of the athletic body as an object to be managed.

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Kalevi Heinilä

The official value orientation of international sport emphasizes common good causes such as international understanding, peace, friendship, and Olympic solidarity. However, when nations compete in international sport events their operational goals are defined in terms of national interests and materialized in terms of competitive success. This is a basic dilemma and contradiction in international sport, and it is clearly evident in the Olympic movement. While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) operates on the basis of common good causes, the national Olympic committees (NOCs) operate on the basis of national interests. In fact, the NOCs are even reluctant to supervise any rules and resolutions interfering with this national pursuit of success, let alone recognize the common good values in international sport. In this paper it is hypothesized that international sport is vulnerable to a legitimation crisis because it is premised on values that are incompatible with the values and policies that guide involvement at the national level. This hypothesis is based on the results of a semantic differential pilot study through which the basic ideological concepts of international sport are compared with the operational concepts underlying national sport systems. It is concluded that since we know very little about the meanings people assign to international sport, it is difficult to make statements about the consequences of international events.