Team Sports, Seasonal Histories, Significant Events: Little League Baseball and the Creation of Collective Meaning

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 University of Minnesota
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Team sports typically depend for their meaning on the existence of a season—a string of games which, taken together, constitute the basis of success or failure. Further, teams are organized into leagues that compete against each other to see which team will gain the highest ranking, that is, which team can win one more game than any of its competitors. In this analysis, based on a 3-year participant observation study of five Little League baseball leagues, I suggest some ways in which teams sports has a historical focus. Specifically I point to the important role of statistics and records, the role of collective expectations in constructing the meaning of a season, and the role of important games and events in structuring recall. Seasons are structured like plays or novels in that they have beginnings and climaxes, or at least definite endings that can be referred to after the season. The essence of sport is not exercise, but memory.

The author wishes to thank Harold Pontiff, C. Steven West, and Sherry1 Kleinman for their help with the manuscript. A version of this paper was presented at the meetings of The Anthropological Association for the Study of Play, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, February 1983.

Direct all correspondence to Gary Alan Fine, Dept. of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455.
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