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Sociology of Sport

Many in the community are not aware that the class of Sociology of Sport is offered in the school. Many who do recognize that the class is being offered in the school may also question the value and academic merit of such a course. What people don’t see is that the world of sports is closely linked to the social world.

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Social attitudes are reflected in the world of sports. These attitudes can be seen in different ways such as the social atmosphere affecting sports, the ways in which we define sports, exempting the world of sports from the world of citizenship and deviance in sports.

Through these ways we can see how such a class can enlighten a person on sports and the real world. In this course of the Sociology of Sport, we intend to identify and understand the place of sports. We also underline the world of sports and see how the social atmosphere affects sports and vice versa. With New York City being a predominantly urban area, people who grow up in New York City are almost automatically more into the sport of basketball. The social atmosphere affects the interests of the social world largely. Being that it is an urban area, there is limited space within the city.

The space that is available is usually converted into basketball courts due to the limited space and concrete floors. There is not enough space for a large field with grass in New York City. But if you were to go out more east towards Long Island and the Suffolk counties, you will see that the social atmosphere begins to change due to society. Out in Long Island, grass and trees are seen more often than in New York City due to more open spaces for people and their homes. Larger fields and different kinds of fields are seen more often. Due to more open space, a greater interest in lacrosse, soccer, and football is very apparent.

Sports such as lacrosse is played in Long Island and never seen within the city. Long Island high school mostly have a lacrosse team while the only city high school to have a lacrosse team is Benjamin Cardozo which happens to be located in Bayside, Queens, the border between Queens and the Long Island counties. Sports participation affects family dynamics as well. The biggest dynamic that the participation of sports affects is time. Through my own experience I was able to see how much the dynamic of time was affected within our family.

During high school, I used to have soccer practice every day except for Fridays. I remember getting out of school and running to the train to be able to make soccer practice at 4PM out in Long Island. I would get home, change and wait in the car for my mother to get home from work. My mother didn’t even have the chance to eat anything as my younger brother had to be drooped off at his practice first which was in Bayside then head off to my practice in Long Island at Hofstra University. Practice would be three hours and then it would be another hour of driving to pick up my younger brother and get home.

We would arrive home around 9PM and I would have to manage to get my school work done and eat dinner with the family around 10PM. I always thought a sport was a team competition in which both teams compete to meet a goal and therefore a winner is determined. But I learned throughout the course that there are many different kinds of sports such as the ones we saw in the past winter Olympics with sports such as curling, or figure skating that are not always within a group or falls under the team category. Sport is whatever we or society, define it to be. Any organized sport requires money, equipment and time.

The rules in each sport differ. The rules change to meet the cultural needs of a society. Rules are arbitrary. For example, when playing a game of tennis there has to be an agreement between the two players or teams that hitting the ball over the net and maintaining the ball within the area of the tennis court is fair play. One player cannot smash the ball out of the court and into the parking lot and call it a win because he had the strongest hit, unless there was an agreement between the two. This is why there must be a set of rules agreed upon the two players because they can play the game of tennis differently.

A more visible example of rules changing to meet the cultural needs of a society is one that we see in our everyday lives while watching professional baseball or MLB. The Major League Baseball is divided into two leagues which are the National league and the American League. The American League has a designated hitter while the National League does not allow designated hitters within their rules. Rules do not conflict when teams of their respected leagues play against each other but when a team from the National League has to play against a team from the American League, rules conflict. Teams must now play according to home field rules.

That means if the American League team happens to be the home team, rules apply for the allowance of a designated hitter. Back in the schoolyard, basketball rules are arbitrary all the time. Rules are less strict in the schoolyard compared to rules in the NBA or in college basketball. Players also cut some slack on less talented players who may constantly commit “travels” or “double dribbles”. Sports don’t exist in a cultural vacuum but the world of sports is very much like the world of masculinity. During the course we watched a video of “Killing Us Softly”, which has to do with the study of gender representation in advertising.

It reviews if and how the image of women in advertising has changed over the last 20 years. With over 160 ads and TV commercials, as a viewer we see how women are portrayed and how the idea of masculinity is a never ending philosophy over the years. The images portray violence of women in society, such as a woman and a shadowy figure behind her. There are also ads of woman used as footstools, woman being murdered, and men as perpetrators of violence in community. The image of masculinity is deeply linked to violence. This social attitude is reflected into the world of sports with big muscular men and skinny women.

The men always want to be the bigger and stronger man on the court whether it is on a basketball court and a player preferring to slam dunk over their opponent rather than a simple lay-up or on the football field and the players creating the most violent tackle of bringing their opponent to the ground and then taunting them. Even women in the WNBA are commercialized with makeup and sexualized in a way. People even say such a great tennis player as Serena Williams looks like a man or women weight lifters being men like or called “lesbians” for their “manly” features of having big muscles.

Such players as Anna Kournikova who may have not won an important competition within their careers still manage to increase and gain more endorsements than a Serena Williams for their image of being attractive and feminine which appeal more to men and the public. Despite the many similarities that reflect from the “real world” to the world of sports, many of the realities that people would have to deal with in the “real world” they don’t have to go through in the world of sports. This raises the question of “what makes the world of sports exempt from the world of citizenship”?

An example of this situation is of violence and deviance in sports. Recently during a women’s basketball game, one of the players turned and punched one of her opponents during game play. For this act of violence the player was suspended for two games and had to give an apology to the victim. If this same situation occurred in the “real world” in the street, that would be considered an assault crime and the aggressor would have gotten sued by the victim for physically hurting someone. Players in professional sports are perceived to perform deviance when they are discovered to be using steroids for performance enhancing.

But what deviance is there in using steroids for performance enhancing if some runners sleep in oxygen tanks the night before a competition? That would also be performance enhancing by receiving large masses of oxygen before a long race. If normal people do what athletes do to their bodies that would be self destructing themselves. Athletes at times force themselves to play on bad conditions and not only that but as I explained before, many professional athletes choose, knowingly, to take and consume steroids.

Despite the proven effects, professional players still “break the rules” of sport and take such a substance to enhance their performances. Many of the social attitudes and atmospheres have proven to provide a great effect on people and the world of sports and the citizenship world. Many deviances and acts of violence show how much a difference the situation is handled in their environments. The realities and consequences of situations are different in the world of sports than to the world of citizenship. With this course I was able to learn how to relate attitudes and situations and analyze how linked both worlds are.