There are several theoretical perspectives of looking at sports from the sociology of sports view including conflict, functionalist, interactions, and feminist. The most useful though, in looking at the sociology of sports is the functionalist view. Functionalist regard sports as an almost religious institution that uses ritual and ceremony to reinforce the common values of a society (Ekern, 2013). This means that functionalist view sports by the competition and patriotism of the younger generation and assist in maintaining a person’s physical condition.
Not only do sports function as a safety valve for the viewers and the athletes for shedding destructive and tension energy in a way that is socially acceptable, but sports also assist in the joining of members of a community. The functionalist view seems to be the most appropriate over the other views in examining the sociology of sports. There are many reasons why the functionalist view is the most useful to use in viewing the sociology of sports.
A big reason why the functionalist view is better is because many small communities spread throughout the world are built upon sports, especially in small communities that are not near any big cities. Sports are all they have in common and motivate the communities. Another reason is that the spectators and athletes always act in a different manner when they are either watching the sport or playing it, which is usually in an aggressive manner. When they are not watching the sport or discussing it they are usually completely different people.
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The last good reason is that it does help to maintain a person’s physical appearance, whether it is athletes staying in shape so they can be in top condition to compete or people that are ran by the idea of sports and want to stay in shape just like the athletes do. Sociology of sports, also referred to as sports sociology, is the study of the relationship between sports and society (Crossman, 2013). Aside from the functionalist view on sports sociology there other areas of study that are closely looked at, such as sports and gender, sports and media, and sports and gender and identity.
Sports and gender targets man and women playing sports. Women were not even allowed to play sports until after the 1930’s because it was considered too masculine for them. Even in today’s age you never hear of women playing football or hockey, except maybe as a kid at school, and that is even very rare. Nowadays though in some sports they have a men’s team and a women’s team, such as basketball. There are even women that train in wrestling and boxing. The media is also another study of the sociology of sports that plays the games on the television.
While the media will cover the men on football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and pro wrestling, the sports that are usually covered for the women are figure skating, diving, gymnastics, and skiing. The media will also keep the audiences informed of player’s accomplishments and achievements. The gender identity of sports is another topic that often looked at because of sports having gender specific roles that is acceptable by society. Women are generally always treated more harshly in sports than men especially at younger ages.
One reason that sports engage scholarly interests is because of the teaching of important values (Lewis, 2008). Sports sociology has studied higher education and sport and sport as a functional alternative to religion. Gender and racial discrimination in sports have also been studied, as well as social mobility on the basis of sport success that includes race and gender Another area that has been studied is the social problems of the sport that includes drugs, sports violence, and injuries.
As you can see, all areas and aspects of sports, whether it was in the past or present day have been studied and as always to any debate everyone has a different view and perspective. There is no right or wrong answers to the sociology of sports, just opinions on different circumstances. The reason that people participate in sports, whether it is a fan, player, or a business is for the love of the sport and the profits. Some people just love the sport, while others try to make as big a profit as they can. Sports answer to a humans needs by providing a competitive entertaining experience.
Sports can be explained from a sociological point of view as a necessity to most community’s different needs and circumstances. Baseball is a favorite pastime that dates as far back as 2000 B. C. with a ball and stick type games. However, the first rules were written by Alexander Cartwright, considered to be the Father of modern baseball (Penn, 2006). Alexander was part of the NY Knickerbockers, which was the first organization to play baseball in America that was established on September 23, 1845. In 1858, the National Association of Base Ball
Players (NABBP) were created and known as the first baseball league. It wasn’t until 1860 though, that it was commonly referred to as “the National pastime” in several publications. Baseball is one of America’s most played sports and continually competitive against other teams and between individuals, especially in today’s age of baseball. The Sociodemographic description of fans and players of baseball is simple. The average MLB player rakes in over $2,000,000 a year if they are eligible for arbitration, which could come from disparate socioeconomic groups and from different countries.
The average fan has an income of 30,000 to 40,000 a year and the high up luxury seats are for professionals that are in a very high income bracket and the corporate types. Being that baseball is very popular and has a very high income potential, it is definitely a professional sport. Baseball fits in to contemporary American life by giving fans something to always talk about. This sport gives society a certain set of values that fans and players live by. There are also culture trends that have impacted the sport of baseball.
In fact, look at the roster of just about any Major League Baseball team, and you’ll find many of the most talented players coming from Latin American countries (Thomas, 2007). The media constantly reports on baseball, which gives the fans something to always talk, such as if they lost or won a game. If you look at the players, most of them are younger in age and usually are not over 40. All major league players are also male, which affect the views for the fans on the sport. As a beginning sociologist, the meaning of baseball as a social institution is very clear.
Baseball is talked about, whether it is off season or every game, either loss or win, that gives fans something to always talk about. Over half of America enjoys this past time and every single one of them has their own opinion, depending on their team of choice and the opposing teams. Baseball is a sport that is great to attend in person, in order to get the full effect of the national past time. The baseball game that I had the chance of observing was the Rangers versus the Angels. The setting of the baseball field was split between the Ranger fans, which was a home game and the Angels fans.
The field was a big diamond shape with for bases that the players have to run after a successful hit to the ball that the pitcher is throwing at them. There were also players from the opposing team that were stationed at each base and in the field closer to the stands. I notice that the environment changed drastically after each successful hit that made it close to the stands. Most of the fans would stand with excitement and all the players would scramble to get the ball and the player that hit it would try to run to as many bases before the is taken control of.
The fans that were at the game that I attended were in their mid 20s to early 40s. The fans were a majority of men, but there were women there too. It seemed like a majority of the fans also wore their favorite player shirts and got excited every time the player hit the ball. It seemed that the fans age ration compared to the players were on the same levels. Most baseball player retires by time their 40, so the age comparison was evenly matched, from what I saw. The social behaviors that stood out were most fans would purchase a hot dog and beer from the concessions. It is always tradition to purchase a hot dog”, some of the fans would say. Fans would also be in groups for supporting their favorite teams. One special language and knowledge that characterizes the sport is Home Run. One particular behavior that I witnessed at the game was that when one team is winning the fans are excited and cheering and when their favorite team is losing they are booing and unhappy. Being at the Rangers game made me aware of people’s behavior and surroundings and was a great experience to participate in. Sports use to be a big part of my life when I was a kid.
I can remember collecting the Tops baseball cards with the hard piece of gum in it. It seems that every time I got some money I would go purchase the cards. Now that I look back, I realize that was my sociology behavior of being a fan. I also played baseball in school a lot, as well as other sports, such as football and basketball. When I was playing my attitude always changed to a competitive nature and I always got the mindset of crushing the opposing team. When I look back, I was two different people when I switched from a fan to a player and vice versa.
The experiences of being a fan and a player as a kid didn’t have a huge impact to my adult life. I think that maybe that I played and watched sports too much as a kid, because I don’t have much interest in sports in my adult life. I read the newspaper to learn who wins and who is playing, but that is about it. I just learn enough to hold a conversation with my coworkers and friends and that’s it. So I guess the role that it plays in my life is that I played and watched it so much that it has caused me to lose interest in it.
I can see how my experiences can connect me to others who are sports fans and participants. Sports are very big for kids in school and always have been. Most kids have shared the experiences that I have growing up. I’m not sure if they still sell Tops, but nonetheless kids are easily influenced and they do what everyone else is doing. Since so many adults like to watch sports and participate, it is a good assumption to say that most kids participate in some way or another, whether it is being a fan or participating in the sport itself.
- Crossman, A. (2013). Sociology of Sports. Retrieved from http://sociology.about.com/od/Disciplines/a/Sociology-Of-Sports.htm.
- Ekern, J. (2013). Looking at Sports from Four Theoretical Perspectives. Retrieved from Article at Colorado Technical University Online.
- Lewis, J. (2008). Sociology of Sports. Retrieved from Kent State University at http://www.cengage.com/custom/enrichment_modules/data/0495598127_Sociology_of_Sports-mod_watermark.pdf.
- Penn, F. (2006). Early History of Baseball in America. Retrieved from Favorite Traditions. Com at http://www.favoritetraditions.com/baseball.html.
- Thomas, W. (2007). Sports – How Culture Impacts Our Choices. Retrieved from Ezine Articles at http://ezinearticles.com/?Sports---How-Culture-Impacts-Our-Choices&id=932334.
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