Repression at the Ball Park
In an age marked by increasingly lowered expectations for human conduct, it should come as little surprise that measures to repel or otherwise retard the encroachment of behaviors that cut across the grain of contemporary life have become more Draconian than ever. Nowhere is this more evident than in sport stadiums across America. More
In an age marked by increasingly lowered expectations for human conduct, it should come as little surprise that measures to repel or otherwise retard the encroachment of behaviors that cut across the grain of contemporary life have become more Draconian than ever. Nowhere is this more evident than in sport stadiums across America.
To be sure, today’s ballparks are geared toward what are now referred to as a family-friendly environment, which in actuality is a not-so-subtle euphemism for mind your manners (in the most Victorian sense), leaving the taking in of a ballgame, that once-revered palliative, into a moral quagmire reflective of a most anxious time. What would have once been considered merely noise now consumes the public’s attention, whether it is Sports Illustrated’s overtly sardonic Rick Reilly riffing on the sophomoric antics of zealous collegiate spectators (Reilly 2006), or the plethora of do’s and don’ts that tumble blithely from the loudspeakers affixed to the nation’s stadiums, it has become apparent that the once-embraced notion of the ballpark as the gathering space where all walks could celebrate the beauty of athletic excellence in its universal splendor has become an entirely different matter altogether, and one that has very little to do with sport and everything to do with more contemporary concerns that end with public behavior being an exceedingly top-down concern. Scottish football scholar Carlton Brick (2000, p. 161) once forecast this phenomenon through his designation of a palpable deproletarianisation of sport, one that he maintains is swabbed with the antiseptic of family values while lacking anything more substantive than a reminder that when it comes to boorishness, misbehavior, and all points in between, nobody does it better than the common bloke.
Although Brick’s description certainly falls short of a declaration in that it reflects inductive reasoning, much support for Brick’s interpretation lies in the compilation of others’ musings on related matters, which by our estimation calls for a more thorough analysis. Thus, while a more family-friendly (read smoke- and cuss- free) stadium environment seems on the surface to be a welcome change from the once smoke-laden and presumably curse-happy stadium of yesteryear, the more insidious nature of this trend has yet to be fully realized let alone explored in a critical sense. Still, as sport becomes an increasingly appealing and effective means for instilling burgeoning cultural values, the introduction, or in some respects the re-introduction, of decorum expectations through various sporting environments takes on an entirely new, sociological, significance.