Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Cultureby Andrei S. Markovits, Lars Rensmann
Professional sports today have truly become a global force, a common language that anyone, regardless of their nationality, can understand. Yet sports also remain distinctly local, with regional teams and the fiercely loyal local fans that follow them. This book examines the twenty-first-century phenomenon of global sports, in which professional teams and their… See more details below
Professional sports today have truly become a global force, a common language that anyone, regardless of their nationality, can understand. Yet sports also remain distinctly local, with regional teams and the fiercely loyal local fans that follow them. This book examines the twenty-first-century phenomenon of global sports, in which professional teams and their players have become agents of globalization while at the same time fostering deep-seated and antagonistic local allegiances and spawning new forms of cultural conflict and prejudice.
Andrei Markovits and Lars Rensmann take readers into the exciting global sports scene, showing how soccer, football, baseball, basketball, and hockey have given rise to a collective identity among millions of predominantly male fans in the United States, Europe, and around the rest of the world. They trace how these global--and globalizing--sports emerged from local pastimes in America, Britain, and Canada over the course of the twentieth century, and how regionalism continues to exert its divisive influence in new and potentially explosive ways. Markovits and Rensmann explore the complex interplay between the global and the local in sports today, demonstrating how sports have opened new avenues for dialogue and shared interest internationally even as they reinforce old antagonisms and create new ones.
Gaming the World reveals the pervasive influence of sports on our daily lives, making all of us citizens of an increasingly cosmopolitan world while affirming our local, regional, and national identities.
David M. Shribman
Peter C. Caldwell
"This book is a valuable contribution to the burgeoning study of sport in a global perspective. . . . Markovits and Rensmann's erudite analysis presents many of the key issues and offers interesting points to consider as the sports world continues to change at a remarkable pace."John Harris, Times Higher Education
"[Gaming the World is a] very readable guide to the recent globalisation of sport by academics who understand both US and European sports. Packed with examples, from David Beckham to Kobe Bryant, the book explores the tension between sport's globalisation and the fact that most teams still arouse the greatest emotions in their local areas."Financial Times (FT Critics Pick 2010)
"[Markovits and Rensmann] set forth a number of provocative notions growing out of the internationalization of sports stars and the globalization of soccer (the result, they smartly argue, of Britain's reach in the 19th century)."David M. Shribman, Bloomberg
"Fascinating on matters both largethe late 19thcentury dissemination of newly codified sports from two competing economic and cultural 'cores' (Britain/Europe and North America) to countries around the worldand small: the spread in recent years, from North America to Europe, of the wave, high fives and player tattoos. Best of all is their discussion of how high-end sports have managed to go global, so that Manchester United boasts fans from Beijing to Lima, while maintaining the local identities that give teams their emotional power."Brian Bethune, Macleans
"Markovits and Rensmann provide a valuable contribution to the literature on global sport. Sports are changing at a remarkable pace, and they provide a way to communicate globally using a common language. Looking at soccer, basketball, football, baseball, and hockey, the authors illustrate the dynamics of change and highlight the influences of globalization at local and international levels."Choice
"Gaming the World is so well researched and presented that its readers, who will likely already possess a solid base of sports knowledge, will find themselves agreeing with much that is there, nodding along with the revelation of facts and statistics as if they knew them all along. This is to the credit of the authors, as in most cases the depth of the material presented will greatly enrich the reader's understanding of the issues, while also providing a very satisfying confirmation of previously held suspicions. . . . Gaming the World, with its detailed study of how sports affect globalization and how globalization affects the culture of sports, is a broad step forward for this academic discipline as a whole."Jonathan Lutes, IP Global
"[T]hey are fluent in the language of sport, knowledgeable guides through its history, and thoughtful thinkers about its impact."Jeremy Schaap, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs
"[A]n informative page-turner, which will be valuable for scholars of the GDR, graduate students concerned with methodology, and undergraduates studying modern German history."Peter C. Caldwell, German History
"T]he book merits attention for overdue insights into a brassy, invigorating, and value-shaping facet of contemporary life that too many intellectuals ignore at their perilone the masses know well enough to take to heart and mind ('the wisdom of the crowd')."Arthur B. Shostak, European Legacy
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THE GAMING WORLDHOW SPORTS ARE RESHAPING GLOBAL POLITICS AND CULTURE
By ANDREI S. MARKOVITS LARS RENSMANN
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2010 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.
Chapter OneINTRODUCTION: GOING GLOBAL-SPORTS, POLITICS, AND IDENTITIES
Sports matter. They hold a singular position among leisure time activities and have an unparalleled impact on the everyday lives of billions of people. We show how, why, and for whom this has been the case for well over a century on both sides of the Atlantic. Analyzing the continuities and changes that have characterized sports cultures in the United States and Europe, we find complex processes involving global transformations alongside persistent local and national factors.
This book poses the following questions: How has a continuing process that we call "postindustrialization" and "second globalization" transformed sports? More specifically, How have developments since roughly the 1970s-in the advanced industrial capitalist economies of the liberal democracies of the United States and Europe-altered key aspects of contemporary sports cultures? And, to what degree have globalized sports and their participating athletes in turn influenced postindustrial societies and identities? Which role do sports play in globalization, and to what extent are they an engine of cosmopolitan political and cultural change? At the same time, how have sports successfully maintained traditions in the continuing battles for their very identities? And how have sports reconciled the new challenges that have emerged by their becoming globalizing cultural forces with new affiliations and allegiances far beyond local and national venues? To resolve this puzzle, we examine the global, national, and local layers of the dynamics that comprise present-day sports in Europe and America.
Our approach follows the Hegelian notion of Aufhebung, a German term that means both "preserving" and "transcending." Many of the distinctive cultural narratives and special patterns that first shaped sports cultures as we know them in the late nineteenth century-in the wake of globalization's first wave-now continue unabated, perhaps even augmented, in a global arena. Yet, we argue that even as the national and the local continue to be resilient forces, the substantial changes befalling sports through the processes of second globalization-and the cosmopolitan changes accompanying it-also transcend national and local affiliations.
Both terms-cosmopolitanism and globalization-are equally disputed. We conceive of cosmopolitanism broadly as the respect for strangers and the universal recognition of individuals independent of their cultural or racial background, citizenship, and heritage. Thus hegemonic sports, as part of popular culture, play a crucial role in shaping more inclusive collective identities and a cosmopolitan outlook open to complex allegiances. While local fans identify with their teams, they also want to watch the very best players perform at the peak of their game. This, in turn, leads these fans to accept, even admire and love, "foreign" players and those belonging to ethnic minorities whom these fans otherwise might have ignored, or possibly disdained and hated. In other words, the sport consumers' wish to watch and follow the best of the best may enhance acceptance of an otherwise possibly disliked "other." Sports, in this cosmopolitan context, fulfill what Robert Putnam has so aptly called "bridging capital," an integrative force among different groups and their cultural boundaries. Yet, in the very process of doing so, sports also conjure up forces that reaffirm emotions and identities akin to Putnam's "bonding capital," a hardening of boundaries among different constituencies and their cultures.
Global Players, the Power of Sports, and Globalization
Sports shape and stabilize social and even political identities around the globe; and, we are certain, that they do so today to an unprecedented extent. They mobilize collective emotions and often channel societal conflicts. Small wonder then that sports are also the subject of a vast array of popular literature on heroes, legends, club histories, championships, and games. Sports subjects appear in popular movies, television series, and various other narratives that captivate millions, even billions, of people around the world. Sports have evolved into an integral part of the global entertainment industry. In recent years, this formidable feature of our cultural landscape has attracted increasing interest and legitimacy as an important subject of intellectual inquiry.
Sporting events are far and away the most watched television programs in the world. The last World Cup Tournament-held in Germany in the summer of 2006-attracted approximately thirty billion viewers, with more than two billion of the world's population watching the final match alone. And one need only consider the record number that tuned in to watch at least some events of the most recent summer Olympics in Beijing. Billions watched the sensational feats of Michael Phelps in the pool and Usain Bolt on the track. While the global audience for the Beijing Olympics was enhanced by the Internet for the first time, thus boosting the global viewership well beyond its traditional television boundaries, this event, like all televised Olympics since the Rome Games in 1960, created a global village around sports like few other events ever have. Thus, for example, the National Football League's (NFL) annual Super Bowl reaches an estimated 160 million people across the globe, while the European Champions League final bests that number by almost fifty million. Add to that the hundreds of millions that watch the Rugby World Cup, the Cricket World Cup, and the NBA Finals on a regular basis, and it is clear that these sports have become global spectacles.
Sports' major protagonists have mutated into global icons. Soccer heroes such as David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, and Thierry Henry are recognized and admired the world over. So are their basketball equivalents: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki, and LeBron James. And Tiger Woods is in a class all by himself. Many teams also exhibit this kind of global charisma: Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona, Manchester United FC, Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC, Arsenal FC, FC Bayern München, Juventus Turin, AC Milan, and FC Internazionale Milano (Inter) in soccer; the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics in basketball; the New York Yankees in baseball; the Dallas Cowboys in American football; and an array of teams from the National Hockey League (NHL) have attracted attention well beyond the immediate confines of their actual purview. Likewise for some team owners, sports embody symbolic, social and "cultural capital" at least as much as they fulfill monetary interests. In many cases, such teams are not even profitable and represent a financial burden. However, they invariably serve as sources of pride and social status for their owners.
There is sound evidence that sports teams are rarely profitable on either side of the Atlantic and yet they are hotly desired treasures. Abu Dhabi's ruling family purchased Manchester City from the former Thai prime minister and multibillionaire Thaksin Shinawatra in good part to outdo their rivals, the rulers of Dubai, who have succeeded in making their Persian Gulf spot among the premier sports venues of the world. It is indeed mainly for ornamental reasons that investors are so keen on owning prestigious sport teams. More than half of the English Premier League's twenty clubs are owned by foreign businessmen and virtually none of them purchased these clubs for profit. To be sure, the acquisition of professional sports teams is much easier in the franchise system dominating the North American sports scene as well as the increasingly corporate structure of top-level English football than the club-based system still common on the European continent where even the most prominent teams in such eminent leagues as Spain's Primera Division and Germany's Bundesliga are owned by the clubs' members. The German-speaking world's "Verein" which all of Austria's and Germany's soccer clubs are, constitutes a sort of pre- or extra-capitalist structure and culture where "regular" market-based exchange and property relations in terms of club ownership do not pertain. Yet despite the proliferation of foreign owners in the English Premier League, and the increasingly global appeal and multicultural value of these eminent sports entities, virtually all team owners are citizens of the countries in which these clubs are located. Thus, for example, in the big four American sports, all principal team owners continue to remain North American with the exception of Hiroshi Yamauchi, third president of the Japanese video game giant Nintendo, who, since 1992, has been the majority owner of Major League Baseball's (MLB) Seattle Mariners. At the time of this writing (fall of 2009), there is movement afoot to have Mikhail D. Prokhorov, widely considered the richest man in Russia, become the second non-North American principal owner of a major sports franchise, in this case the NBA's New Jersey (perhaps soon-to-be Brooklyn) Nets. So the local and national have far from disappeared from the ownership even of the most globalized entities in modern sports, let alone their local representatives.
Sports bestow much social capital and ornamental prestige not only on such flamboyant men as Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks; Jerry Jones, owner of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys; Silvio Berlusconi, owner of Italian soccer's AC Milan; and George Steinbrenner in his early days as owner of the New York Yankees; but also on quiet, indeed quasistealthy, media-shy ones like the legendary, almost mythical Philip F. Anschutz. He still operates four Major League Soccer (MLS) franchises in the United States, and is arguably the sole reason that this fledgling league has existed and survived. It is thus not surprising that MLS's ultimate championship trophy be named the Philip F. Anschutz Cup, and that this man's efforts on soccer's behalf in the United States were rewarded by his subsequent induction into the United States Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York. Tellingly, SoccerAmerica, the country's leading soccer publication, graced the cover of its thirty-fifth anniversary issue with a photograph of Anschutz and listed him as top choice among the thirty-five people (players, officials, journalists, coaches, managers, owners) deemed by the magazine as having had the greatest impact on American soccer. Anschutz not only maintains the largest investment by anybody in American soccer, through his Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), but also owns the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL and the city's fabled Staples Center, the Berlin hockey team Eisbären and their O2 Arena, as well as the eponymous entertainment venue in London. Moreover, AEG-among its myriad sports and entertainment projects around the globe-is in the process of teaming up with the NBA to build many state-of-the art basketball arenas in China. Even though it is unlikely that anybody can rival Anschutz as a major player in international sports, he refuses any and all interviews, eschews all publicity, and continues his pioneering work away from the glare that such sports can-and do-bestow on those that seek it.
And somewhere between the flamboyance of the Berlusconis, the Joneses, and the Cubans on the one hand, and the secretiveness of the Glazers (owners of the English Premier League's glamour club Manchester United and the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Anschutz's on the other, is Lamar Hunt, legendary Texas oilman and member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame (inducted in 1972), the Soccer Hall of Fame (inducted in 1982), and the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island (inducted in 1993). Hunt commenced his remarkable sportsteam and -league-owning career as a cofounder of the old American Football League, which then mutated into the American Football Conference (AFC) of the NFL in 1970. Hunt's name continues to grace the trophy of the AFC's champion and his heirs (he died in 2006) still own the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. Hunt was one of the true pioneers of major league professional soccer in the United States. He was a cofounder of the glamorous but short-lived North American Soccer League (NASL) and subsequently a major force behind the establishment of Major League Soccer in 1996. He owned (and his heirs continue to own) the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas. Indeed, the United States Open Cup in soccer, established in 1914 and the oldest annual team tournament in all of American sports, now bears Hunt's name in honor of his pioneering role in that sport.
Clearly, men like Hunt and Anschutz, as well as their counterparts in Europe and now increasingly Asia, represent "global players" first and foremost in the world of business, but also in the world of sports. Indeed, it is mainly by dint of the latter that they are known to a large public and garner much-deserved (and often also much-desired) cultural and social capital.
Yet, "global players" are not just public figures of politics or business and of multinational corporations competing on the world market, or powerful nations in international politics, or global institutions like the United Nations and supranational organizations like the European Union. While we regard the role and meaning of professional sports clubs, including their managers and owners, as multinational enterprises, and while we view supranational sports organizations like the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) as influential principals and global players in society, this book features global players in a more literal sense: the actors on the sports fields in the global age, the symbolic and cultural capital they generate, the many millions they attract and mobilize, and the changing public spaces in which they operate.
We focus on sports primarily in relation to its cultural and political impact, that is, its symbolic capital, which clearly exceeds the often claimed and much-lamented commercial importance. As Andrew Zimbalist points out, the entire revenue of the Big Four team sports of football, baseball, basketball, and hockey in a leading sports country like the United States does not exceed $15 billion in an economy that surpasses $11 trillion in size. In purely economic terms, these dominant sports are akin to smallish industries and even their marquee teams resemble run-of-the-mill, mid-sized firms in terms of their market capitalization.
Global "Cultural Capital" and the Politics of Sports
As sports have gone global they have become more embedded in politics, constituting an important display of political authority and even figuring into the most quotidian political matters. Throughout the twentieth century, dictatorships of various kinds utilized the charismatic power of sports for their own, often nefarious, causes. Examples abound, from Adolf Hitler's harnessing the Berlin Olympics in 1936 for his regime's propaganda purposes, to China's rulers doing the same seventy-two years later; from Benito Mussolini's basking in his country's winning the second World Cup in soccer with Fascist Italy playing host, to the Argentinian military junta's gaining much-needed legitimacy by the national team's triumph in 1978. However, even for politicians in the liberal democracies of the advanced industrial world, it has become commonplace-a well-nigh necessity-at least to feign a deep interest in sports; though, we believe that for the most part such interest is actually genuine. Thus, it was completely natural for Tony Blair, then the British prime minister, to have stopped a crucial cabinet meeting upon receiving the news that David Beckham had broken his right foot and was thus unable to play for England in crucial games. Equally credible was Gerhard Schröder, his German counterpart, scheduling all his cabinet meetings so that they not coincide with the German team's games during the World Cup tournament held in Japan.
Excerpted from THE GAMING WORLD by ANDREI S. MARKOVITS LARS RENSMANN Copyright © 2010 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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