If anyone has been paying attention to domestic legislative politics through a recent cloud of international uprisings, highly publicized trials and gun wielding football players, one particular development stands markedly out from the rest. It’s happening in the state of North Carolina and it stands to reverse the political direction of a state who’s trajectory appeared to be locked in but a few short years ago. Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan discusses his belief that unless power is vested in one commonwealth, something that I believe can be incorporated into today’s gun control laws on the federal level. How North Carolina managed to transform itself from one of the quickest growing progressive states in the country, along with neighbor Virginia, to the poster-child for a conservative social agenda is one for the history books. Continue reading
Stauskas, Randle, Embid, Wiggins. Nik, Julius, Joel, Andrew. If you know the player personally, and odds are you don’t, only then do you have a right to share your input in his decision. Now, I’m not saying debate is out of place– in fact, I derive this rant from a previously opposing point of view. For years, I was the naive fan: selfish, unyielding, and ignorant. Understanding a new perspective is difficult, and emotion often consumes our mind and clouds our opinion. Today’s basketball scene is synonymous with money and fame. Movie, media, and music moguls frequent the sidelines of NBA games and even locker rooms (I’m looking at you, Drake). With their presence now afflicting the college game, a dangerous dynamic has been created. With increasingly young and successful rosters (Michigan ’91-’93 to Kentucky ’12,’14, Kansas ’14, Arizona ’14 –the list goes on and on) combining with the atmosphere of money and fame, it is no surprise some college basketball fans are upset over the changes ensuing in their sport. But, lines have been crossed, and often without a smidgen of perspective. Often times, these uber-talented young players come from underprivileged circumstances. Not always, but often.
Throughout this course, we have discussed several ways in which politics are connected with sport and have been for centuries. In two other classes of mine, Global Sports Cultures and the History and Sociology of Sport, we have taken case studies in which we’ve learned how deeply ingrained sport is with not only politics, but culture, as well. For centuries, sport has been used as a tool to appease, control, and occupy the masses. In other words, for leaders like Roman Emperors, British Royalty, or even factory even, sports were chiefly used as a way to deflect pressure and unrest from the reality of their lives. But how did sport move away from the status of a distraction to a pivotal component of society? To answer this question, I’ll take a case study of the sport of lacrosse and its origins and evolution.
In my Global Sports Cultures class, we also read and discussed Johann Huizinga’s Homo Ludens. In our discussion section, we collectively derived that Huizinga’s main claim was that play is the center of life. Although I agree with Huizinga’s optimistic view of play and the majority of his characteristics of defining play, we have to keep in mind that Homo Ludens was written in 1938 and society has changed dramatically since that time. The question I pose is this: How much of what fit Huizinga’s definition of play in the 20th century still is play today? If we look at Europe in a sporting lens, soccer is and has been the most popular sport for centuries now. However, I’d argue the motivation behind the players, the teams, and the leagues have changed just as dramatically as society has changed between the early 20th century and today.
In 1901, the Football Association (England) passed a £4 maximum wage per week rule. In 1906, the average wage for the 30-player team of West Ham United was between £4 and £4 10s per week. Over the ensuing decades, the FA would continually raise the maximum wages to £14 in 1951 and £20 in 1958. Then in 1960, players threatened to strike in a debate over wage demands, causing the FA to abolish the maximum wage completely. Today, West Ham United spends £847,000 on player wages per week (211,750 times what it was paying its players 108 years ago) or £44 Million per year. Manchester United, ranked third on Forbes’ list of most valuable sports franchises, had a wage bill of £181 Million in 2014.
Now, what do these figures have to do with figures have to do with Huizinga’s definitions of play? According to Huizinga’s perception of sport, “It is an activity connected with no material interest…”(Homo Ludens, Huizinga 1955). I argue what many thought play was in the early 19th century, has transformed out of Huizinga’s definition of play and into sport. The motivation behind the athletes behavior, in my opinion, is the stark difference between sport and play and between early 19th century soccer and soccer in the modern world. For such little wage mentioned of the 1906 West Ham soccer club, the players’ motivations and intentions would most likely fit the characteristics of play outlined in Homo Ludens. Those players most likely played because it was voluntary, it was an escape from their society, the outcome was uncertain, it had a unique set of rules that provided challenges, and finally it was not in the primary motivation to be productive monetarily. Players today make millions of dollars annually and I would agree that their main focus comes from a monetary point of view, differing form players on the same team in the same sport 100 years ago. A difference of 100 years seems to have transformed this form of play out of Huizinga’s definition and into a professional sport category, and what Huizinga and society viewed as play in the 20th century seems to no longer fit that definition.