Photo by Steve Tulk via flickr CC
Photo by Steve Tulk via flickr CC

The following is a guest post written by Kyle Green and Alex Manning. Kyle and Alex are sociology Ph.D students at the University of Minnesota. Kyle is a member of The Society Pages graduate board and co-host of the Office Hours podcast. His research focuses on culture, sport, gender, and the body. Alex researches race, youth, parenting, and sport.

This World Cup, soccer is on American’s minds at levels never reached before. Fans are filling bars, coffee shops, and even massive stadiums to cheer on the US national team. World Cup fervor has led many in the U.S. media to ask the once every four-year question, “has soccer made it in America?” Large television numbers, a sizeable number of American fans supporting in Brazil (Americans bought 7% percent of world cup tickets, only trailing Brazilians), large participation numbers, and increased youth consumption of the game, have all contributed to public discussion about the game’s popularity and place in the United States.  While there has been much excitement surrounding soccer and the World Cup, some have reacted to the popularity of the tournament with fear, dismissal, and outrage (here and here).

Audience: This activity would work well in a number of courses including Introduction to Sociology, Race, Class, & Gender, Sport & Society, and Sociology of Consumption.

Summary: In this activity the class works together drawing on personal experiences and associations with soccer to think about the social spaces the sport fills and to connect the participation and consumption patterns of the sport to larger social trends. In doing so the students will use their sociological imagination to begin to understand the fervor, both positive and negative, surrounding the World Cup. more...

The following is a collection of films, both fiction and non-fiction, that have been recommended for use in a Sport and Society course.
We encourage you to recommend additional films, readings to be used alongside the films, or tell us about your experience.

*Special thanks to the NASSS community for providing so many suggestions.

Sport Films (Non-fiction):

  • Go Tigers! (2001)
  • Jump! (2007) – Awesome jump rope documentary
  • Rocks with Wings (2002) (dir: Rick Derby)
  • 100% Woman:  the Michelle Dumaresq Story (2004)
  • Golden Gloves (or the Real Million Dollar Babies) (2007)
  • A League of Their Own (the documentary film) (1993)
  • Training Rules (2009) – It concerns the scandal around former Penn State Women’s Basketball Coach, Rene Portland. Maybe available on Hulu.
  • When We Were Kings (1996)
  • Playing Unfair (2002)
  • Chasing October
  • Football Under Cover
  • Pink Ribbons, Inc. (2011) – Samantha King
  • A Hero for Daisy (1999) – a documentary about Title IX and rowing
  • PBS series “American Experience” has an episode on Jesse Owens – you can screen it online.
    Ahead of the Majority – It covers Patsy Mink’s political career and includes a section on her involvement in the politics of Title IX.
  • Bigger, Stronger, Faster (2008) – examples of hegemonic masculinity and how the media influences males’ self-images (not just females, as is so commonly discussed).
  • Hoop Dreams (1994) – [can be combined with the chapter by C.L. Cole and Samantha King, “The New Politics of Urban Consumption: Hoop Dreams, Clockers, and America,” in Ralph C. Wilcox, ed., Sporting Dystopias: The Making and Meaning of Urban Sport Cultures, pp. 14, 221-246.]
  • Viva Baseball
  • Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2004)
  • In Whose Honor
  • Not Just A Game (2010) – Dave Zirin provides a sociological analysis of how sport influences our society, particularly the parallels between the institution of sport and the military.
  • Pursuing the Perfect 10 – This was a CNN documentary that is available on YouTube in several parts. I used it as a review after lessons on youth sports and deviance in sports
    Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvMpy6kEOZM
  • An Enforcer’s Story – This is a documentary style video available in conjunction with a piece that ran in the NY Times about hockey enforcer Derek Boogaard’s death.
    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/sports/hockey/derek-boogaard-a-boy-learns-to-brawl.html )
  • Murderball (2005) – documentary film about tetraplegic athletes who play wheelchair rugby. It centers on the rivalry between the Canadian and U.S. teams leading up to the 2004 Paralympic Games.
  • Junior –documentary that follows a Canadian Hockey League team from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League called Baie-Comeau Drakker
    http://www.nfb.ca/film/Junior_en
  • Head Games (2012) – related to concussion and sport.
  • More Than a Game – Documents the early career of the heralded LeBron James’ high school experiences.
  • FIT: Episodes in the History of he Body (1991). This focuses on the history of the how we understand a ‘fit’ body, including analysis related to race, social class, gender, disability and age.
  • The Journey of the African American Athlete” (Parts 1 and 2)
  • Blood on the Flat Track – documentary on the rat city roller girls
  • Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team
  • Joe Louis – America’s Hero Betrayed
  • Two Days In April – follows four NFL prospects through the process of preparing for and participating in the 2006 NFL Draft
  • 4th and Goal – Tale of six men trying to make it to the NFL
  • Undefeated – Oscar-winning 2011 documentary directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin. The film documents the struggles of a high school football team, the Manassas Tigers of Memphis, as they attempt a winning season after years of losses.
  • Born and Bred – documentary following young latino boxers in LA
  • The Morgan Lacrosse Story (pbs) – This film tells the story of the nation’s first and only college lacrosse team at a historically black institution.
  • Gridiron & Steel – Western Pennsylvania and football
  • On the Shoulders of Giants – Story of the Harlem Rens
  • Bra Boys (2007) – A movie about a particularly hyper-masculine group of male surfers (the Bra Boys) in Sydney, Australia. A good example of a fratriarchal sporting group, and all the problematic aspects associated with such groupings. Can be used in conjunction with the critique from Clifton Evers in the Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/false-prophets-of-surfing-bastardise-our-beaches/2007/03/12/1173548110229.html
  • Dogtown and Z Boys (2001) – The development of skateboarding in Southern California, great for revealing subcultural dynamics.
  • First Descent (2005) – A history of snowboarding and insight into the gender and age dynamics within core action sport groups.
  • This Ain’t California (2012) – In German with English subtitles, but offers a fascinating perspective on the development of skateboarding (and youth counter cultures) in East Berlin during the 1980s.
  • STRONG! – an awesome new documentary on Cheryl Hayworth, Olympic weightlifter. It deals well with questions of athleticism, gender, and normativity. http://strongthefilm.com/
  • Offside (2006) – from Iran. Interesting to look at cross-cultural understandings and expressions of gender. It looks at how gender is used to define spaces of sport: specifically the soccer stadium.
  • Fearless (2012)  – about Sarah Burke and top athletes who risk their life for high performance sport
  • The Legacy of Brendan Burke (2010) – about Brendan Burke, homosexuality, hockey.
  • The Code (2010) – about hockey’s unwritten law of fighting and the men who live by it.
  • The Rise and Fall of Theo Flury – (Part 1, 2008) (Part 2, 2010), about sexual abuse, homosexuality, masculinity in Junior A hockey (and professional hockey)
  • The Other Final – Made by two Dutch filmmakers who were dismayed that the Dutch national team did not make the 2002 World Cup, they arranged to have the then two bottom-ranked (by FIFA), Bhutan and Montserrat,  to play a match.
  • A State of Mind (2004) – on the mass games in N. Korea.
  • Sumo East and West
  • The Game of Their Lives (2002) – by Daniel Gordon on the N. Korean 1966 World Cup Team.
  • Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball – On high school teams competing in Japan’s famous national “Koshien” tournament.
  • Tokyo Olympiad parts – great for considering how Japan sought to represent itself during the 1964 Games.
  • A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler (2009)
  • Gaea Girls (2000) – on female wrestlers in Japan.
  • Brighton Bandits (2007) – first ever in-depth documentary about a gay soccer team
    trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvKN3X_RCxY
  • Justin (2008) — about gay footballer Justin Fashanu and a campaign against homophobia
    trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_o1IEhRuiE&list=UUoLTOkSW0_Taj3iL9KTi44w&index=7
  • Algorithm (2012) – gorgeous film about blind chess players in India
    trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHVZD2yrb7k&list=UUoLTOkSW0_Taj3iL9KTi44w&index=5
  • River of Life –about the breast cancer survivor voyageur canoe team  “Paddlers Abreast” competing in the Yukon River Quest wilderness canoe race – 740 kms/460 miles in three days. Available for purchase (about $20 or so) through the NFB of Canada and free here:  http://www.nfb.ca/film/river_of_life/

30 for 30 (ESPN series) – many documentaries that could be useful for teaching. 

Sport Films (Fiction):

  • Friday Night Lights
  • North Dallas Forty
  • Girlfight
  • Eight Men Out
  • The Fighter
  • Invictus
  • Sugar – You can use this to talk about sports migrants, race, and ethnicity
  • Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings
  • Varsity Blues
  • Coach Carter
  • Hurricane Season
  • Bend it Like Beckham
  • Chariots of Fire – discuss sport and early 20th century nationalism

 

 

Below is a guest post by Zachary Miner, a Sociology PhD student at SUNY Albany.  Zachary’s dissertation addresses stigma and firearms ownership cultures in the United States, but he enjoys researching a variety of other topics including gender/sexualities, work, and addiction.  In the post, he suggests an activity which uses examples from students’ everyday lives to explore gender stereotyping.
When presenting a topic in class, I find that it enhances students’ interest and participation levels if they see the relevance of that topic to their own lives. For that reason, I try to incorporate examples with which students are likely to be familiar, and which will cause them to engage more with the lesson. This is certainly good practice at all times, but it is especially important when discussing something that students may have deeply-held, or “common-sense,” beliefs about, such as gender. Students may find it unconvincing, for example, if you simply state as fact that adult women are often infantilized and marginalized when they try to enter realms traditionally dominated by men. However, if you can provide an example that they’re familiar with, and show them how to critically examine that example, it will help lay the groundwork for a deeper understanding of the concept.

The suggested activity to distribute to students is as follows:

Find one or more instances in your daily life where adult women are marginalized or infantilized (treated as if they are a child). Examples could include news stories, photographs, videos, websites, written accounts, etc. Once you’ve found your example, write a brief description/summary of the aspects you’ve identified as marginalizing or infantilizing, and then a 1-2 page reflection on why you think this behavior is taking place. Be sure to write in detail about the item you’ve chosen, and include references to relevant material from class (textbook, articles, etc.). Bring your item, and your reflection paper, to class and be prepared to discuss.


Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 11.59.11 AM

After giving out the assignment, I recommend working through an example in-class to get students thinking critically. Here’s one suggestion:

Ask the students if anyone in the class plays fantasy football (this works especially well in the Fall semester!). Inquire if one of the people who has raised their hand would be willing to explain to the class how the game works. Then, bring up the Fox
Sports fantasy football website dedicated to tracking a fantasy football league called “The Fox Sports Girls.”

After reviewing the site, begin a class discussion, focusing on some of the following points:

  • Ask students to identify examples of infantilization/marginalization within the page.
    • Examples:
      • Calling it “Girls Fantasy Draft” sets up an infantilizing tone from the start (“girls,” not “women”)
      • The double-entendre inviting viewers to enter a contest to compete with the Fox Sports Girls (“Want to play in their league?”) evokes the possibility of dating the women seen in the photographs (i.e. – “she’s out of my league”)
      •  The cutesy names for many of the teams (“Sunshine Sweeties,” “If The Shoe Fitz,” “Motor City Kitties,” and “The Cheesehead Cuties”)
  • Who is the target audience for this portion of the site, men or women? How do we know?
  • Highlight how the photographs of the women, with smiling faces, are prominently displayed at the top of the page. Explain how reducing women to just their bodies is common in our culture to devalue the contributions of women – see a sports-related example of this here. Compare this page to the rest of the site.
  • Ask students to explain why the male writers and commentators of Fox Sports are not portrayed as smiling faces alone. Ask students to conjecture why these women’s photographs are all that viewers can see, with no credentials or accomplishments listed, much less any advice about fantasy football.
  • Why is this “girls page” separate from the rest of the site?
  • Ask why there needs to be a gender binary in fantasy football at all. Why, in an activity with no physical component whatsoever, does Fox Sports re-create a gender binary based on physicality (i.e. – women and men play sports separately because women tend to be smaller/lighter)?
  • Also, remind students to be wary of taking “natural” differences too far. You might consider showing this clip from “Mythbusters”  – which suggests that at least some of the differences between the sports performance of men and women is actually cultural, and not biological.
  • Ask students to explain why the network believed it would be more appealing to feature a fantasy football team of only women than a Fox Sports team with both male and female staffers. Have students consider why the selling point of this team is that it is populated by women? Remind students that when something is seen as a novelty, or an aberration, it’s easier to dismiss it, or treat it less seriously, than if it is presented as the norm.


Fantasy Football Draft White Background
If you want to give students additional material to consider, or if you want to show that Fox Sports isn’t the only offender, you might also give students this article: “Ladies, fantasy football is much easier than you think,” by Alex Flanagan. In this article – which is intended to show that women can be good at fantasy football too – Flanagan unfortunately ends up reinforcing many stereotypes of femininity (beginning with the title of the article which implies that women don’t understand fantasy football). She describes the ups and downs of being involved in an all-women’s fantasy football league where the competitors initially rank their choices based on the physical attractiveness of the available players, they report viewing the team as an “outlet where you can be bitchy and competitive without hurting anyone’s feelings,” and where the prize at the end of the season is a purse

  • Have students discuss whether this article is a net positive or a net negative for women who play fantasy football.
    • Is it a dignifying account of women breaking stereotypes, or are the descriptions in the article continuing the marginalization of female fantasy football players?
  •  Ask students to consider the difference between “bitchiness” (in this all-female league) and “trash talk” (in an all-male league).
    • Why is this an expected part of the male fantasy football experience, but takes on a negative connotation when in a female league?
    • Explore how social norms of female politeness persist throughout society and limit the acceptable range of female emotions and behaviors.

You might also show this video “What is Yahoo! Fantasy Football?”, in which sports reporter Melanie Collins gives a mostly-neutral overview of what fantasy football is about, until the closing of the video where she acknowledges that skill does not always equal success, noting that, “Heck, even my Aunt Linda won last year!”

  • Ask students to consider whether the statement would still make sense if she had substituted “Uncle Jon” for “Aunt Linda.” Then explore with students why it reads as humorous to be beaten in a fantasy sports game by your aunt, but not by your uncle.
  • Ask students why a female reporter was chosen for this spot. Who are the target audiences? Would those audiences be more comfortable with a woman explaining fantasy football to them than a man?

 

The exercise described above can easily lead into a larger discussion of gender in sports. This is a fertile area for debate including the topics of how  women’s sports as a whole are seen as less exciting (and less marketable) than men’s sports, female competitors typically get paid less than men, and even female employees are largely relegated to secondary status (“sideline reporter” rather than “commentator,” for example). It could also offer an opportunity to explore the variety of ways in which women’s participation in traditionally male domains is de-legitimized.

The goal of this type of exercise is to get students thinking critically about something they’re familiar with, and considering what gendered messages exist within various aspects of their lives. Ideally, these kinds of exercises will help them realize that gender isn’t something they hear about for three hours a week in the classroom, or only read about in books, but rather is something they can see happening all around them.