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Comments by YACCS
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sports Culture and Jock Culture


Sports culture in action

With all the talk about Duke and the lacrosse team, someone in comments wanted me to comment on sports culture, but what I think she meant was jock culture, and those are two different things.

Sports culture is the thing you see every day, it's the t-shirts, the throwback jerseys and the tailgating. It has relatively little to do with athletes. It's about group identity and socialization. The players are a footnote to the team identity. Take AC Milan. People are so passionate about that team, that they protest outside their headquarter for a new manager.

Jock culture is a very different thing. While people love to support teams, that love doesn't always follows to athletes. People like what Barry Bonds can do for the Giants, they have no use for him as a person. Bonds is the personification of what is wrong with jock culture. Arrogant, loud, abusive towards women.

Because there is a big divide between the team and the athlete. While rooting for a team is a natural part of adulthood, athletes are often men-children, who are at once possesors of the male ideal, and frighteningly unable to deal with reality. Pro sports is the one area in adult life where paternalism reigns for men. The military is the polar opposite, where young men are encouraged to be responsible, not only for their actions, but to the unit.

Most 23 year olds have responsilbities and duties, at work, within the family, in their personal life. But athletes do not. Athletes have one responsibility, which is to perform. They don't direct their own actions, they don't manage their own affairs, they can even create buffers in their personal life.

The irony is that at the high school and college level, jocks are usually disliked by most students. They are often the parental idea of the perfect child, while to their peers, they're hated. Why? Because they are allowed to terroize their surroundings while receiving praise from adults.

Now, jocks write that off as jealousy, but in reality, it's contempt for their conformity. There is no more conformist figure in a school than an athlete. He is at the mercy of adults for his identity. When they move on to college, the stakes are much higher. Status, professional success, even without a pro-career, the athlete is likely to find any number of job offers waiting.

While lacrosse is a low status sport on the Duke campus, it still brings enough athletic aura to give them more power than the average student.

So why do women flock to athletes? Besides a high level of physical fitness, the athlete has a social status on campus, and thus is more attractive as a partner.

There is a sharp difference between male and female athletes. Male homosexuality is unknown among team athletics as a social factor. Gay male athletes, even in sports like gymnastics and cheerleading are quick to hide their sexual preference orientation for fear of social stigma. Females are much more open about their same-sex preferences. Which is a large reason that female athletes are socially invisible as campus actors. When I was in college, half the woman's basketball team was dating each other. That situation was unknown among male athletes.

Conversely, women are a major status symbol for male atheletes. Not only a steady girlfriend, but other willing partners as well.

Jock culture encourages the denigration of women as a way of establishing manhood. The athlete may still be trapped in a paternalistic system where few choices are his, but he can have sex with any number of women, be sought after by women, even control and dominate women.

So, why are so many college rapes, estimates are as high as one in five, done by athletes?

Athletes live in an entitlement system few other students have any idea exists. Classes are made to serve them, "jobs" which require less work than a mob no-show job are theirs for the asking, women seek to be with them. They are simply given things which ordinary students have no access to.

Then, at a large school like Duke, they have the spectacle of seeing adults defer to them. It takes a strong willed professor to sanction a popular athlete. It can be even worse in high school.

So, you have a young man, of above average fitness and physical ability, used to answering to one paternal figure, but being deferred to even by adults, and women, they tend to have a low opinion of people who do this.

So they assume women will offer sex to them without hesitation. Most athletes are encouraged to think of sex as a perk of their social status and athletic success. So when this is refused, rape is the result. Most college students are unaware that sex with a drunk woman can be rape, or that no means no. Despite years of education, the informal attitudes which are passed down about those attracted to jocks remain far more powerful than any formal admonishions.

Sports culutre is inclusive, as anyone can root for a team. Jock culture is inclusive, as only athletes and their dirtect supporters are included.

Anti-social behavior by athletes is also given a pass by those in charge. From Little League to the majors, as long as they perform. How many former major leaguers have we read about getting chance after chance to deal with addiction. How many times hnave we read about professional athletes with illegitamate children they have little to no contact with? This isn't a byproduct of sports culture, which is more than willing to hold athletes accountable, but of jock culture.

The two cultures exist side by side, but actually have little contact with each other. Sport culture values results, jock culture values adoration. This started with gladiators, the first modern athletes, who were prized as sexual partners by rich women.

It's how Mickey Mantle could act like a pig for years and never be called on it. Most modern fans, whether in soccer or baseball, have little real attachment to players. Money, TV, and modern athletes discourage this. They are attached to the team more than the player, which is why people are surprised when sexual harassment charges come, rape charges are filed. Once upon a time, athletes lives in the same neighborhoods as their fans, they shopped at the same stores. They're now celebrities, even in colleges, where they have seperate dorms. There isn't that relationship between fan and player which once existed. Which is part of the attraction of NASCAR, the ability to relate to the drivers.

Student Athletes are treated as a caste apart, superior to other students and an expectation that they are not as accountable as their peers for their actions as they have been repeatedly told they are not, and are defended when they do violate social norms.

Which is why athletes are more likely to violate the social order.

posted by Steve @ 10:25:00 AM

10:25:00 AM

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