In the print era, writers often created and published under a pseudonym. That is, they maintained their physical image and wrote under an assumed name.
In the televisual electric age, athletes and other entertainers create and publish under a pseudonimage. That is, they maintain their given names (usually), and play, sing or act under an assumed — or fabricated — physical identity (or image-sign).
mechanical bull-riding: cyborgian response to tame the hydraulic animal? (thanks Igor…)
In the United States, professional athletes' salaries may legally be amortized by the franchise over the length of the contract, which contributes to a discourse that the athlete is simply a capital asset, or a factor of production necessary to produce goods — in the case of sport, the information and image-signs necessary to support the sportocracy. However, what is interesting is that these factors of production are embodied by the athletes; they may be rented but never sold, and therefore can never technically be owned, since the embodiment implies non-transferability.
Paul Fussell, in his appropriately-titled book Uniforms (2002), notes that:
"Uniforms divide into two rough categories: honorific and stigmatic. Honorific: the attire of police, McDonald's fast-food servers, United States Marines, the clergy. Stigmatic: the orange coveralls worn by prisoners, widely familiarized by the dress of Timothy McVeigh as depicted in a TV clip repeatedly shown after his arrest" (p. 121).
Obviously, the days of Fussell being a teenager are long in the past, as the McDonald's uniform is anything but honorific among the teen set. It is laughable for those outside the subculture of employees, and a yoke for those within — sort of like the definition of "stigmatic".
Despite this, he raises some interesting questions about uniforms as image-signs, or as means of communication: What happens when this extension of the skin is standardized (lest we forget that McLuhan identified clothing as an extension of the skin)? Is cheering against another's uniform a type of racism? What can we infer about the sporting goods oxymoron "authentic replica" and the replication (or cloning) of sports fan(atics) worldwide? What are the tribalist image-signs that these uniforms represent?
To fully answer these questions and others requires an examination of the interplay between the three groups that are the de facto stakeholders of the uniform: those who dictate the parameters of the uniform, those who wear the uniform and physically produce its meaning, and those who view or consume the uniform. But one thing is certain: as an extension of the skin imbued with such explosive meaning, uniforms are as much a Foucaultian disciplinary technology as the control of space, time or modality of movement.
Fussell, Paul. (2002). Uniforms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
The sport stadium of today is often characterized as a television studio, but the more appropriate metaphor would be that of the assembly line factory, for professional sport is nothing more than the Fordist production of information, in which athletes toil daily in concert with technology to produce a steady supply of raw information that is then used as inputs to produce more highly-refined media products. The only difference between a professional sports stadium and an automobile factory is that people are willing to pay good money to watch the automated production process in the former case.
Consider a fast-food joint such as McDonald's or Subway: we almost totally see the automated production process at work; in fact, we want to see the product being made, and even what we can't see, we have the illusion of seeing. The production of fast-food, and the cyborgian labour involved in the process, allows for the creation of the image-sign that is the fast-food brand: the standardized burger product, delivered within five minutes, and with a smile, is what allows the golden arches to become such a valuable image-sign for McDonald's. The same principle is at work for professional sport: the cyborgian production of sports information allows for the creation of the image-sign that is the NBA logo, or the Nike Swoosh, or the ESPN acronym.
Is it so difficult, then, to believe that the stadium is nothing more than the factory of the postmodern sportocratic age?
Nope … except for uncertainty. Uncertainty is what we come to see in a sporting contest, despite our preoccupation with sports information. Uncertainty, though underemphasized by the sportocracy, is human. Uncertainty is what makes the factory a stage, though a stage of improvisation rather than one of script.