An American Revolution

Recently, I was interested to see a CFP for a NASSS session on "sporting nationalisms". Work on this topic usually concerns the ways in which sport (re-)creates and sustains the political and cultural practices of nation-state nationalisms as, for example, we see with the FIFA World Cup and the hundreds of countries around the world that define themselves through international football contests. However, I have discussed previously the co-optation of the word "nation" by the professional sportocracy of the United States and Canada, now in use from Raider Nation to Red Sox Nation to Leaf Nation to EA Sports Nation to ESPN Sportsnation, etc. The geographically-distributed but electronically-united tribes of consumers comprising these particular sporting cultures and sign systems aren't often given the same critical attention within the context of "sporting nationalisms".

What does it mean that sport marketers are trying to commodify nationhood? What does citizenship mean in this context? How does one display fealty?

It is against this backdrop of queries that I first saw the telecast of ABC's NBA pre-game show, NBA Nation, last weekend. It appears that the League wants its share of the world's citizens as well.

The major sponsors of NBA Nation and the NBA game telecasts are General Motors ("GM: An American Revolution") and CITI ("CITI Identity Theft Solutions"). In this, we witness the full range of major corporate sponsorship of professional sport over the last century: automobiles and petroleum products, through beer and fast food, to telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and financial services. And an earlier post on Ted Williams' cryostasis comes to mind: "Baseball, fighter pilots, motor oil: all the rich symbolism of industrial-age corporeality disintegrating into information, signaling the decay of the American Empire and freezing it for the posterity of future history."

I have discussed before that the business of professional sport is largely concerned with creating, packaging and distributing floating identities. But we cannot forget that we also create identities of our own through our deliberate (and incidental) interactions with the electronic media every day. That the safeguarding of these identities is now being seen as a financial service should make this clear once and for all.

Corporeality disintegrates into information. Identity assumes financial value. And nationhood becomes a "privileged" subject position in this new electronic world, achieved through sign system participation and consumption.


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