"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
(Olympic Charter, as quoted by Google)
The NHL is the top hockey league in the world, and if we are looking at this from a sports production standpoint this means we are describing the most highly skilled manufacture of competition and uncertain hockey outcomes on the planet, as an ongoing concern — which is to say as a matter of accumulation rather than the elite event-based production of the Olympics.
But of course the game is also about the production of spectacle, of audience aggregation and synthetic storylines and target marketing — and thus the most highly skilled manufacture of sporting gesture and its transmission, of affective receptivity, of qualified fanaticism and quantified consumerism.
For most of the 20th century, as John Bale points out, the former has meant an increasingly hygienic space of sporting production, in which the values of achievement sport most desired by accumulation find their way into the daily churn of the professional sport industry. In a sense, it was not simply a standardization that mattered but the removal of noise which could otherwise contaminate the truth of the results.
And for most of the 20th century spectacle played along, developing an increasingly elaborate logistics of perception to disguise production altogether and present the viscera of pure, competitive play-at-work. The surgicality of the endeavour is even more pronounced here, with thousands of sensory cuts rendered and stitched together to somehow produce the skin of a sporting Gesamtkunstwerk.
Which is what makes the NHL's Winter Classic so interesting: by playing the game outdoors and subject to the elements (snow, wind, glare), not only is a particular sporting nostalgia of backyard shinny and pond hockey revived, but spectacle itself becomes more spectacular by explicitly refusing the hygienic paradigm of modern sport. Noise is introduced, friction enters the system, and by the standards of achievement sport the event's game production occurs at a shockingly substandard level.
There is a refusal of hygiene in the play-at-work space, but only by cutting through the spatiotemporal fold and admitting the past. A futural noise, friction or filth would still be unimaginable here.
If there is in fact a zone in which the past-present of the Winter Classic meets the future, it remains bound with that other element of achievement sport — the record. Only the record of interest here is one of accumulation: the largest crowd in hockey history ever to witness a live contest, as 105,491 jammed into the University of Michigan football stadium to watch the game.
And hence the flaw in Bale's analysis: for him, pace Baudrillard and Virilio, it was the television audience that was always right and so to perfectly satisfy the hygienic requirements of achievement sport the spectators at the live event had to be removed, leaving behind only an inert ludic container in which the game could be played, fair play assesed, and television imagery produced. But it appears that accumulation is never so teleological, the crowd is precisely necessary to give the alibi to spectacle, and it is hygienic achievement which can be removed from the equation and left behind without losing a truth verdict in the process.
In this case, witness-noise makes a virtue of production-noise to set a nostalgic record, though one wonders what the hyperbolic curve will demand as it increasingly detaches from its counterpart in linear accumulation.
We speak often of the relative rigidity of late modern sports, of the hard lines that constitute their disciplinary diagrams and rigorous production of athletic bodies and somewhat statistically-determinate "uncertain" outcomes. We are aware that these lines are in fact legislated as planes and that the sporting space is usually regulated as a volume rather than strictly a spectacular surface.
But it bears remembering that if the stadium is the factory of postmodern sporting production, then it is a certain plasticity which allows one form of assembly to substitute for another on the production line. Put differently, if the NFL is so easily able to transfer production to Wembley Stadium in London, or the FA is likewise able to travel to Washington for production at RFK, it is not only due to a relative congruity or topology between the rectangles that constitute gridiron and association football codes, respectively, but also to certain malleabilities in material and discursive space.
That turfgrass grows sufficiently long for it to be mowed and erase the very "painterly" conditions that govern production in other forms of sporting assembly, for example, is highly relevant to this modularity — an artificial green ecology in the service of a plastic injection moulding called sporting spectacle. And the televisual possibilities of programmed camera angles, intensive lighting, overlay graphics and audio commentary to constitute a coherent and consistent sporting narrative from anywhere in the world only adds to this plastic capability.
Indeed, what is most potentially intractable in this calculation of malleability is the plasticity of the live crowd in attendance at the factory. To what degree can this fleshy thirdness between sporting capital and televisual spectator mediate and suture together the filaments of an experience both synthetically fibrous and viscerally empirical? This is what is at stake in the economic decision to produce or shut down in non-local contexts under the contemporary conditions of plasticity.
(thank you to amy for reminding me about "craptacular" or substandard production under certain plastic conditions. ;)
1. Whether or not one understands time as unfolding in a linear fashion is immaterial; what matters is that experience and connectedness unfold along multiple and interweaving time signatures.
2. It is the time signature which produces affects, not time itself.
3. A collective energetics remains unevenly distributed. Nonetheless, its collectiveness always remains impressive, inspiring and humbling.
4. Dehabituated rhythms and changed or differential spatial parameters offer an invitation for novel gestural responses to the artwork.
5. When movement moves its way into the "aesthetic experience" proper, it continues to want to move, this time with the artwork, co-composing with it, contouring and creating with it.
6. It is not so much fatigue that one initially notices upon arrival at an artwork, but rather an interference of rhythms between runner and work, which thereafter gradually begin to harmonize or compromise. These resonances are of immediate interest in an aesthetico-ethical sense.
7. Habit can have unrefined pathways; one of these concerns its tempo.
8. Bodies are not "ideal", and thus neither should goals be. We understand these both in an affirmative sense.
9. The outwardly prosthetic body only makes evident and explicit the co-composition of all bodies.
10. A familiar gesture, machined differently, can be more more useful than a complex gesture known only to a few.
11. We are describing here an unhygienic experience (sweat, snot, traffic, noise, topography). Which is also in some ways to remind that we have been removed from the laboratory.
12. Speed only demands a greater adeptness with contingency and the aesthetics of failure.
13. There are both inner and outer accelerations that need to be considered in developing and evaluating the program.
14. If one seeks to create a nuclear or exponential energy field, one cannot initiate the reaction at maximum capacity. Rather, the intensity must be slowly increased to avoid the risk of rupture in a very real material sense.
15. The event itself is a collective enunciation — of gesture and energy. But so long as we remain bound to the particulars of language and its transmission, this collective enunciation must retain a spoken or written dimension as well. Breath must become metric rather than simply serving to inspire and expire.
16. Theses are exhausted and replenished much like mitochondrial reactors and muscular fibres. To elaborate: they, too, have relative catalytic points, elasticities and failure thresholds in the generation of things. And they, too, may also become fuel or worm food for future becomings . . .