No Maps


[Aside] I watched Mark Neale's documentary about William Gibson this weekend, which is called No Maps For These Territories, and thought it was fantastic.

Gibson is interviewed in the back seat of a car that is equipped with laptop, fax machine and cell phone as it speeds around America on a road trip. He shares his thoughts and opinions on a number of topics that weave their way through sportsBabel, albeit on a broader societal plane rather than the sport-specific focus found here.

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in technocultural issues who wants to gain insight from someone who has spent the past few decades thinking on the bleeding edge.


Get In The Game

The NFL is planning to experiment with on-field seating, beginning this Sunday.

Notes on Baudrillard and the Fitness Club

From Baudrillard (America, 1989:37):

[The jogger] is the brother in mortification of those who conscientiously exhaust themselves in the body-building studios on complicated machines with chrome pulleys and on terrifying medical contraptions. There is a direct line that runs from the medieval instruments of torture, via the industrial movements of production-line work, to the techniques of schooling the body by using mechanical apparatuses. Like dieting, body-building, and so many other things, jogging is a new form of voluntary servitude (it is also a new form of adultery).

It is with this seemingly throw-away clause at the end of the paragraph that Baudrillard tips his hand as to his departure from Foucault's technologies of the self — it is also a new form of adultery. For at the end of the day, what the fitness club is selling is not so much the ability to create an optimized body, but rather a simulacrum of readily available sex. What is the product that the fitness club sells? It cannot simply be the temporary lease of fitness equipment, for plyometrics and home fitness solutions such as Bowflex offer cheaper or perhaps more convenient solutions, if personal fitness is the only goal. No, the primary differential advantage that the fitness club offers is a roomful of relatively healthy individuals all working out at the same time, sweating, grunting, straining — not unlike how they would during sex. The desired effect is to seduce or perhaps titillate the consumer in simulating a sexualized space.

Baudrillard elaborates upon this in Forget Foucault (1988:20):

The production channel leads from work to sex, but only by switching tracks; as we move from political to 'libidinal' economy … we change from a violent and archaic model of socialization (work) to a more subtle and fluid model which is at once more 'psychic' and more in touch with the body (the sexual and the libidinal).

As Baudrillard would have it, then, working out at the fitness club produces a simulacrum of sex, with its signs everywhere apparent: the athlete sweating, exerting, straining muscles and panting heavily in intercourse with some mechanical exercise apparatus. Absent in this arena, he would suggest, is seduction. Instead, all sexuality in this space is produced.

This compulsion toward liquidity, flow, and an accelerated circulation of what is psychic, sexual, or pertaining to the body is the exact replica of the force which rules market value: capital must circulate; gravity and an fixed point must disappear; the chain of investments and reinvestments must never stop; value must radiate endlessly and in every direction (FF: 25).

It is this sentiment that we find reflected in the fitness club: from the bank of televisions that face the aerobic exercise equipment, to the advertising around the club, to the clothing worn by the athletes that functions as both consumer good and promotional item, everywhere the signs of capital circulate in accord with bodies, both ideal and non-ideal, as disembodied parts or as produced wholes. Capital invests in the body, while the body reciprocates by reproducing capital.


Is it any coincidence that jobs in which the employees wear name tags tend to be the most dehumanizing? What does this say about team sport?

A Nice Concise Summary

From USA Today:

No more mythic figures

Fans who pay high ticket prices feel as if they own a piece of high-priced players. Fans who belong to fantasy leagues come to care more about a player's stats than his life. And fans who care to can learn just about anything about players through multiple media outlets.

"The sports media is so utterly intrusive now," Edwards says. "The line between players' private and personal lives has been obliterated. The players have been demythologized. If the same standards had applied when Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle played, they would not have been the mythic figures they came to be.

"Fans have come to see themselves as part of the spectacle. The media and the leagues promote that. The guy who takes his shirt off in sub-zero temperatures gets face time. Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee sit courtside and become part of the action. And the guy in the nosebleed seats feels he has a right to be a star, too. So he takes that information that is out there ? about a player's family, his kids and his financial situation ? and uses it as a weapon. He heckles and sees himself as part of the game."

All of which makes players feel vulnerable these days. "You can know a player's whole life today," Knicks guard Penny Hardaway says, "whereas back in the day, you really couldn't."

Information Warfare

There is so much to be said about this movie, but I am not sure what it is yet — will have to puzzle over it some more. I wanted to copy to my own netspace while puzzling, so as to save bandwidth of others. (By no means am I claiming this as my own work, but cannot find to whom I should give attribution….a little help?)