Sports and Racism

For all the talk about “culture,” it’s still pretty rare that the stuff actually gets studied with any care. In this vein, the brouhaha about racist football fans in England revealing themselves seems like a bit of a microcosm.

The team manager says “It’s just not what we stand for.”

Well, what all do you stand for, sir? It’s not sufficient to pick and choose. You have to own up to the whole package.

As Chomsky always says, for all the positive aspects of sports, it remains true that part of the effect of being a sports fan is strong irrational attachment. From a power-elite perspective, there’s more than a little beauty in having huge swaths of your underlying population give themselves over to that.

As for race, one aspect of the more recent formulations of racism is the hypothesis that those whom we call “black” are mentally and morally inferior yet athletically superior. Hence, one major irony of the cessation of white-supremacist segregation in sports is that the subsequent diversity burnishes this neo-classical racist assertion.

And, for once, this English thing might provide a small bit of consolation for those of us laboring under the ultra-capitalism of the American Way of Life. At least here, our sports loyalties are mostly tied to somewhat harmless collectivities — mostly schools, colleges, and the businesses known as “teams” or “franchises.” For all the importance of public enterprise, sports + nations is not better than this.