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Endless Contest : . Theorizing the devolution of advanced sports media cultures. Todd Joseph Miles Holden. Professor, Mediated Sociology Graduate School of International Cultural Studies Tohoku University Sendai, Japan. Opening on a Closing: The Tour de France.

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endless contest
Endless Contest:

Theorizing the devolution of advanced sports media cultures

todd joseph miles holden

Todd Joseph Miles Holden

Professor, Mediated Sociology

Graduate School of International Cultural Studies

Tohoku University

Sendai, Japan

opening on a closing the tour de france
Opening on a Closing:The Tour de France

The 95th Tour de France (which began on July 5th) will finish this Sunday, July 27th

opening on a closing the tour de france4
Opening on a Closing:The Tour de France

It began this year in the following predicament:

  • The 2007 winner American Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 title after testing positive for synthetic testosterone.
  • And 2 teams were banned:
    • Astana, the team of eventual winner, Alberto Contador
      • Due to doping scandals over the last two years
    • (Team) Cofidis
      • which withdrew after Cristian Moreni tested positive for testosterone
the contested tour
The Contested Tour
  • Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov
    • Also of Astana
    • Tested positive for a blood transfusion
    • And was removed from the Tour last year
  • Levi Leipheimer
    • Also of Astana
    • Also banned
the contested tour6
The Contested Tour
  • Ivan Basso
    • 2006 Giro d'Italia winner
    • A 2-time Tour podium finisher
    • Was also absent, due to a 2-year ban for blood doping
the contested tour7
The Contested Tour
  • Manuel Beltran:
    • was ejected from the Tour (on July 11, 2008)
    • For testing positive for the performance-enhancer EPO
  • Moises Duenas Nevado:
    • Ejected from the tour (on July 16, 2008) after testing positive for EPO
doping and biking
Doping and Biking
  • Besides Beltran, Floyd Landis, Roberto Heras and Tyler Hamilton have all failed doping tests on the Tour
    • all are former Postal riders during Armstrong's seven Tour wins from 1999-2005
    • all failed their tests after quitting Armstrong’s team
this paper the inside dope
This Paper:The Inside Dope
  • Hopefully this slide’s title doesn’t refer to the author
  • Generally, this is a working paper
  • It concerns matters like doping, but also other forms of what I label “contest” in sports
this paper the inside dope10
This Paper:The Inside Dope

Better, it concerns the rampant contestation that sport has introduced into contemporary society.

  • It focuses on the contest beyond the actual games (I.e. outside the realm that sport has traditionally been about)
  • Such contest is abetted to a large degree by mass media
    • The media angle is less empirical here than it needs to be
    • For media is perhaps the central player in engendering endless contest in contemporary society
some premises claims
Some Premises/Claims
  • Sport is often viewed as a sublimater of aggressive tendencies (Elias and Dunning 1986)
    • a simulation of combat, if you will
  • However, it may, in fact, work to stimulate even more acrimony and deeper societal schisms
    • With the media as instigator/conspirator/abettor of these “divides”
some premises claims12
Some Premises/Claims

Sport increases the sense of “contest” in numerous, unanticipated ways. Including:

  • the heightened emphasis on economic haves and have nots:
  • the sudden attention by political, administrative and legal entities to rules infractions and enforcement;
  • the exaggerated attention to rules infractions and conduct violations
  • The heightened emphasis on stating opinions and taking sides.
some premises claims13
Some Premises/Claims

Sport increases the sense of “contest” in numerous, unanticipated ways. Including:

5. the increased involvement of public authorities in the activities of private entrepreneurs;

6. the increased sideshow-like ambiance built around athletes and sporting events

  • fueled by tabloid media
  • and due to the crossover of athletes into the realm of celebrity, entertainment, and show business
societal development and sports
Societal Developmentand Sports
  • These developments can be located with increasing regularity
  • It appears true for societies which are most “developed”
    • i.e. which have achieved the highest rung on modernity’s ladder (e.g. Maguire 1999)
    • with the largest, most extensive and sophisticated sports media cultures (Miller et al. 2001)
    • and which have evinced the most advanced stages of “sportization” (Elias 1986).
about this paper
About this Paper
  • Showing this requires attention to both empirical and theoretical threads
  • It also can benefit from comparison
    • Thus this paper will look at cases from both the United States and Japan
  • Doing so, we can see that contest is not a phenomenon transpiring only in one society
    • Although it is manifested in differing ways
    • Due to factors such as:
      • the cultural history
      • The political traditions (and)
      • The media institution, itself
  • In this way, contest can be seen as both a universal AND particular phenomenon
about the cases
About the Cases
  • And one or more of the following institutional elements:
  • Political
  • Legal
  • Administrative
  • Economic
  • Social
  • All involve the active contestation between one or more of the following human elements:
  • Athletes
  • Coaches
  • Management
  • Fans
media role
Media Role

The role of the media institution is:

  • Not as neutral reporter
  • Rather, as active stimulus

The Effect is:

  • A fueling of contestation between the various actors, above, is highlighted

Side-effects include:

  • A widening of connectivity between sports and other societal domains: legal, rational, administrative, economic, political, popular/cultural
some aims
Some Aims

One avowed aim (at least in the delusional moment of writing my abstract) was:

  • to identify
  • then categorize
  • the various types of contestation transpiring in advanced sporting societies today
  • then flesh out some of the ways that this can be understood vis-à-vis social theory.
a main contention
A Main Contention

The central role played by the media institution in simultaneously assisting:

  • societal evolution
  • and a certain kind of devolution (through increased contestation)

Though neither of these may be clearly/obviously seen by simply studying isolated cases of contestation

the media assessed
The Media Assessed


  • Talk radio
  • Newspaper
  • Television
  • Internet news sites
  • Blogs

The assessments, themselves, are of non-systematic samples, treated via qualitative content analysis.

the cases considered i the mitchell report
The Cases Considered I: The Mitchell Report

On March 3, 2006, Major League Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig, announced that the league would begin a full-scale investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs

  • MLB had banned such drugs as part of the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2002
the cases considered i the mitchell report27
The Cases Considered I: The Mitchell Report

Selig named former Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, to head the open-ended investigation.

  • Mitchell was a director of the Boston Red Sox
  • Also Chairman of The Walt Disney Co., the parent of ESPN
  • He insisted his affiliations would have no effect on the investigation
the cases considered i the mitchell report28
The Cases Considered I: The Mitchell Report

Mitchell’s 20 month investigation ended up naming 86 baseball players involved in using performance enhancing drugs

Highlights included

  • 7 MVPs and 31 All-Stars were named
  • 87 players named; 34 active in 2007
  • Former player Jose Canseco (who wrote a best-selling book, Juiced confessing his steroid use) was named 105 times
  • Barry Bonds was named 103 times
  • Lenny Dykstra’s use between 1988 and 1993
  • The case of 1996 MVP Ken Caminiti
  • The 1998 case of Mark McGuire
  • The complicity of players, executives and reporters
  • Media coverage at the time
the cases considered ii barry bonds
The Cases Considered II: Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds, a prominent name in the Mitchell Report, is the all-time home run leader in MLB

Here we see him in “before” and “after” shots -- from early in his (pre-steroid) career and then later (post-steroids)

the cases considered ii barry bonds30
The Cases Considered II:Barry Bonds

Bonds, who refused to cooperate with the Mitchell Commission, was featured in the book A Game of Shadows, written by two investigative reporters from The San Francisco Chronicle.

That book alleged that there have been two Barry Bonds:

  • The likely Hall-of-Famer
    • Who, for 13 years, averaged 32 home runs and a batting average of .298
  • And the most prolific home run hitter of all time
    • Who for the next 6 years averaged 49 home runs and a batting average of .328
the cases considered ii barry bonds31
The Cases Considered II:Barry Bonds

A Game of Shadows documented:

  • how Bonds was able to increase his productivity
  • during what is usually the twilight of a player’s career
    • Between the ages of 35 and 40
  • assisted by steroids
the cases considered ii barry bonds32
The Cases Considered II:Barry Bonds
  • Based on the evidence presented in that book a grand jury was convened
  • Bonds testified. He denied the allegations that he knowingly took steroids.
  • He was subsequently indicted for lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice.
  • A free agent this year, no team has been willing to pick Bonds up as an active player.
the cases considered ii barry bonds33
The Cases Considered II:Barry Bonds
  • The indictment was based on data obtained from BALCO, a bay area facility asserted to have prescribed steroids to numerous elite athletes
    • The indictment cited 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath.
  • His trial is pending
  • If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in a Federal penitentiary
the cases considered iii roger clemens
The Cases Considered III: Roger Clemens

One name prominent in the Mitchell Report was that of Roger Clemens

the cases considered iii roger clemens35
The Cases Considered III: Roger Clemens

Clemens is:

  • A 7-time Cy Young Award winner (best pitcher in the league)
  • Eighth on the all-time win list with 354 career victories
  • A league MVP and All-Star
  • Long considered a sure Hall of Fame entry
the cases considered iii roger clemens36
The Cases Considered III: Roger Clemens

According to the Mitchell report, Clemens may have been supplied with Human Growth Hormone by his personal trainer.

Clemens denied these charges

However a fellow teammate close friend, and work-out partner, Andy Pettitte, admitted that he was injected with HGH by the same trainer

the cases considered iii roger clemens37
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens

McNamee told Mitchell investigators that:

  • he injected Clemens with Winstrol through the end of the 1998 season
  • and that Clemens' performance showed remarkable improvement

Records show that Clemens had a record of 5 wins and 6 losses through the first 2 months of the season, then went 15 wins against 0 losses in 22 starts; with an Earned Run Average of 2.29

the cases considered iii roger clemens38
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens

McNamee also told investigators that:

  • “during the middle of the 2000 season, Clemens made it clear that he was ready to use steroids again.”
  • Thus, during the latter part of the regular season, McNamee injected Clemens in the buttocks four to six times with testosterone.
the cases considered iii roger clemens39
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens

A nationally televised congressional hearing disintegrated along partisan lines

  • Democrats argued that Clemens should be found guilty of lying to Congress
  • Republicans argued that he was a hero and role model who, if found guilty, should receive a presidential pardon (from former baseball executive, George W. Bush).
the cases considered iii roger clemens40
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens

The entire Clemens affair further disintegrated into a variety of tabloid stories, about:

  • Clemens’ wife getting her own steroid injections
  • The wives of Clemens and Jose Canseco comparing breast implants in front of their husbands at a party
  • And Clemens alleged affair with a country and western singer who, when she first befriended the pitcher, was only 16.
the cases considered iii roger clemens41
The Cases Considered III:Roger Clemens

The abiding image of this case, to date, was how it quickly descended into tabloidization, sensationalization, and lurid demonization

the cases considered iv marion jones
The Cases Considered IV:Marion Jones

Another BALCO athlete was Marion Jones

  • At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Jones finished with three golds and two bronzes
  • She was featured on the covers of Vogue, Time and Newsweek magazines
  • She received multi-million dollar contracts for her efforts.
the cases considered iv marion jones43
The Cases Considered IV:Marion Jones
  • Seven years later she publicly confessed to taking drugs before her Sydney triumphs
  • She was sentenced to 6 months in prison for lying to federal prosecutors about her steroid use.
  • She was also stripped of her Olympic medals
  • And fined.
the cases considered iv marion jones44
The Cases Considered IV:Marion Jones
  • In sentencing her to prison the judge stated:
    • "athletes in society ... serve as role models to children around the world. When there is a widespread level of cheating, it sends all the wrong messages.”
  • And:
    • "People live with their choices … and the choice not to play by the rules has been compounded by the choice to break the law."
the cases considered iv marion jones45
The Cases Considered IV:Marion Jones

In response to the sentencing, USA Track & Field President Bill Roe issued this statement:

  • (The Jones case is) "a vivid morality play that graphically illustrates the wages of cheating in any facet of life, on or off the track.”
  • This highlights why cases of cheating occur
    • I.e. their chance for huge positive payoff
  • Also highlights why the media is so interested
    • The idea that it is a “morality play” not unlike a Shakespearean drama or Hollywood movie sprung to life
the cases considered v spygate
The Cases Considered V: “Spygate”
  • In 2008 a claim was made by a former video assistant on the New England Patriots
    • Considered the team of this decade in the (American) Professional Football League (NFL)
  • The claim was that New England coach Bill Belichick, had authorized the filming of rival’s practices and the interception of their sideline hand signals during games in 2007
    • Both violations of league rules
  • In a nod to the famous political espionage chapter in United States politics (“Watergate”) this affair was dubbed “spygate” by the U.S. sports/news media
the cases considered v spygate47
The Cases Considered V: “Spygate”
  • Although Coach Belichick denied these claims, certain circumstantial evidence suggested it might be true
    • His personality -- which is notoriously conflictual, conspiratorial, secretive, and paranoid
    • The fact that the heart of the allegation concerned the championship game of 2002 -- where his team defeated the heavily favored St. Louis Rams
    • And the existence of videotape which proved the point
  • One influential member of the U.S. Congress, Senator Arlen Specter (R - Pennsylvania) was so incensed as to demand Congressional Hearings into this affair
    • Although this seems also to stem from the fact that his home team had lost in playoffs to the Patriots in recent years
the cases considered v spygate48
The Cases Considered V: “Spygate”
  • Ultimately the NFL conducted its own internal investigation and then imposed what could be viewed as pre-emptive sanctions
    • Fining Coach Belichick (U.S.) $500,000
    • Fining the Patriots (U.S.) $250,000
    • And taking the Patriots 2008 First-round draft pick away
    • Though not as severe as some might have wished, these were certainly not cosmetic penalties
    • The media’s general reaction, though, was: the Patriots are so talented they didn’t need that draft pick anyway and Belichick is so financially well off, even if his team doesn’t pick up the tab, he can afford the fine
    • Moreover, this sort of contest perfectly matched the sort of crotchety “I’ll play the game on my terms” demeanor of the man and his New England team
      • In short, it was a good story full of the kind of conflict that the audience likes
the cases considered vi don imus
The Cases Considered VI: Don Imus

On Thursday, April 5, 2007, “shock jock” Don Imus uttered words on his CBS morning radio show that ultimately led to his dismissal…

the cases considered vi don imus50
The Cases Considered VI: Don Imus

He referred to the NCAA championship women's basketball team on, as "some rough girls from Rutgers. They got tattoos.” Then he went on to call them "some nappy-headed hos.”

Comparing them to the Tennessee team they beat for the Women College basketball title, Imus termed the teams as, respectively, "the jigaboos versus the wannabes."

the cases considered vi don imus51
The Cases Considered VI: Don Imus
  • Imus, was once voted one of America’s 25 Most Influential People in America by Time magazine and is a member of the National Broadcaster Hall of Fame.
  • Nonetheless, the firestorm of criticism -- particularly from minority groups and led by African American Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson -- led to Imus’s immediate ouster by CBS radio.
  • Within 8 months, however, Imus had returned to the airwaves on ABC Radio.
the cases considered vii michael vick
The Cases Considered VII: Michael Vick

Michael Vick was a prototypical new generation quarterback in American football player: a player with foot speed, physical toughness, balance, acrobatic ability, and a powerful, accurate throwing arm

the cases considered vii michael vick53
The Cases Considered VII: Michael Vick
  • On April 25, 2007 the media reported that evidence had been gathered by law enforcement agents about illegal dog-fighting on one of Vick’s rural properties.
  • Vick was indicted on federal dog fighting charges and pled guilty to one count of running an interstate dog fighting ring. He admitted:
    • to providing most of the financing for the operation;
    • sharing in the proceeds from these dog fights; and
    • that he knew his colleagues killed several dogs who didn't perform well enough.
  • In 2007 he was sentenced to 23 months in Federal Prison.
  • State trial awaits his release from Federal prison
the cases considered viii tim donaghy
The Cases Considered VIII:Tim Donaghy

Tim Donaghy was a basketball referee who worked in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 13 seasons (1994 to 2007)

  • He officiated 772 regular-season games and 20 playoff games
the cases considered viii tim donaghy55
The Cases Considered VIII:Tim Donaghy
  • Donaghy resigned from the league on July 9, 2007 just before it was announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was investigating allegations that he bet on games that he officiated between 2005 and 2007.
  • It was also claimed that Donaghy made calls that affecting the point spread in those games.
  • On August 15, 2007, Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to the investigation.
  • He was sentenced on July 14, 2008.
the cases considered viii tim donaghy56
The Cases Considered VIII:Tim Donaghy
  • On June 12, 2008, during the NBA Finals, Donaghy further stirred the pot by alleging in a brief to the sentencing judge that league referees affected the outcomes of two playoff series in the past decade.
    • 2002 Los Angeles Lakers - Sacramento Kings Conference Finals
    • 2005 Dallas Mavericks - Houston Rockets playoff series
the cases considered viii tim donaghy57
The Cases Considered VIII:Tim Donaghy
  • The reason, Donaghy alleged, was to boost league revenue and television ratings.
    • The implication was that these improprieties were sanctioned -- even suggested -- by the league hierarchy.
the cases considered viii tim donaghy58
The Cases Considered VIII:Tim Donaghy
  • One effect of the allegations was to deflect attention from the NBA Finals.
  • Game fixing became the focus of basketball talk.
    • Rather than celebrating the renewal of the storied rivalry between Boston and Los Angeles
      • the two cities which had won 1/2 of all NBA titles in league history
the cases considered ix asashoryu
The Cases Considered IX: Asashoryu
  • Asashoryu is the “bad boy of sumo”
  • The first Mongolian to ever achieve “Yokuzuna”, sumo’s highest rank
  • He was the first man in the sport’s history to win all 6 official tournaments in a single year
  • He has won 22 tournament championships to date
the cases considered ix asashoryu60
The Cases Considered IX: Asashoryu
  • Asashoryu is sumo’s “bad boy” because he constantly flaunts its traditions and thumbs hs nose at the strict codes of behavior which regulate activity outside the ring
  • An avid K-1 fan, he has often spoken of quitting sumo for the more celebritized world of martial combat
  • He stunned the sumo world in 2007 when, while taking time off from sumo to recuperate from (alleged) injuries, he was found playing in a charity soccer match back in Mongolia
  • The media frenzy that followed led to his suspension from sumo for 2 tournaments.
the cases considered x daiki kameda
The Cases Considered X:Daiki Kameda
  • The Kamedas are an entire presentation in themselves.
  • A family of three boys, trained (and managed) by their father
  • They are gruff, uncouth, follow their own unique training regimen, and play by their own rules
  • They also fancy themselves celebrities
the cases considered x daiki kameda62
The Cases Considered X:Daiki Kameda
  • Their rise to prominence in boxing’s lighter weigh classes has been supported and packaged by Japanese television broadcaster TBS
  • Thus, numerous evening specials and morning show segments feature the fighting family from Osaka
the cases considered x daiki kameda63
The Cases Considered X:Daiki Kameda
  • Daiki, who is only 18, is known for his cool demeanor, his ever-present sunglasses, his tinted hair, poor manners, and his penchant for singing songs over the PA after his victorious bouts
  • In October 2007, however, he was suspended for one year for his behavior during a WBC flyweight title match
the cases considered x daiki kameda64
The Cases Considered X:Daiki Kameda
  • During the match his father and brother advised him to gouge his opponent’s eyes and hit below the belt
  • And as it was clear he was losing to his 33 year-old opponent, he tried to lift and throw him, rather than box.
the cases considered x daiki kameda65
The Cases Considered X:Daiki Kameda
  • In an editorial, the newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun declared that the Kamedas have helped taint the "simple, stoical" sport of boxing with "elements of entertainment" that don’t differ much from pro wrestling.
  • Daiki’s elder brother later met the media and issued an apology on behalf of the entire family
the cases considered xi luis gonzalez
The Cases Considered XI: Luis Gonzalez
  • On April 30, 2008, Luis Gonzalez of the venerated Yomiuri Giants, was handed a one-year suspension for failing a drug test
    • Gonzalez is a Venezuelan native
    • He’d played for the Colorado Rockies from 2004-2006,
    • His positive test was for clobenzorex, amphetamine, and p-hydro-xyamphetamine
the cases considered xi luis gonzalez67
The Cases Considered XI: Luis Gonzalez
  • Gonzalez was immediately released by the Giants, whose executives held a press conference to, in part, publicly apologize for the disgrace they had visited (through their player) on Japaense professional baseball
    • The executives performed a ritual, collective, synchronized bow for photographers and reporters
  • This was the second suspension for illegal substances in Japanese professional baseball history
    • The first was in 2007 when pitcher Rick Guttormson of the Softbank Hawks testing positive for Finasteride, a hairgrowing agent
    • Guttormson was suspended for 20 days
the cases considered xii daniel rios
The Cases Considered XII: Daniel Rios
  • One month later, a third illegal performance enhancement case led to another suspension and firing
  • Tokyo Yakult Swallows right-hander Daniel Rios was suspended for one year by the Nippon Professional Baseball Association following a failed drug test
    • He actually was tested twice (in late May and late June)
    • His positive test was for hydroxystanozolol, a metabolite of the anabolic steroid stanozolol
  • Although Rios denied and wrong-doing, Yakult immediately released him
the cases considered xii daniel rios69
The Cases Considered XII: Daniel Rios
  • Rios is a native of Spain
  • He played briefly with the New York Yankees in 1997 and the Kansas City Royals in 1998
  • He then pitched in South Korea for 6 seasons
the cases considered xiii tomohiro nioka
The Cases Considered XIII: Tomohiro Nioka

On July 6, 2008, Tokyo Giants’ baseball player, Tomohiro Nioka was seen in a love hotel with Mona Yamamoto, a popular TV announcer of mixed Norwegian/Japanese heritage.

the cases considered xiii tomohiro nioka71
The Cases Considered XIII: Tomohiro Nioka
  • For Yamamoto this was the second brush with scandal. She had been fired from her earlier job as anchor on TBS’s late night news program (NEWS 23) when it was learned that she was having an affair with a married politician.
  • In the case of Nioka, who is also married, with a 1 year-old child, Yamamoto took the brunt of criticism.
    • Just back in her own show after a 2 year exile, she was promptly suspended.
the cases considered xiii tomohiro nioka72
The Cases Considered XIII: Tomohiro Nioka
  • For the most part this has been tabloid fodder.
  • Nioka’s team’s response:
    • “His behavior was very senseless. We apologize to our fans. He is sorry for his own actions now. Since he is one of our key players, we decided to let him off with just a verbal warning this time.”
making sense of the cases74
Making Sense of the Cases
  • Individually, these cases are all fascinating
  • However, collectively, they cohere in some telling ways
  • Above all, within their own societal contexts (i.e. the United States and Japan), these cases tell us much about the nature and perception of contest in the respective societies
making sense of the cases75
Making Sense of the Cases
  • In America, off-field “contest” is manifested in rational terms: via legal and administrative processes, rules, interpretations and resolutions
  • In Japan, off-field “contest” exist no less; yet they are manifested in emotional terms: via recourse to moral claims, to discussion of national and cultural integrity and the adherence to codes of practice and history
making sense of the cases76
Making Sense of the Cases
  • These cultural “systems” are mirrored and buttressed by their media systems
    • Which convey communications and processes that pass through, respectively, rational and emotional (cultural) filters
    • But whose writers and reporters, themselves, are primed to think and respond, to shape and “bend”, the stories in these particular directions
making sense of the cases77
Making Sense of the Cases
  • Thus is it that Japanese sporting discourse can easily give way to national/ist dialogue about what it means for a traditionally insular society to accommodate itself (for better and worse) to the influx of foreign elements:
    • Games, players, practices, ways of orienting oneself in the world
making sense of the cases78
Making Sense of the Cases
  • Just as American sporting discourse can easily become hijacked by rival political programs:
    • The liberal discourse of increased governmental and administrative regulation to eliminate cheating
    • The conservative discourse of increasing moral education in order to eliminate an endemic culture of self-aggrandizement at any (often illegal) cost
making sense of the cases79
Making Sense of the Cases
  • The cultural systems are not completely hermetic, of course
  • Forces of globalization not only bring players and sporting cultures into contact with one another
  • So, too, are institutional values and practices brought into dialogue, and co-mingled
    • Thus were the legal-rational anti-drug policies of the American and European golf associations adopted this year by the Japanese professional golf association
    • So, too, are these perspectives now under consideration for adoption in Japan’s most traditional, most “national” sport: Sumo
making sense of the cases80
Making Sense of the Cases
  • The cultural systems are also not completely distinct from each other
  • Driven increasingly by commercial media, sports in both countries have become:
    • Mainstreamed and society-centered entertainment
    • Increasingly vehicles for info-tainment
    • A domain nurturing the cult of celebrity
    • A site for commercialization of its key figures
    • A vehicle for the manufacture of heroism: both artificial and mundane
  • One would wonder if this is not also occuring in other societies/cultures, as well
the causes of endless contestation82
The Causes of Endless Contestation
  • The cases cited above provide details, above all, of how people associated with sports have screwed up
  • This is no surprise as there are clear incentives for cheating in sports.
    • For instance, Strulik (2008) has explained the rise of “doping cultures” through socio-economic modeling
    • It postulates that the doping decision of professional athletes is both a costs/benefits calculus (in terms of potential rank improvement) but also the approval by fellow athletes
the causes of endless contestation83
The Causes of Endless Contestation
  • In short, reputation is a major factor.
  • We know that fame and economic incentive are also elements that influence decisions to cheat; to act in excess.
  • Which, in turn, leads to regulation (by government) and attention by news media
  • And, if one of commercial media’s major dictums is that “sex sells”, well, so, too, is that true of conflict
    • Contest is akin to the publishing dictum: “If it bleeds, it leads”
the causes of endless contestation84
The Causes of Endless Contestation

Certainly, media has to play a role

The watchdog role that the media has traditionally played

  • which can be seen in the Bonds/Game of Shadows case

Weighed against the ability to capitalize on athletes’ marketability (their salesworthiness) which can drive paper purchase and viewership (on TV) and, hence, derivatively, advertising sales

  • which is a part of the Kameda and Nioka stories
the causes of endless contestation85
The Causes of Endless Contestation

The media has a major role to play for the simple reason that conflict off the field may be even more compelling than conflict on it.

It conforms to the 24-7 news cycle of cable television, talk radio, and the Internet

the effects of endless contestation87
The Effects of Endless Contestation
  • Missing, though, from my discussion this far is larger attention to the reaction of fans
  • Although, on this count, some evidence suggests that the effect of scandals in any one sport are not fatal to the sport.
  • Paul Swangard, managing director of the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, has said, for instance, that the Donaghy scandal does not much influence the mainstream fan and, thus, the future growth of a sports league like the NBA.
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The Effects of Endless Contestation

In a Los Angeles Times article, Swangard said: “For the mainstream fan, the integrity of the game is probably less important than the entertainment value

. . . It’s a(n) issue that they are aware of, but don’t care about. Similar to the steroids controversy in baseball.”

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The Effects of Endless Contestation
  • And the recently completed NBA Finals can serve as some guide in this regard
  • Amidst the talk of match-fixing, these finals, pitting the two most storied NBA franchises playing in the finals against one another for the first time in 24 years, led to enormous TV ratings
    • Far exceeding the previous year’s totals (between 50% [of households] and 60% [of viewers]
    • The largest ratings for NBA Finals in 8 years
    • And this, despite the fact that one of the officials implicated in Donaghy’s allegations of 2002 match fixing worked one of the 2008 Final games
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The Effects of Endless Contestation
  • Of greater concern might be the cumulative effects
  • The kind that have been theorized, for instance, by Noelle-Neumann in her “spiral of silence” model
  • Relative to sports scandals, or endless contestation, what is developed among media-sport consumers may be an understanding that, rather than the privileged realm of play, sport is the zone of struggle, of rules-breaking, of trying to exploit neutral, presumably objectified systems for personal benefit and aggrandizement.
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Media Role/Media Effect

In all of these cases, we can see (to varying degrees) the presence of media

  • A committee chairman is also a board executive of a major media empire
  • The enhanced performance that drugs allows leads to:
    • endorsement contracts (in the case of Marion Jones)
    • The flowering of third-party media exposure (in the case of Jones and Roger Clemens)
  • Intentional marketing of the athlete and sport by broadcasters (in the case of Kameda), thereby growing the sport and (with the sport) the athlete
  • The circulation of societal-wide racial discourse via the racist commentary of the media (the Imus case)
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Media Role/Media Effect?

But in asking about the “efficacy” of the media role, I would point to this example:

  • In 1992, MLB Player of the Year, Ken Caminiti, confessed in Sports Illustrated that he used anabolic steroids
    • He estimated that roughly fifty percent of the players in the league were using them also.
  • His story had a major impact on the media and its attention to drugs in sports.
    • The following chart shows U.S. media attention to steroids in sports in 1992.
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Media Role/Media Effect?
  • Week 14 is when the Sports Illustrated article was published about Caminiti.
  • Prior to that, only ten pieces were published in the mainstream media.
  • In the following 14 weeks, over 250 articles were published about steroids and sports.
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Media Role/Media Effect?
  • Source: http://www.steroid.com/steroids-in-sports.php (year: 2002)
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Media Role/Media Effect?
  • The SI Story had a kind of “monkey see, monkey do” effect (in the media)
  • However, it was more than a decade later than any tangible influence -- in the form of substance use policies in sports, Congressional hearings, the Mitchell Report, and Grand Jury indictments -- could actually be seen
  • So, while there is a media role for and an positive political/social outcome from endless contestation, it exists on a decided temporal lag

The Devolution of Advanced Society?


It is always good to remember the aphorism: “be careful what one wishes for . . . Because it might come true.”

In those inspired moments just prior to the tolling of the submission deadline I dashed off the fateful words: “the devolution of advanced . . .etcetera and so forth.”

How stupid can a sole be?

because here I am now having to explain and (more) defend those words


Well, clearly, we have yet to experience the demise of modern civilization because of endless contest

So, what could I possibly have been thinking of, right?


My basic thesis is that:

Above all, when it comes to contemporary mediated sports, we are in the midst of a framed reality of continuous contestation

  • This imposes a rhetoric of divide -- of division on us

Second, as convenient as endless contest may be for the media, and as compelling as it may be for the fan, the results in terms of stability for the larger society may not be positive at all.


These cases clearly demonstrate that contestation exists in advanced commercial sporting cultures like the U.S. and Japan

Although the data is not longitudinal, I would venture that contestation, as a rhetorical sporting form and as a mode of discourse, is accelerating

  • This is due, I would assert, because of economic and political interests are engaged by questionable – aggrandizing, self-centered, even illegal -- acts of athletes, coaches, and governing authorities
  • So, too, because of the intentional action of media
    • For which “endless contest” is a favorable communication tool
  • Why this should precipitate a decline in these advanced societies should not require too much justification
  • The notion that “everyone cheats” or “everyone is out to get theirs” is bad enough
  • But what it results in is one of two responses:
    • “right, I’m going to get mine, as well” or else
    • “we’d better intervene to make sure that doesn’t happen”, or else:
    • “we’d better knock this @%&# down a rung”
  • “Hold on, let me get mine” as opposed to “Not so fast, let me check your urine”
  • The culture that advanced media sports has bred is that the purity of fair play has been expunged.
  • Mistrust attends every new athletic feat
    • Thus heroism is now suspect
  • A world lacking in heroes may not be completely bad
    • But a world of perpetual suspicion, of endless challenge of human achievement and motivation is.