The Business of Sports
Duh nuh nuh, duh nuh nuh. Even typed out many people probably recognize this tune as the opening tune to Sportscenter, ESPN’s most popular sports show. Sportscenter is great. For those of us who don’t have time to watch every sporting event that occurs around the world in a given day (which is most of us), Sportscenter takes all the highlights, statistics and top plays from those games and presents them to us in short clips. People like Sportcenter because it gives us all of the sports news that we want in a reasonable time period. Sportscenter is basically a “sports filter.”
In the Professor’s chapter on “Being a woman and other disabilities”, he opens with a picture of a women’s basketball game from the year 1910. Although Professor LaVaque-Manty touched on a number of issues in this chapter, one i would like to focus on has to do with “the business of sports” and more generally viewership of less popular sports. Historically less popular sports are often, as the Professor pointed out, sports played by women or those with physical disabilities. Participants in these sports and events are in my view obviously very skilled and talented athletically, much like their male counterparts, however it is no secret they do not receive even close to the level of attention that male athletes do.
I think Sportscenter is an interesting point of reference from which to examine the inequality that exists among various types of athletic competitions today. I’m fairly certain if you asked any person on the street if they valued women’s basketball or a paraolympic event such as skiing, they would say yes. However, if that same person sees value in these sports, why don’t we see them show up on the ESPN top 10 plays of the week? This is what Professor LaVaque-Manty is referring to when he calls attention to Rousseau’s l’opinion publique. Although we each have our own feelings regarding sports, as a public we demand to see only select ones, generally those dominated by fully mobile male athletes.
I think the Professor does a good job in staying somewhat neutral in the discussion of whether or not this phenomenon is good or bad, however i’m going to take a personal stand and say that i think that the mass marketization of sports could have negative consequences on equalizing sports. To take the hypothetical street poll i suggested earlier one step further, if i asked a random person if they valued NBA basketball more than WNBA women’s basketball, chances are they would say yes. That is why ESPN top 10 highlights during the winter usually feature about 5 top plays from the NBA and maybe 1 from a WNBA game.
In my opinion business decisions made about what to show on ESPN are the most telling examples of how society feels about certain sports. We value certain athletic games and traits over others. Additionally, i think the business element that has been introduced to sports will continue to insure that these values will not change. Businesses will always strive to flood markets with goods that the consumers want, and this increased potential for profit from certain sports will only beget increased investment in those same sports. Much of athletics these days has more to do with business than it does pure athletic ability, and i think that this trend will only discourage efforts to “equalize” sports as more people look to profit from them.
Sorry for the Ohio State Highlights: