Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity


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Is There Room for Sports to Get Even More Commercialized?

This article by Pinsker (2016) does a great job declaring from the start that sponsorships on jerseys are inevitable. This is understandable because an extra $5 million for the Philadelphia 76ers is hard to turn down for something as simple as a small logo on the left chest/shoulder of the jersey. When thinking specifically about the NHL I see several teams (Winnipeg, Arizona, Florida) that would love to have the extra revenue to help either on the business side or hockey side. However, one area that I think the article discounts quite easily is the impact fans have on professional sports. Looking at the Detroit Red Wings as an example they recently opened their new arena, Little Caesars Arena, in October 2017. Moving from the legendary Joe Louis Arena (named after Detroit boxer Joe Louis) to an arena attached to corporate sponsorship was met with negative backlash (Pevos, 2017) from fans of the Red Wings and NHL fans in general (especially when the Little Caesar’s logo was placed on the roof). The deal was final so there was nothing Detroit could do about it, but this should illustrate that the implementation of corporate sponsorship into aspects of sport that are not accustomed to them will receive a negative reaction from fans. I know the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens could put virtually anything on their jerseys and still make huge profits, but what if the Florida Panthers upset their fans or the Arizona Coyotes?

The notion that there will be sponsorships on North American professional sports jerseys in the future has been troubling to most fans. One possible reason for this is that even though professional sports franchises are for profit enterprises, the illusion that professional sports is about competition and athleticism still exists among most fans. From the fans perspective the jersey is a part of their identity, both physically and subjectively. Jerseys are part of their identity physically in the sense that fans can buy and wear “their” teams jersey and subjectively because the identifiable aspects of their fandom include the jersey (logo, colours, etc.). As stated by Pinsker the jersey is the last untapped frontier of revenue in US sports. The fact that this is one of the few aspects of sport that is still sacred without commercialized interest’s means that it will be a tough sell to fans, many of whom believe sport is too commercialized as it is.

As Nauright and White (2002) noted nostalgia is a key way that sports media markets to fans because nostalgia removes the pain of the past and focuses on positive memories. Nostalgia implicates a sense on innocence and by adding sponsorships to jerseys the argument could be made that some of that innocence is lost. Personally simply the image of jerseys from the past gives me a sense of nostalgia and I do not know if sponsorships on the jerseys would taint that feeling. The other pressing matter to consider is that in a North American context any additions to jerseys were either to signify leaders on teams or honour those from the past that may no longer be with us. If the NHL implements sponsorships onto jerseys will the ‘C’ be altered in anyway on Sidney Crosby’s jersey? If they place it on the right side of their chest what happens when a figure such as Jean Beliveau passes away? In what way will they honour that person? These questions will need to be answered by professional leagues and will then need to be justified to players, fans, and alumni.

Drawing from Ziegler (2011) as well I have to wonder what this extra money would be used for. If the 76ers are getting $5 million to have the Stubhub logo on their jersey will they then not require as much public funding for new arenas? This extra revenue could supplement a reduction in ticket prices, concessions, or improve the community engagement initiatives from these teams. Using one of these as a primary reason to obtain these sponsorships could ease the transition for some fans, but there will still be some that see this as purely as a cash grab by for profit organizations. Ziegler’s main argument against sport is that professional sport has not been used to serve as a public good as it was intended. I have to believe that adding sponsorships onto jerseys for the sole purpose of increasing revenue will further validate his opinion.

One aspect of this debate that was not brought up in the article was the corporate sponsorship that happens at the grassroots level of sport. There is no backlash from fans when their local team’s jerseys are sponsored by McDonalds or Tim Horton’s so why is it such a travesty at the professional level? The argument can be made that these teams are in need of money and that justifies the massive amounts of sponsorships both on the jersey and part of the team name. As a native of PEI I have grown accustomed to sponsorship throughout local sport, for instance the two Major Midget hockey teams on PEI are: the Charlottetown Bulk Carrier’s Pride and the Kensington Monaghan Farm’s Wild. This article does mention the Philippines Basketball Association having a numerous sponsorships as revenue is hard to come by in non-major leagues. This is similar to an observation I have made about the National Basketball League of Canada. The teams in this league have sponsorships on the jerseys, but when revenue is at this low of a level then increasing their jersey sponsorship similarly to NASCAR or European basketball or hockey could help the league maintain consistent revenue sources.

In conclusion I believe that sponsorships on jerseys are inevitable, but professional franchises should be transparent and explain to their stakeholders why this is important and what the money will be used for. With this strategy I believe fans will be more accepting of change and will endorse the brand similarly to NASCAR supporters.

References:

Nauright, J., & White, P. (2002). Mediated Nostalgia, Community and Nation: The CFL in Crisis and the Demise of the Ottawa Roughriders. Sport History Review, 33, 121-137.

Pevos, E. (2017, July 12). Giant pizza man on Little Caesars Arena roof not going over well withfans. Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2017/07/giant_guy_on_little_caesars_ar.html

Pinsker, J. (2016, June 13). Is There Room for Sports to Get Even More Commercialized? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/06/future-corporate-sports-sponsorhip/486569/

Zeigler, E. (2011). Sport As a Key Partner in the “Big Four’s Reign” in the Western World? International Journal of Sport Management, Recreation & Tourism.


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Mediated Nostalgia, Community and Nation: The CFL in Crisis and the Demise of the Ottawa Roughriders

This article by Nauright and White (2002) examines the position of the Canadian Football League (CFL) in Canada in the 1990’s, the popular media discourses surrounding the CFL and a nostalgic view of an idealized Canada, and the crisis of Canadian Identity as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) saw North America more integrated than ever. The 90’s were a troubling time for Canadian Identity as a number of issues arose throughout the decade. The long-term relationship between Canada and Quebec was unknown and many believed that secession was inevitable. The case could then be made that the rest of Canada would then be broken up, as the Maritime Provinces would then be separated from the rest of Canada. This alone put Canadian Identity into question-if Canada was not a nation from east to west than what was Canada?

Another blow was dealt to Canadian Identity as the continued southern expansion of the National Hockey League (NHL) saw 11 franchises join the NHL: San Jose, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Florida, Dallas, Phoenix, Colorado, Carolina, Nashville, and Atlanta. Only one of which was in a Canadian market and in the case of Phoenix and Colorado two Canadian franchises were sent south (Winnipeg and Quebec respectively). Hockey has been at the core of Canadian Identity for the greater part of the century and seemingly losing Hockey to the United States was very troublesome for Canada.

The CFL followed the lead of the NHL and began expanding south as Baltimore, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Shreveport, Memphis, Birmingham joined the CFL. The CFL commissioner had even gone as far as saying that “the league’s future was not in Canada, but through expansion in the United States”. Several of the Canadian CFL franchises were in financial trouble so it could have been argued that this was a wise move. However the American CFL franchises were even more troubled than the Canadian franchises, many of the teams only playing one season. One team that did have success were the Baltimore Stallions as they reached the Grey Cup in 1994 losing to the BC Lions, then made it back in 1995 defeating the Calgary Stampeders to become the first non-Canadian team to win the Grey Cup. The success of the Stallions caused a lot of insecurity among CFL fans in Canada. The CFL had always been a place where American influence was minimized, but now that the Grey Cup was in American territory that may come to an end. The Stallions were shortly after disbanded because of NFL relocation that sent the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore and renamed them the Ravens.

This then brings up the notion of nostalgia and how it is used within the sports media context. There is such a rich history of sport in Canada which can make it very easy to capitalize on consumer’s feelings and emotions. During the financially troubled 90’s most of the CFL teams leaned on nostalgia to keep the doors open. While the Roughriders were in crisis the media discussed the relation to the “glory days” of the franchise in the late 60’s and 70’s. What was always ignored was the earlier years of the team when they nearly had to shut-down operations. Nostalgia is still used today when sports franchises are in trouble or have not had much success. Particularly the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs have such a deep history that reliving the past becomes almost a weekly occurrence (especially when they are struggling on the ice). Nostalgia is so powerful because it takes away the pain of the present and allows us to remember the good aspects of the past without worrying about the troubles of the time.

Fast-forward 20 years and the CFL may be stronger than ever with a recent re-branding taking place. The NHL has continued to expand south, but Canada was able to regain the Winnipeg Jets and could have another franchise in Quebec or the Greater Toronto Area in the foreseeable future. To close I would like to leave you with the most difficult and thought provoking question that was raised in this paper: “what makes Canada Canadian?”

References:

Nauright, J., & White, P. (2002). Mediated Nostalgia, Community and Nation: The CFL in Crisis and the Demise of the Ottawa Roughriders. Sport History Review, 33, 121-137.

Additional articles:

http://www.cfhof.ca/grey-cup-winners/

https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-expansion-history/c-281005106


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Canada’s Cold War Identity…on Ice

With the conclusion of the World Cup of Hockey Canadian identity is as strong as ever, with team Canada taking a dominating 2 game series win over Team Europe. Team Europe might be a new opponent for Team Canada but they did not stop them from taking the title of World Cup Champions. Team Canada went through some older and familiar teams where the rivalry today is distinctly different than it was during the famous 8 game Summit Series with the former USSR.

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Canada is still known across the world and especially within Canada’s diverse population as a hockey nation with dominating performances in the past several international events and tournaments. The chapter by Scherer, Duquette, and Mason (2007) in the book East plays West, Sport and the Cold War provides us with the “(re)articulation of the Canadian National Identity” through the 1972 Summit Series.[1] The chapter provides us with a unique perspective of the Summit Series by setting the stage. Most documentaries begin with game 1 of the series and conclude with the iconic Henderson goal. By providing the unique circumstances that established this event we can obtain a new perspective and appreciation for the significance of the series to the Canadian identity.

The 1960’s and 1970’s was a time that the USSR national team was dominating the international stage. Canada was unable to send professional athletes to international competitions and with the rise of other hockey programs in the world Canada lagged behind. Canada withdrew from international events previous to the 1972 series with the USSR. The series was established with the ability for Canada to send NHL professionals to represent the country. Canada’s identity would form through two different and distinct avenues. The first being Canada’s identity to the world as Canada was forming diplomatic ties with the USSR without major western allies. Canada would open up to the USSR forming a diplomatic tie that would share aspects of the two countries, which included hockey. The second would be through the fractured Canadian self identity with the debate of Anglophone vs. Francophone taking place in the country at this time. Through these two avenues Canada would (re)articulate its identity to the world but also to itself.

Today Canada is a unique Country with a wide range of demographics through the increased numbers of immigrants in many Canadian cities. With this shift in Canadian demographics the popularity of hockey has been threatened. Not many immigrants participate in hockey but instead play basketball and soccer. The participation rates of hockey are declining in many major metropolitan areas. What does this do to the Canadian identity, especially during international hockey events? It is interesting to know that many immigrants give hockey a try either through actually playing or watching with other Canadians. Immigrants see this as an essential way of entering into Canadian society and being a part of the Canadian identity.[2] The relevance of this was shown in the gold medal game of men’s hockey during the 2010 Vancouver winter games where nearly 80 percent of Canadians tuned in for some portion of the game, which comes out to nearly 26.5 million people.[3] Hockey in Canada is still seen as an essential part of its identity. Even with the changing demographics of Canada individuals new to the country still make an effort to enter into the Canadian hockey world to experience part of our identity as a nation. The social component of hockey among new immigrants to Canada is essential to a portion of their integration and inclusion.

The image of Canada to the world has shifted since the 1970’s but what has stayed constant is the identity Canada has through its hockey. Canada is once again on top of the world as 2016 World Cup Champions.

[1] Scherer, J., Duquette, G.H., & Mason, D. S. (2007). The Cold War and the (re)articulation of Canadian national identity, The 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series. In S. Wagg & D.L. Andrews (Eds.), East plays West, Sport and the Cold War (pp. 163-186). London: Routledge.

[2] The Institute for Canadian Citizenship (2014). Playing together – new citizens, sports, and belonging.

[3] Dan O’Neill – https://www.nhl.com/news/olympic-final-most-watched-hockey-game-in-30-years/c-519476


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Thumbs down, Grapes.

Scherer J., & McDermott L. (2013). Don Cherry and the Cultural Politics of Rock’em Sock’em Nationalism: Complicating The Hero-Villain Binary in Canada . In Wenner, L. A.  (Ed.), Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture (pp. 330-345). P. Lang.

Another take on the Hero-Villain binary exhibited by the notorious Don Cherry.

Over the past 35 years, Don Cherry has spent every Saturday night over the course of a National Hockey League (NHL) season on Coach’s Corner, co-hosting the 1st intermission segment of Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). At the end of segments, Don routinely gives a big thumbs up to the audience. However, after reading this article, I have to give Cherry a big thumbs down.

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When the horn blows to signal the end of the 1st, the unmistakable trumpeted theme song of Coach’s Corner comes on.  If you’re like me, you stay seated on the couch, not eagerly awaiting to hear the outlandish comments Don will undoubtedly provide, but to simply get a laugh at his flamboyant fashion choices.  Aside from his attire, Cherry is also well-known for his rants, often offering his opinions on a range of sociopolitical issues that stray far from the on-ice content he is paid (handsomely) to comment on.  If we ignore the velvet blazers and fuchsia ties, and truly listen to his message, these boisterous critiques include targeting Europeans and French Canadians (focused on in this article particularly) and constructing a controversial version of Canadian national identity.

Don’s version of ‘Canadianism’ leaves millions of Canadians out of the picture.  It is the ‘good ol Saskatoon boys’ that grew up on the farm, rather than Francophones, who encompass his view of toughness and patriotism, he feels a ‘true’ Canadian should have. His exclusion of certain groups does not reflect the cultural diversity which is what SHOULD be one of the pillars of Canadian identity. This interpretation is interesting considering the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s (CBC) Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition, is hosted by individuals who would not fit Don’s image. Don’s version of nationalism contradicts the multiculturalism that Canada prides itself on in a global context.

To piggyback on Don’s controversial interpretation of Canadian identity, is his interpretation of masculinity. This concept is not explored in the article, however, I find it interesting to contrast Don’s own portrayal of masculinity (his outfit choices ) with his conservative notions of toughness and aggression when commenting on players; often referring to French Canadians, and Russians as “cowards” for wearing a visor, or shying away from a fight.

The militarization of sport and hockey in particular, is not a recent phenomenon. For example, players have gone to ‘battle’ in the corners and ‘snipers’ have been scoring goals for years.  Don has long been known as one of the military’s greatest supporters, the sincerity and respect Don has for the Canadian Armed Forces is unquestioned. No one can critique the emotional memoirs he often gives to fallen soldiers and their families. However, at times his conservative views of the military begin to become political tirades. Foreign policy should not be up for discussion, as Don gives only a one-sided biased take on war and military engagements.

CBC has done relatively little to stop Don from vocalizing his brash and uncontested opinions (the seven second time delay is far from the game misconduct he deserves). Like him or not, Cherry’s notoriety has made him a staple in households across the country every Saturday night.

Is Coaches Corner the appropriate platform to be vocalizing such controversial ideology? Probably not. However, this rhetoric is what makes the man behind the fuchsia suit who he is, and viewers cannot wait to see what he wears and says next.

 


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Don Cherry’s Nationalism: The Loss of Rationale Thought?

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In the book written by L.A. Wenner(2013), “Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture ” a chapter by Jay Scherer & Lisa McDermott delve into the cultural significance CBC’s Don Cherry holds in regards to Canadian Nationalism. The article begins by stating that through the television career of Don Cherry, he has demonstrated a unique binary that sets him up to be a polarizing figure. Specifically, the Hero-Villain phenomena, as you can see in this clip. The authors go on to note that through his persona and comments, he displays a form of cultural identity that a collective of the population state as being biased towards conservative views. The Authors highlight this stance through the lenses of: his relations to the French-Canadians, and his stance on the Canadian military. The Authors bring light to cherry’s views towards the Francophone community on many separate occasions including: his anti-Quebecois rhetoric in the belief that they are “whiners”, as well as his favors for English (both language and people). On the opposite end of the Cherry Spectra, his support for the troops counters his disdain for the francophone, as elaborated by the Authors. They go on to note the countless times Don has expressed in favor of pro -war mentality, including an infamous coach’s corner segment where he and Ron Maclean debated on the topic.

See here

The authors also highlight his express for supporting the efforts by the Unites States and how we as Canadians should be supporting them, as well as his interpretation of what being Canadian is; specifically, being a warrior nation. The Authors’ make a final note of significant importance on the complicity that the CBC is demonstrating by not taking appropriate action to Cherry’s remarks and displays and that they too are in deep fault for shaping ideals and an identity for Canada. Thus, the authors demonstrate that their is more to the color commentator then simply hockey, but a brand of nationalism that not everyone would identify with.

This Chapter does bring warranted concern to the table, in addressing topics that can have damaging effects within the sporting realm from Mr. Cherry: exclusion via race, conceptualization of what being a ‘Canadian’ is, and overt support of hegemonic masculinity. These views can have serious repercussions on the enrollment and retention of future hockey players, which is an even bigger concern now for the sport as noted in recent demographic data. Global News report

However, these viewpoints are essential for the betterment of the sport. Within the realms of Kinesiology, thought is structured to enhance inclusive aspects of sport and recreation, in a holistic perspective. This particular stream of thought by Don Cherry, often gets ignored from an educational perspective as it is essentially deemed outlandish given that it doesn’t fit our criteria.  So in engaging in a “cosmopolitanism” way of thinking (bringing contrasting ideas together and communicating them in a way to come to a consensus for the betterment of society), programs can define the structure on what their sport offers in an effort to adhere to what both sides mention or what identity they wish to bring forth. By engaging with various rationales and understanding stance, only then can sport and recreation develop for the better. In the sport of hockey a huge dilemma is the recruitment and retention of players (as noted from the global report above), some can argue that they may not enroll in the sport because it can be too aggressive and people like Don Cherry push forward a mentality of what hockey should be. On the other hand, some may argue that the culture of hockey has changed to much and has become a sport that has lost it’s significance (the game is too soft).So despite the flaws that the Authors make note of, we should be slow to dismiss the Don Cherry’s of the world as they create pivotal moments for opportunities to become better, especially in the context of developing and enhancing programs. For that is what the pursuit of education is all about.

Issue related to Sport & Recreation (& Kinesiology) is: Sport being used as a means to suffice needs beyond its intended purpose, specifically in terms of national Identity and Inclusivity. The Effect of contrasting perceptions and how Kinesiology must learn to adapt with these notions for the betterment of the sport.

Reference:

Scherer J., & McDermott L. (2013). Don Cherry and the Cultural Politics of Rock’em    Sock’em Nationalism: Complicating The Hero-Villain Binary in Canada . In Wenner, L. A.  (Ed.), Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture (pp. 330-345). P. Lang