Essay: Commodification of Sport and Physical Activity

Pages: 4 (1369 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports  ·  Buy This Paper

Sports have been enjoyed as a form of entertainment at least since the times of the ancient Greeks. The perfection of the human body through athleticism is likewise nothing new. Team sports and leagues have been part of (at least male) communities throughout the modern era. However, the role sports play in the 21st century is qualitatively different than the role sports have played in the past. Even a hundred years ago, athletes who did earn money did not earn enough to make their sport a full-time job. Elite athletes now are not just eking out a living; they are signing multi-million dollar contracts that tie them to teams. Corporate sponsorship and celebrity endorsement advertising supplement their fat salaries further. It is the latter, the corporate infiltration of sports, that is a phenomenon unique to the late 20th and early 21st century. The relationship is fostered and nurtured by the media, creating a complex web in which athletes, the media, and capitalist enterprise are entangled.

The relationship between sports, the media, and capitalism is exploitative and symbiotic at the same time. What Real (1998) calls "the institutional alignments of sports and media in the context of late capitalism" is taken for granted so much around the world that spectators do not seem to notice or care the extent of problem (p. 15). While athletes surely benefit from the injection of financial torque into their profession, the spectator is reduced in many cases to a marketing tool. The athletes may be the ones wearing corporate logos on their jerseys as they do in Australia. As McKay & Miller (1991) note, such blatant corporate branding has transformed the character of sports in Australia. "The once hegemonic amateur ideology has become increasingly marginal and residual…most amateur and semiprofessional men's and women's sports have also become reliant on corporate support," (McKay & Miller 1991, p. 7). The same can be said for sports in nearly every region of the world, save for pick-up games played casually on the street.

Hughes & Coakley (1984) illustrate one of the ironies of the commodification of sport. In the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, spectators have become deluded as to their own athletic capacity and sometimes imagine themselves as being equally as capable of greatness as an elite athlete is. "Many of the viewers of media sporting events are not drawn to those events by their respect for and appreciation of excellence," note Hughes & Coakley (1984, p. 59). "Quite the reverse, they are drawn precisely by the belief that anyone can play and there is nothing special about those who do, at least nothing special enough to discourage active emulation," (Hughes & Coakley 1984, p. 59).

Thus, the consumer is dumbed down not only in the sense of being an easy marketing target but also in the sense of becoming actually stupid. The commodification of sport is more a mirror than it is a cause, though. Sport is not the only arena in which mass media harnesses its fantastic money making power at the expense of taste. Music is one of the most noticeably tainted fields at the professional level; the commodification of music represents equally as parasitic a relationship between itself and the media as professional sports.

The relationship between media and sports can be considered both parasitic and mutually beneficial. Real (1998) refers to it with one word: MediaSports. The term reflects Real's (1998) observation that MediaSports is pastiche in a type of distorted commercial art form. Sound bytes, images of sexy athletes, highlight reels, and the commentator's voices all come together in a cacophony of capitalism. As Real (1998) claims, MediaSports "can make significant positive contributions" in the sense that sports are healthy and fun to watch, and elite athletes deserve to be recognized and paid well for their talents (p. 26). The athletes are not being victimized in this sense; they are surely laughing their way to the bank because they are getting rich by doing what they love to do most.

However, "because of institutionalized capitalist priorities, there is the danger of mindless, misdirected adoration and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Commodification of Sport and Physical Activity.  (2011, April 6).  Retrieved May 24, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/commodification-sport-physical-activity/27958

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"Commodification of Sport and Physical Activity."  6 April 2011.  Web.  24 May 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/commodification-sport-physical-activity/27958>.

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"Commodification of Sport and Physical Activity."  Essaytown.com.  April 6, 2011.  Accessed May 24, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/commodification-sport-physical-activity/27958.