Thesis: Freud's Concept of Sublimation and Football

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Freud Sublimation Football secretly believe that if one had the means of studying the sublimation of instincts as thoroughly as their repression, one might find quite natural psychological explanations which would render your humanitarian assumption unnecessary."

Freud 308-309)

The development of modern pastimes if often thought divorced of history, and yet Freud and other historical thinkers would likely disagree. Freud's concept of sublimation is in fact one example of an sincere and lasting explanation for how and why modern peoples seek and become enamored with certain pastimes. One of the most popular U.S. sports is probably the best example. American Football is often seen as an outlet by many for the appropriate expression of sublimated drives and urges, such as the suppression of sexual aggression and violence that according to Freud is likely to result. When Freud and others who study him explain sublimation they explain it in terms of how individuals in "civilized" society repress certain taboo expressions by offering alternatives to them. Freud believed this was a monumental task that demonstrated how individuals in society cope with the many restrictions on action placed upon them by society itself. Though it was not always a popular theory it did strike true of how even the most modern individuals see and live their lives.

Freud's theory, then, is a theory of the relation of the coarse to the refined, of the raw to the sublime. It aroused indignant opposition by asserting that all men have. ids (that is, all men are Jews). His theory refused to the fine arts -- that is, to the arts that refined -- all autonomy. His theory of sublimation unmasked the autonomy of the fine. Freud knew that his theory offended not so much because it sinned against truth but Cuddihy 28) "because it sinned against good taste."

Cuddihy 29)

Even Freud's theory of sublimation challenged society, as it strove to prove or simply assumed that all human beings are driven by base desires to act out in certain ways that are not in the least bit refined, and would likely in modern society end in imprisonment. His explanation is simple that these drives, unless offered legitimate (controlled) outlets, such as a very violent (ritualistic) game (like American Football) would eventually lead to global expressions of rage, like war and even genocide. Below is an internal view of how extreme the sport can become and to just what lengths the sport goes to offer a legitimate outlet for the rage inherent in suppressed sexuality.

When you think about it, it is a strange thing that we do,' said the New York Giants linebacker, Jessie Armstead, a couple of years ago, when the NFL was, as it still is, going through a reassessment of degrees of violence in the game: crack-back blocks, leg-whips, face masks twisted, kicks in the groin, or other vulnerable parts, thumbs in the nostrils, fingers bent and bitten, gouged eyes, head butts, or after a smashing tackle, gratuitous elbows in the massive piling on. Not every player, coached to perform 'like a bunch of crazed dogs,' as Lawrence Taylor once put it, can do so with the marauding grace of his lethal instincts, but there is among the league's statistics a ferocious inventory of serious damage, surreptitious or flagrant, intended and unintended, from repeated quarterback concussions to shredded tendons, snapped clavicles, ripped ligaments in the line. 'During a game we want to kill each other,' Armstead remarked. 'Then we're told to shake hands and drive home safely. Then a week later we try to kill each other again.' This is not to mention the subtler brutalities of psychological dominance which may erupt, too, in physical violence, or the physical violence that goes the other way, as when, before Bill Parcells brought them together as teammates, the Bears' linebacker Bryan Cox, stunned and upended by the Jets' 300-pound tackle, Jumbo Elliott, went down punching him in the ribs. As they grappled then on the ground, the simple question was this, posed by Elliott with his hands on Cox's throat: 'Do you know who's in control of this situation?' 23(Blau 24)

This analogy is also not the first to be expressed, as thinkers from all over the world have seen and developed the idea that organized sports are often a legitimate outlet for the expression of sexual sublimation, which in its worst form, according to Freud can become sexual repression, which leads to total societal breakdown on an individual and mass level.

Archetti 140)

The most important charge is that sports are designed as sexual sublimation. Sports release sexual impulses in the form of aggression. If these impulses had been left repressed, they might have exploded in the form of political revolution, which is, of course, the outcome to be avoided if capitalism is to survive. Sexual repression is, according to Marcuse, a necessary part of capitalism, but sports provide a safety valve when the repression becomes exces- sive. Sports drain off repressed sexual energy which cannot, for what- ever reason, be profitably utilized by the economic system. Through the psychological mechanism of identification, the spectators join vicariously in the sublimation achieved by the players on the field. The precise form of this sublimation is important. Sexual repres- sion produces aggression and it is aggression that is directly released through sports, aggression which might otherwise destabilize the en- tire system of political control. The aggression derived from sexual repression can thus be released (kompensiert) through the athletic achievements and competitions. 24

(Guttmann 68)

Like Frued, many modern thinkers have also taken a significant amount of grief when expressing this idea, i.e. that violent and ritualistic sports are a simple expression of real base drives, which are seriously suppressed in civilized society.

Many of Professor Dundes's studies engaged the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud....Perhaps his most contentious article in this regard, at least in the United States, was a paper he published in Western Folklore, in which he analysed American Football as a form of "unconscious homosexual struggle for supremacy," an analysis he later applied both to warfare and the informal schoolyard game known as "Smear the Queer" (Dundes 1985b). His analysis of American Football was widely reported in the American media, and garnered him a great many admirers and a number of death threats.

Tangherlini 216)

Professor Dundes, was willing like Freud to call the game what it was, an expression of base desires that is immensely popular as a result of the fact that all men have the desire to suppress others, sexually and physical and are only offered alternative legitimate outlets to do so when they are participating in or in most cases watching other men do so, that is without being branded deviant or even incarcerated. In another trend of the developed view of American Football and other widely watched and enamored ritualistic sports in the world is the idea that sublimation is not the only aspect of the sport and the transference of the ideology and violent actions within them are reflective of narcissism, where individuals viewing games implant their own feelings and empathy into them in an attempt to be seen as one of the players they view on the field or even the screen.

The Narcissus myth has been frequently employed in the work of psychoanalysts following Freud's (1924) and more recently Lacan's (1989) discussion of narcissism. While I here only draw on the myth in an effort to explain and illustrate processes and mechanisms of football fandom, narcissism has also been at the heart of many theoretical discourses of social and cultural life in modernity at large (Lasch 1980; Sennett 1992; Marcuse 1998).

Sandvoss 185)

According to some the newly found interest in Freud and psychoanalysis in general is to some degree associated with these ideas of sublimation, being displayed in legitimate and even damaging ways, such as in unfounded wars is a result of social change. Student interest is significant of the fact that even more restraint and taboo has been applied to society, and even more conflict has in fact ensued as a result, even while many aspects that would have been suppressed in Freud's time (such as healthy homosexual partnerships) are becoming more widely accepted.

A more students of social science in general, and of sociology and psychology in particular, expressed an interest in learning about some of the areas covered by psychoanalysis-areas such as sexuality, anxiety, depression, suicidal impulses, changing gender roles, and cultural analysis. A society which was undergoing rapid changes in family patterns, for instance, led to confusions for many young people about gender roles, about parenting, drug-taking, sexualities, and questions about topics such as the aggression often displayed among football supporters. In so far as Freud developed a new subject area of research and clinical practice, if not a new 'science', he can be seen as contributing to an area of theory and therapeutic practice(s) which has been of value, and interest, to many. His work formed a break with… [END OF PREVIEW]

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