CO237A: Sports, Media, and Culture
“What is truly chilling is that there are a lot of smart people interested in sports. That just gives you no hope for the human race.” – Fran Lebowitz
Instructor: Michael Serazio
223 Donnarumma Hall, ext. 2839
CO237A: Tuesday and Friday 1100A-1215P @ CNS10
Office Hours: Tuesday 300-500P @ 223 Donnarumma
Thursday 300-500P @ 223 Donnarumma
Friday 900-1100A @ 223 Donnarumma
(and by appointment)
Sports have long played a vital yet complex role in culture and this course examines that intersection of sports, the mass media, and society. Drawing upon Durkheimian theory, we will appraise and debate the ways in which sports are functional or problematic in their impact on and relationship to players, fans, journalists, co-cultural groups, and nations. Students will read both scholarly and journalistic reflections, view popular and documentary film, and analyze fan experiences, mediated presentations, and critical social issues. In short, we will go beyond the box score to understand the importance – and deconstruct the hype – that accompanies modern sports. (3 credits)
Specific Course Objectives:
In keeping with the University’s pathways to “Appropriating Wisdom” and “Global Citizenship,” as well as the IDEA course objectives, the course will:
-Cultivate an understanding of the fundamentals of Durkheimian social theory and imaginatively apply them to the “meaning-making” associated with contemporary sports
-Practice critical analytical skills in deconstructing sports culture as a system of power inextricable from questions of race, class, gender, and sexuality
-Gain factual knowledge about the history of sports and its relationship to an increasingly pervasive mediated context
-Become familiar with the nationalistic and political appropriation of sports and its relevance to emergent patterns of globalization and diasporic belonging
For CO majors/minors, CO130 (“Mass Media & Society”) is required
Course Timeline and Readings:
Part I – The history, meaning, and utility of sports
Tue 3 September – Introductions and Overview
Fri 6 September – The Nature of Sports
Read: 1-(Lipsyte, 1979) 2-(Epstein, 1979) 3-(Huizinga, 2002)
Lipsyte, R. (1979). Sportsworld. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 4-9). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Epstein, J. (1979). Obsessed with sport. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 9-18). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Huizinga, J. (2002). I: Nature and significance of play as a cultural phenomenon. Homo ludens: A study of the play element in culture (pp. 1-13). London: Routledge.
Facebook Posting #1 (Due by midnight before class)
Tue 10 September – Sports and Mythology
Read: CH1-(Mandelbaum, 2004)
Mandelbaum, M. (2004). Chapter 1: A variety of religious experience. The meaning of sports: Why Americans watch baseball, football and basketball and what they see when they do (pp 1-39). New York: Public Affairs.
Fri 13 September – Sports, Durkheim, and Religion
Read: 4-(Durkheim, 2001) 5-(Novak, 1979) 6-(Gmelch, 1979)
Durkheim, E. (2001). Chapter I: Central totemic beliefs. The elementary forms of religious life (pp. 87-100). Tr. C. Cosman. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Novak, M. (1979). The natural religion. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 345-341). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Gmelch, G. (1979). Baseball magic. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 347-353). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Facebook Posting #2 (Due by midnight before class)
Tue 17 September – Sports, Community, and Society
Read: 7-(Melnick, 1993)
Melnick, M.J. (1993). Searching for sociability in the stands: A theory of sports spectating. Journal of Sport Management, 7, 44-60.
Course Viewing: Friday Night Lights (2004), director: Peter Berg (Access through: www2.fairfield.edu/movies)
Fri 20 September – Our National Past-Time
Read: CH2-(Mandelbaum, 2004) 9-(Eitzen, 1979)
Mandelbaum, M. (2004). Chapter 2: Baseball: The remembrance of things past. The meaning of sports: Why Americans watch baseball, football and basketball and what they see when they do (pp 40-118). New York: Public Affairs.
Eitzen, D.S. (1979). The structure of sport and society. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 40-46). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Tue 24 September – Sports and Rationalization
Read: 8-(Guttman, 2004)
Guttman, A. (2004). II: From ritual to record. From ritual to record: The nature of modern sport (pp. 15-55). New York: Columbia University Press.
Facebook Posting #3 (Due by midnight before class)
Fri 27 September – Class canceled
Tue 1 October – EXAM 1 (covers 3 September – 24 September)
Part II – Mediating sport
Fri 4 October – Sports, Power, and Capitalism
Read: 10-(Coakley, 1979) 11-(Agnew, 1979)
Coakley, J. (1979). Sport as an opiate. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 250-254). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Agnew, S. (1979). In defense of sport. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 255-258). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Course Viewing: Rocky (1976), director: John L. Anderson (Access through: www2.fairfield.edu/movies)
Facebook Posting #4 (Due by midnight before class)
Tue 8 October – Sports, Politics, and Resistance
Readings to be announced
Fri 11 October – Sports, Nationalism, and Globalization
Read: 12-(Mandell, 1979) 13-(Jackson & Ponic, 2001)
Mandell, R.D. (1979). The Nazi Olympics. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 259-263). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Jackson, S. J., & Ponic, P. (2001). Pride and prejudice: Reflecting on sport heroes, national identity and crisis in Canada. Sport in Society, 4(2), 43-62.
Tue 15 October – Playing the Fan
Read: 14-(Wann et al, 2001)
Wann, D.L., Melnick, M.J., Russell, G.W., & Pease, D.G. (2001). Chapter Two: Becoming a sports fan. Sport fans: The psychology and social impact of spectators (pp. 23-50). New York: Routledge.
Fri 18 October – Playing the Fantasy
Read: 15-(Serazio, 2008) 16-(Longman, 2006)
Serazio, M. (2008). Virtual sports consumption, authentic brotherhood: The reality of fantasy football. In L.W. Hugenberg, P.M. Haridakis, & A.C. Earnheardt (Eds.) Sports mania: Essays on fandom and the media in the 21st century (pp. 229-242). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.
Longman, J. (2006). 1 and 2. If football’s a religion, why don’t we have a prayer? Philadelphia, its faithful, and the eternal quest for sports salvation (pp. 1-26). New York: Harper.
Facebook Posting #5 (Due by midnight before class)
Tue 22 October – PAPER 1 DUE
Fri 25 October – Sports and Journalism
Read: 17-(Rowe, 2005)
Rowe, D. (2005). Fourth estate or fan club? Sports journalism engages the popular. In S. Allan (Ed.), Journalism: Critical issues (pp. 125-137). Berkshire, England: Open University Press.
Tue 29 October – Sports and Journalism (cont’d)
Read: 18-(King, 2008) 19-(Serazio, 2010)
King, C.R. (2008). Toward a radical sports journalism: An interview with Dave Zirin. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 32(4), 333-344. [*please note: read first column all the way down, then second column all the way down]
Serazio, M. (2010). When the sportswriters go marching in: Sports journalism, collective trauma, and memory metaphors. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 27(2), 155-173.
Facebook Posting #6 (Due by midnight before class)
Fri 1 November – Sports and Commercialism
Read: 20-(Whitson, 1998)
Whitson, D. (1998). Circuits of promotion: Media, marketing and the globalization of sport. In L. Wenner (Ed.), MediaSport (pp. 57-72). London: Routledge.
Tue 5 November – Sports and Commercialism (cont’d)
Read: 21-(Kellner, 2001) 22-(Sokolove, 2005)
Kellner, D. (2001). The sports spectacle, Michael Jordan, and Nike: An unholy alliance. In D.L. Andrews (Ed.), Michael Jordan inc.: Corporate sport, media culture and late modern America (pp. 37-64). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Sokolove, M. (2005, February 13). Clang! The New York Times Magazine.
Course Viewing: Jerry Maguire (1996), director: Cameron Crowe (Access through: www2.fairfield.edu/movies)
Facebook Posting #7 (Due by midnight before class)
Fri 8 November – EXAM 2 (covers 4 October – 5 November)
Part III – Sports and critical issues
Tue 12 November – Sports and Violence
Read: 24-(Sipes, 1979)
Sipes, R.G. (1979). War, sports, and aggression: An empirical test of two rival theories. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 46-57). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Fri 15 November – The War Game
Read: CH3-(Mandelbaum, 2004)
Mandelbaum, M. (2004). Chapter 3: Football: The spectacle of violence. The meaning of sports: Why Americans watch baseball, football and basketball and what they see when they do (pp 119-198). New York: Public Affairs.
Tue 19 November – Sports and Gender
Read: 28-(Kane & Greendorfer, 1994)
Kane, M.J., & Greendorfer, S.L. (1994). The media’s role in accommodating and resisting stereotyped images of women in sport. In P.J. Creedon (Ed.) Women, media and sport: Challenging gender values (pp. 28-44). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Fri 22 November – Class canceled
Tue 26 November – Sports and Gender (cont’d)
Read: 29-(Trujillo, 1991) 30-(Leitch, 2011)
Trujillo, N. (1991). Hegemonic masculinity on the mound: Media representations of Nolan Ryan and American sports culture. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 8, 290-308.
Leitch, W. (2011, Sept 11). The last closet: Will a gay professional athlete finally come out? New York.
Facebook Posting #8 (Due by midnight before class)
Fri 29 November – Thanksgiving Holiday
Tue 3 December – Sports and Race
Read: 25-(Boyd, 2003) 26-(Bledsoe, 1979)
Boyd, T. (2003). 1: Young, black, rich and famous: ‘Ball, hip hop, and the redefinition of the American Dream. Young, black, rich and famous: The rise of the NBA, the hip hop invasion and the transformation of American culture (pp. 1-18). New York: Doubleday.
Bledsoe, T. (1979). Black dominance of sports: Strictly from hunger. In D.S. Eitzen (Ed.), Sport in contemporary society: An anthology (pp. 358-364). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Course Viewing: White Men Can’t Jump (1992), director: Ron Shelton (Access through: www2.fairfield.edu/movies)
Facebook Posting #9 (Due by midnight before class)
Fri 6 December – The Postmodern Game
Read: CH4-(Mandelbaum, 2004)
Mandelbaum, M. (2004). Chapter 4: Basketball: The chemistry of teamwork. The meaning of sports: Why Americans watch baseball, football and basketball and what they see when they do (pp 199-271). New York: Public Affairs.
Tue 10 December – PAPER 2 DUE
Fri 13 December @ 8AM
EXAM 3 (covers 12 November – 6 December)
All readings will be drawn from the course textbook or will be available through the Blackboard Course Management website.
Textbook: Mandelbaum, M. (2004). The meaning of sports: Why Americans watch baseball, football and basketball and what they see when they do. New York: Public Affairs.
3 exams (15% each): 45%
Paper 1: Sports ritual ethnography – 12%
Paper 2: Critical issue analysis – 25%
9 short-response Facebook discussion postings (2% each) – 18%
(Please consult page 40 of the Fairfield University Undergraduate Course Catalog for point values and letter equivalencies.)
Three exams will be given during the course of the semester. Each will cover material only from that section of the course and will consist of multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank, and short-answer questions. These will not be cumulative – in other words, each of the exams will only include the lecture material and readings covered since the previous exam.
Paper 1: Sports ritual ethnography
Choose and attend one sports event (either professional or collegiate) and conduct a limited participant-observation ethnography. Using the themes discussed from course meetings on the history, meaning, and utility of sports, analyze the myths, rituals, totems, kinship, and collective memory involved and invoked by spectators. You should consult and utilize at least three outside references for the paper (i.e., readings not included on the syllabus) and you need to interview at least three spectators for 15 minutes each – these can be companions attending or new contacts you make there. From this interview data, your own observational insight, your research into the academic literature, and the relevant course themes, write a 5-8-page paper interpreting the underlying meaning(s) of the event. You will be graded upon the creative and analytical depth of a convincing argument, your use and application of course themes and concepts, substantive (i.e., not superficial) interview data, and well-written prose that has been carefully proofread for grammar and spelling. Avoid being overly descriptive and please be certain that you’re providing some originality and not simply regurgitating points made in class – in other words, think hard about what’s really going on, what functions it serves, and how participating spectators understand it. (Please upload electronic version to Blackboard and bring paper copy to class.)
Paper 2: Critical issue analysis
Choose a sports topic, individual, or event that relates to one of the sections in the final course unit on critical issues of power: violence, class, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, etc. Research and analyze that topic, individual, or event, both providing background and advancing your own insight into and thesis about it. You should consult at least six outside sources or references (including three academic/scholarly sources) for this 8-12 page paper. Feel free to use any reference style you desire (i.e., American Psychological Association, 6th Edition) to cite in-text and in a bibliography page. You will be graded upon the depth of your research, your skill in analyzing it using the themes discussed in class and that which you bring in from external sources, the clarity and strength of your argument, and well-written prose that has been carefully proofread for grammar and spelling. (Please upload electronic version to Blackboard and bring paper copy to class.)
Here are some journals you might consider consulting for reference material: Sociology of Sport Journal, Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Journal of Sports Media, Journal of Sport Behavior, Journal of Sport Management, and Sport in History.
Short-response Facebook discussion postings:
Students will be expected to attend each class and participate fully in discussions. In addition – at each marked instance on the schedule – students will be expected to contribute a thoughtful comment to the course’s Facebook discussion page. You can find the Facebook course page by going to:
Then go to the page’s wall and find the note tagged for that particular week’s discussion thread to view the field for your responses. By the designated date and time (i.e., midnight the night before class), please submit a 200-300 word response (approximately) to the readings and bring it to class to use as a reference for our conversation. I will provide some conversation starters and prompts that you can use in crafting your posting; alternatively, your responses can include questions or criticisms of the material as well as application of the ideas or issues to examples from sports media and culture you encounter in daily life. You can also respond to earlier comments from your colleagues, but please strive to add something original and interesting to the online conversation. These postings won’t be graded (i.e., A, B, C, etc.); they will simply be assessed as complete or incomplete. (If you use a Facebook profile that does not include your real name, please let me know if advance so I can be certain to give you credit for your posting contributions.) The discussion page will offer a springboard for our discussions and debates in class and provides an opportunity to keep the conversation going in cyberspace.
Lateness: Posting to the Facebook discussion after the time and date of any of the deadlines will not be considered and will not receive credit. Course papers that are late will be docked 5% for each day they are late. Exams cannot be made up without a documented emergency situation. No extra-credit opportunities are available.
Attendance: You are expected to be on time, to attend, and to participate fully in every class. Lectures are designed to engage students with frequent discussion opportunities and typically toward the end of each class we will spend some time discussing the readings (often based upon your responses on Facebook). I will bring a great deal of focus and energy to each course session and I ask you to do the same.
Absences: Please note that I do not give out PowerPoint slides nor do I review course lectures with students who miss class. If you do miss a class, you are responsible for finding out what you missed from a classmate in advance of the next course meeting.
Plagiarism: Consult the Undergraduate Catalog policy on academic honesty – violations of plagiarism will be strictly enforced and may result in failing a paper, examination, the course itself or lead to expulsion.
Students with disabilities: Students with disabilities requiring accommodations and services should contact me and the office of Academic & Disability Services (203-254-4000 x2615). Cases will be treated with the highest regard for confidentiality.
Fairfield University Writing Center: The Fairfield University Writing Center is a free resource available to all Fairfield University students. At the Writing Center, a writing tutor will work with you at any point in the writing process, from brainstorming to editing. The tutoring conference is collaborative; please come prepared to be an active participant in the session, and review the website for suggestions to help you prepare for your appointment. For more information or to make an appointment, visit the Writing Center website at www.fairfield.edu/writingcenter, email us at email@example.com or stop by the DiMenna-Nyselius Library, Lower Level.
Note: The instructor reserves the right for pedagogical purposes to alter the syllabus with adequate notification to students.