Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Andrei S. Markovits & Lars Rensmann's "Gaming the World"

Andrei S. Markovits is the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan. His books include Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America and Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism. Lars Rensmann is DAAD Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan.

Their new book is Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture.

Markovits applied the “Page 99 Test” to Gaming the World and reported the following:
Page 99 commences with a description how sports movies featuring the Big Four North American sports of baseball, football, basketball and hockey have – with very few exceptions – been unmitigated failures in the rest of the world and have massively underperformed globally when compared to other American movies. While the NFL has successfully “rented” England’s venerable Wembley Stadium for a yearly football game featuring two of its teams that perform in a sold-out venue to much immediate media attention, the lasting cultural legacy of these games still remains quite marginal in England’s sports culture. Indeed, in the 2009 version featuring the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, most of England’s sports fans and football supporters – let alone the bevy of reporters crowding into Wembley’s media room – were glued to television screens showing the match between Liverpool and Manchester United, one of that country’s (and the world’s) most coveted and defining rivalries in the game of soccer. This particular vignette encapsulates quite well the gist of our book’s argument which – in essence – focuses on how what we call the second globalization (1980s to the present) transports formerly alien sports languages into sports “spaces” that were created during the first globalization (between 1860s and the 1920s) and that defined mutually unintelligible sports cultures on either side of the Atlantic. We conclude that while major shifts in Europe’s and North America’s respective sports spaces have indeed occurred by dint of this second globalization; and we can really observe what we call the “Olympianization” of soccer in America (meaning that the quadrennial World Cup has become a major cultural phenomenon since the 1990s comparable to the Olympic Games with the quotidian presence of soccer however still remaining on the margins of American sports culture); and the NBA’s and the NHL’s (to a much lesser degree the NFL’s and MLB’s) growing presence in Europe; the resilience of the sports languages created by the first globalization remains remarkable. Thus, while many more Americans have become conversant in soccer by virtue of the World Cup’s popularity, this in no way rivals their cultural and linguistic mastery of baseball, football, basketball and hockey. Conversely, while more Europeans than ever know about and appreciate the North American Big Four sports, this does not come close to their intellectual sophistication and emotional involvement pertaining to soccer.
Read an excerpt from Gaming the World, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue