Sociology of Sport: Baseball
According to Ashley Crossman, “Sociology of sports, also referred to as sports sociology, is the study of the relationship between sports and society. It examines how culture and values influence sports, how sports influences culture and values, and the relationship between sports and media, politics, economics, religion, race, gender, youth, etc. It also looks at the relationship between sports and social inequality and social mobility” (Crossman 2012). Sports are a microcosm of real life; therefore anyone can embrace a sport, as we embrace real life.
For example, in this summer Olympic Games, Olympic sports are supported by all races and genders. In the past history, women usually gravitated to gymnastics, swimming or track & field and women’s tennis. However, in 2012, the gender and race involvement and viewership disparity has closed (Statista 2012). According to Statista, a Dow Jones Company, woman and non-white Olympic Games viewership has increased by 28%. In my opinion, these stats are attributed to minorities being more involved in the games, as well as the mainstream media have realized the marketing value of minority athletes.
Baseball was the first organized sport I was introduced to as a child. Although I played professional football, my first love of competition and athletics was baseball. My love for the sport of baseball was passed on to me by my step-father. The history of the sport was intriguing, even at a young age. I was into numbers and statistics and having a mentor to explain the simple parts of the game made it even more interesting, especially being American’s Pastime.
However, this can be debated, as stated by baseball historians Frank Ceresi and Carol McMains, “America’s Pastime’ has been traditionally thought to have been founded by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, NY in 1839. In truth, the game evolved over many decades, if not centuries, and its roots are, in reality, a tangled web of bat and ball games brought to this country by immigrants” (Ceresi 2012). Most players and fans of baseball have an undeniably appreciation for sports.
Seeing that baseball is played on the amateur level, as well as the professional level, this sport can be enjoyed by most demographics. Baseball at times transcends both social and economic boundaries. However, being at the ballpark there seems to be social classes, as in real life, such as the wealthy fans sit in certain areas, while those with limited finances sits in less costly sections. It also imitates real life society in other ways, like those in the so-called ‘cheap’ seats seem to have more fun than those fans in the expensive seats.
Even though most appreciate the sport, it seems to more of pleasure for those in the inexpensive seats, while those in the exclusive box seats treat as though it is an entitlement, instead of a privilege. On Thursday, July 26, 2012 I attended a professional minor league baseball game in San Bernardino, CA. This game pitted the San Bernardino 66er’s, a Los Angeles Angels minor league team, versus the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, a Los Angeles Dodgers minor league team. This is a small cozy stadium; however it has the same field dimensions as a major league stadium.
I chose this venue because I believed it would show a more diverse sociological viewpoint, in a close and friendly setting. Being an intimate setting, fans are able to interact with other fans, as well as coaches and players. This setting allows for a fun, family friendly atmosphere and doesn’t have the pressures of major league parks. Although winning is the primary goal, this is a developmental league and victory is not paramount for success. Therefore, the ball club management makes the environment conducive for a positive, enjoyable experience.
The fan base was made up of all ages, from infants to senior citizens. The gender make-up was probably 60% male and 40% female. The social economic status of the fan base ranged from lower income to middle class. Minor league baseball prides itself on being economical, with many price and food specials, such as $1. 00 hot dog night, $2. 00 admission night, Friday fireworks shows, etc. These prices are a major selling point to attract individuals that normally couldn’t afford to attend a major league baseball game; therefore minor league baseball is marketed to lower income fans.
The ethnicity of this fan base was mostly white and Hipic, with a few African Americans sprinkled in. The fans seem to be moderately educated, with few exceptions. Also, because baseball is a worldwide sport, there were many immigrants attending the game, primarily Mexican and Spanish Americans. Since most players are sent to particular minor league teams for development, many don’t meet the same demographics of the fan base. However, this team’s demographics were the same as the fan base, including White, Hipic and African American players.
The coaching staff was primarily white, with one African American. Since this is a single ‘A’ minor league club, many of these players haven’t signed major league contracts, therefore most of them are in the low income bracket, as with this particular fan base. Being a friendly and personable person, I was able to interact with various fans, however I noticed many fans sat with and interacted only with their own party or nationality. It is also evident that the season ticket holders and regular fans interact with each other by first name basis, regardless of their ethnicity.
Most fans seem to be generally cheerful and interested in the game. Being a minor league park, the other marketing tactic is to have interaction with the fans, such as using mascots, cheerleaders, on-field games for the kids, etc. My final observations include that baseball has its own language and most regular fans are extremely knowledgeable of the lingo. Baseball, being historically a slow sport, allows the casual fan and regular fan to learn about the idiosyncrasies of the game by listening to coaches and other fans.
Some little league coaches brought their players to educate them on the game. In most cases, most of the fans showed similar behavior, such as family and fan interacting, knowledge of the game and overall enjoyment of the entertainment offered. One thing that stood out was the older fans seem to be more into the actual game and not in the special attractions. However, my children, as well as most other children seem to be more interested in the sideshows and the food. Observing sports sociology at a baseball game, with methodology research in mind, was quite interesting.
It allowed me to view the game from a different perspective, such as focusing on human behavior, in lieu of just watching the game. I thought watching a baseball game from a sociology aspect would be difficult, however I realized most people view things the same way, but don’t have a clinical definition supporting it. ‘People-watching’ is a basic human instinct, though watching a game with a clinical perspective makes it very interesting. “It is only since 1970 that sports sociology has gained significant attention as a serious area of study” (Brown 2012).
It is presumed that professors did not consider how sports influenced the social order nor was it very significant or fundamental to sociology. According to Brown, “Sociology of sports poses critical and controversial issues. Because sports are considered a microcosm of society, the same social issues that exist in larger society also exist in sports”. Many of the same government policies and social persecutions demonstrated on minorities and women were also implemented in the society of sports. For example, women were not permitted to participate in many sports believed to be a manly sport, like baseball or car racing.
Many minorities or certain religious groups were not allowed to compete in many professional sports and in many cases were not even permitted to observe the sport, except from an isolated viewing area. Once more, the concerns and arguments that sports sociology uncovers are the same concerns that are reflected in real life society. The sociology of sport has many similarities to real life, as evident in how sports affect one’s everyday life. As a result, it is imperative for a person to critically think about how we deal with life, as inspired by our sports influence.
By doing that we can see how sports can enhance our real life social skills. Many people participate or watch sports to relieve stress, get exercise or just to have fun. Businesses at times develop sport teams to build camaraderie amongst their employees, allowing them to interact outside of the workplace. Sports can satisfy the human need for competition and human interaction. Sports are a microcosm of real life, having a hierarchy, such as players, coaches, referees and spectators. In real life we have employees, bosses, human relations and customers, for example.
Consequently, people gravitate to sports for different reasons; however they get the same passionate effect. Sport fans and actual sport participants have similar ambitions, whether it is winning games, winning as a team or rooting for your team to victory. Sport sociology encompasses a true spectrum of goals and inspiration, just as real life. Keeping true to one’s sociological views and embracing other’s views can definitely allow a person to see life through a basic viewpoint, as well as a broad sociological viewpoint. Sports have a place in everyone’s ife, whether it’s physical sport or mental sport, such as board games, playing cards or playing mental games with one’s significant other. Competition builds character; Competition is “the act of competing, as for profit or a prize. ” (D’Angelo 2006) It is a test of skill or ability between players with the prize of some kind being victory, where one can only be achieved by out-competing your competition. These sports concepts transcend to business, family, friendship, etc. Again, sports is a microcosm of real life, therefore it intertwines society’s real life sociology and sport’s sociology.
In conclusion, sports have played an important part of my life, as both a participant and just having fan. Having a love for sports has allowed me to interact with people of all races and genders. Networking with individuals, while playing sports, even at the amateur level, offers venues for business opportunities, meeting new friends and cultivating existing personal relationships. Given the opportunity everyone should engage in some type of competition, as it stimulates the mind and body.