Why some people “Sport” and others just don’t:

This semester I decided to take a course on media, sports and popular culture. Why would I take a class on sports if I don’t watch it, don’t play it, and don’t enjoy it? Well the answer is because sport is important to our economy and culture. True I don’t know much about the sports world, but it is for that reason that I need to dip my foot in so to speak, to learn about it. Yet I’m not alone in not watching sports, or participating in them. The question I would like to pose is; is sport a simple like or dislike question or is there more under the surface. And if there is a under the surface aspect to it, how big is the iceberg?

Image from: http://www.etoro.com

Sport is made and marketed to the Brad Pitt and the Carrie Underwood:

An article entitled, “Athletic identity and its relationship to sport participation levels,” states there are three different levels of sport participation.

1.) The“elite,” in other words the people that go out golfing because they are either retired. Or, the people that have so much money they could retire but go golfing instead.

2.)The “recreational,” maybe owns some of the gear, maybe a membership pass but does not play sports for a living.

3.)The “non-participator”, which needs not explanation at all.


The argument of the article is that a large reason why many individuals don’t continue to participate in sports after high school is because most competetive sports are marketed to the elite. An example of that is the cost of tickets to go see a live game. Or providing funds for your teen to have the gear to continue to play higher level sports. However, if you are considered elite by society, you are then able to pay for countless tickets to games, fund your childs plane tickets to sport compitions and purchase that merchindise at the games you attend. The elite is also perfectly described by Thomas C. Wilson as,

“Those rich in economic capital are more involved in sports generally, presumably because they can better afford their cost, both in terms of money and leisure time.”


The beer and a show level:

A recreational person, according to the article by Lamont-mills, would play sports and watch it occasionally. Yet their life is not completely consumed by it. This participator is like my friend Ashley, she is part of an adult recreational field hockey team, she watches almost any sport that is on television and she has been to a couple hockey games. Yet most of the time the recreational participator wishes themselves in the elite. This wish is what television and social media thrive on, instead of participating at the game, media enables you to watch the game. Televison salesmen state that the clarity of the picture on the screen allow you to feel like you are actually there.

Then there is my category, the non-participator. The person that goes to a friend’s soccer game and gets confused because half way during the game the team starts shooting into their own nets. And if you are wondering yes, yes, I did turn to the person next to me and ask what was going on. Turns out in soccer they switch sides halfway through the game. I’m not alone in standing outside the sport crowed, one of my favorite Youtubers called the, “odd1out” did a video on how he feels about sports and it sounds very familiar, I’ll link it below.

For some more context, there is a gentleman by the name of Pierre Bourdieu who wrote a journal called “Sport and Social Class.” In it he describes something called a, “culture capital,” which is when,

“all cultural consumption including sports consumption require the appropriate preferences and tastes as well as skills and knowledge.”

In my situation this idea and definition of culture capital holds licence, I struggled with gym in elementary school, and understanding the rules to sports games is something I have not given much of a chance. Perhaps we just need simple education and cultivation to appreciate the game of sports.

Kid like me:

A man named Engstrom took a different approach to the idea of sport for different social classes and linked sport enthusiasts with how they are when they are children.  The article is entitled, “Who is physically active? Cultural Capital and sport participation from adolescence to middle age-a 38 year follow up study,” to quote him directly,

“A middle-aged individual’s level of exercise is closely linked to that person’s social position and, accordingly, to his or her educational capital. The children and adolescents with the greatest chance of achieving this middle-class position were those from backgrounds with a relatively high social positions and/or high grades in school. If they had a strong sport habitus as well, their inclination to exercise was strengthened.”

The term, “sport habitus” is a fancy way of saying how you are built physically. So the kids that had long legs and could run faster, so because of that they were more inclined to do so.

The elite sport participant according to the article mentioned above does a lot to improve the student. This is repeated in another article I read called, “College adjustment experiences of first-year students, disengaged athletes, non athletes and current varsity athletes,” in which sing the praises of individuals that are able to continue playing sports in College for the community aspect.They insist that the ease of transition shown by the young adults in sports prove the benifit of sport involvment. Students need connect, and like the article mentioned, first year can be the most challenging for a young student. Yet I would argue that individuals can get the same amount of community from clubs at school. Infact, not being in a sports team creates a change that will cause a person that has always identified as, “sporty” to explore other aspects of themselves and others.

Sports was introduced into schools as training and creating an “ideal citizen.” In sport there was an ideal and the goal was to strive for excellence. In week four of our lectures we discussed the idea of morality and the body.We learned that in the 1980s there was a huge fitness boom, men were doing weight training, running, and paying attention to how much muscle they had. Yet at that time they were not pursuing fitness for health. Sport and fitness was then meant as preparation for war and the ideal of, “fit” body equaled a “fit” mind. Because farmers in the 1980s did not need to work out it shows again that sport was intended for the elite. It was the well to do that would work on fitness participate in sports and have the time to contribute.

Post Game Re-cap (a thing you do after a game to go over what you did right and wrong):

I want to tie this whole thing together with the question, why does this matter. Why does it matter that there are three levels of sports participation. Why does it matter that culture capital seems to control if we will grow up to participate or even watch the game? Its important because sport is considered a form of culture capital, it is an aspect of society that should not restrict or limit participation. Its easy to fake an interest in sports, in fact there is even a Wikihow, (http://www.wikihow.com/Fake-Knowledge-of-Sports) on how to survive a conversation of sports. Yet its the investing in the beginning, of fostering the love of sports and encouraging the investment of people that want to learn the aspects to the game. I believe creating an environment like Bhupinder Hundal has with Hockey Night Punjabi (http://www.cbc.ca/sports-content/hockeynightincanada/punjabi/video/) where the announcers are educating the audience instead of assuming they know all the facts; would be a great way to allow new audiences to engage in sports. Because sometime like the Buzzfeed video explains, “when sports fans talk about the game, they might as well be speaking another language.”

If we invest in our kids and have programs to allow them to find a sport they enjoy and we as a society continue to support them as they age. And if we invest in our sports culture for everyone not just the elite, then hopefully we will have more people able to participate in culture capital. With that mindset we could all hit a home run (which is when you run to all four parts of a field and make it back to the start without being touched by the ball).


Works Cited:


Allender, S., Cowburn, G.and Foster, C. (2006). Understanding participation in sport and physical activity among children and adults: a review of qualitative studies. Published by Oxford University Press.Vol.21 no.6 2006 Theory & Practice Pages 826–835.

Bourdieu, Pierre (1978). Sport and Social Class. Social Science Information (SAGE, London and Beverly Hills). p.819-840.Engstrom, L.(2008). Who is physically active? Culture capitial and sports participation from adolesence to middle age-a 38 year follow up. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy. Volume 13, Issue 4.

Curtis, J.E. and Milton, B.G. (1976) ‘Social Status and “The Active Society”: National Data on Correlates of Leisure-Time Physical and Sport Activities’, in R.S. Gruneau and J.G. Albinson (eds) Canadian Sport: Sociological Perspectives, pp. 303–29

Eime, R., Young, J., Harvey, J., Charity, M., Payne, W. (2013) A Systematic Review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport of children and adolescents: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:98 http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/10/1/98

John R. Lubker & Edward F Etzel (2007) College Adjustment Experiences of First-Year Students: Disengaged Athletes, Nonathletes, and Current Varsity Athletes, NASPA Journal, 44:3, 457-480

Lars-Magnus Engström (2008) Who is physically active? Cultural capital and sports participation from adolescence to middle age—a 38-year follow-up study, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 13:4, 319-343, DOI: 10.1080/17408980802400510

Lamont-mills, L. & Christensen, S. (2006). Athletic Identity and its Relationship to Sport Participation Levels. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2006) 9, 472-478.

Szto, C. (2016). Technology and Sports. Week 11 lecture.

Szto, C. (2016). Sport, Consumption, and Citizenship in a Neoliberal era. Week 4 lecture.

Wilson, T. (2002). The paradox of social class and sports involvement: roles of cultural and economic capital. SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA, New Delhi) [1012–6902 (200203) 37:1;5–16; 021851]

Popular Sources

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Why do People Obsess Over Sports?(2014). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImW73w64MlM

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