There are many cultures and subcultures in America, and while I belong to a few there is one that I have never really identified with; the sports culture. I had earlier this evening the chance to attend a basketball game. Being out of my element I took this as a learning experience, expanding upon my training as an anthropologist I will attempt to extrapolate the significance of this foreign group of people. Arriving at a large gathering, resembling the colosseum of Ancient Rome, two teams are pitted against each other in a contest of skill. It appears that these teams are representative and the embodiment of different cities. Donning garments in the traditional colours of their native city, the greatest warriors appear to fight over points by gaining possession of the ball and attempting to throw, or “shoot” it into a steel circle called the “basket”. The distance at which they successfully make it into this “basket” is determinate of the amount of points awarded to the “scoring” team. The game is also officiated by referees to ensure that the mutually established rules are not violated, or the opposing team get what is know as a “free throw” to the “basket”.
While battles of skill are not the alien to nerd culture, as we participate in them quite often, the behaviour of those watching is the truly intriguing part to me. It appears that those in attendance to the ritual feel a personal connection with those whom are actively competing. Going in, I assumed that this was a mere contest of abilities, quickly discovering much more pride in one’s “home team”. Those in attendance seem to be so determined to have their team win that they stoop the point of berating the positive, well played or points scoring actions of the other team. This to me felt like a shakespearean actor yelling in protest to a wonderfully performed broadway musical, an RPG gamer throwing tomatoes at someone who just won a FPS competition. It would be different if they protested a horrible action, such as I do over the “Twilight” franchise being a reader of what I personally consider good literature, but I won’t get up in arms for J.R. Tolken’s Lord of the Rings just because I also enjoyed Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
My last bit of commentary on the crowd would be the chanting. Those in attendance would begin ritual chance for “defence”, or to “beat L.A.” in unison in an attempt to what I can only assume rally the resolve of their own team. This appears to be in vain, however as the game progressed, the crowd became more rambunctious. This energetic and boisterous state may be attributed to the copious amounts of alcohol consumed in these arenas, which somehow makes the game more enjoyable for those in attendance whether the team is winning or losing. This is understandable, for while I did not consume this beverage of choice at the event, I have imbibed before and remember the euphoric state induced by its inhibition.
In closing, the aptly named “sports-ball” culture may not be for me, but it has a very loyal and interesting following. I however, will stick with my conventions, film openings, and festivals.