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The (Ideally) Silent Majority

Every now and then the internet lives up to its mid-’90s, utopian advertisement and a random internet search will lead you to something unexpected and fascinating. In just such a situation I found an article entitled Virtual Fandoms; Futurescapes of Football. Written by the geographer John Bale, the essay touches on what he calls the ‘placelessness’ of some sports, specifically Football, and the problem spectators present when it comes to “fair play”.

There are a lot of interesting points throughout the piece, at least to someone like me who doesn’t know much about sports.

I don’t know when it was published (the most recent citation is from 1995) but my first thought was how he would react to the phenomenon of professional Starcraft players and tournaments in South Korea. Completely isolated from their spectators by hermetically sealed bubbles and earphones, playing on a perfectly even playing field, this sport and its athletes seem like they would be closest to his ideals.


  1. “The Place Making Potential of Fandom.”

    I love that line. Great post Pratt, an enjoyable read… especially enjoyed the comparison of the three football matches between the same two teams in different settings… the last being simply in an open field with fans surrounding the match in the field.

    Baseball has a unique tradition of allowing every team to design a home field specifically for the purpose of achieving a “home field advantage.” No two baseball fields or stadiums are alike. And teams craft their lineup to match their stadiums’ strengths.

    I’ve had a longtime interest in photographing basketball hoops all over the world. Not the kind of places where you would have a sanctioned game, but the places where pickup games occur spontaneously. I’ve found them in remote villages as far as the Arctic to Bolivia to back home in rural Kentucky. And I love to observe how the setup would affect the play: the kind of backboard, the angle of the rim, the surface one would dribble on, and the dimensions of the court. As an avid player, I can attest that my favorite courts to play on are the ones with the most character which usually means the most oddities. And a player must certainly adapt to this unique to play successfully.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 4:47 pm | Permalink
  2. ps: if you can’t tell, his ideal of spatial fair play venues and my ideal of unique, unfair venues are at odds… I think sport is about having a player adapt to conditions, and that includes spatial conditions. many of the best stories that athletics give us come from moments where the real adversity was the conditions of the crowd or weather or playing surface.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  3. Charles Joseph wrote:

    Yeah, it’s interesting. I feel like your problems with Bale strike at the most interesting question, to me, in the design of sports: “is the coach playing?”

    For you, sports are primarily individual acts of athletic prowess (which obviously some of them, like the 100m Dash, purely are). I think that Bale is approaching sports much more from the coach’s perspective, where he wants to minimize noise, in the crowd or players, in order more precisely navigate the strategic aspect of the game.

    Friday, August 8, 2008 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  4. That’s a nice question… I can certainly build a strong argument that in american football the coach is perhaps the most important player (and EA even makes a video game now where you do nothing but coach). But some of the most beautiful american football games have been the ones that have been affected by freak athletic prowess (think barry sanders), or intense weather (think tom brady’s tuck in the snow), or home field advantage (100,000 seat college football stadiums).

    Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

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