Popular culture - Sample Essay

Sport has also become part of our showbiz lives. Main news stories centre on celebrities from sports and they have increasingly become cultural icons. Steve Redgrave and David Beckham embody Englishness and have become role models for people to focus on. Men strive to look like Beckham, copying a hairstyle or clothes worn and even following fitness regimes. Thousands of Gyms have been established across England and fitness magazines have become necessities in our sport obsessed World. Even people who claim to have no interest in sport events, regularly exercise through aerobics and keeping fit has become a way of life. It is a new Popular culture.

Even the area of business has been conquered by sport. Sponsorship of teams and branding had become an important way of building a market share for companies such as Nike, Adidas and Puma. Sport is everywhere. So, it could be said that there has been a sportification of our culture. The age of sport is upon us and in contemporary society, it maybe the only way to envisage a National identity. The National identities established in Britain by sport and the media “are products of social construction involving complex forms of identity formation and imagining” (Horne, Tomlinson & Whannel: 182). National identity seems to emerge when 11 men walk onto their half or when one man stands on his base line.

Defending a goal or a title is almost like defending your own country. A prime example of this is the summer of 2002 when ‘Henmania’ enveloped our country. Never do the hopes of one nation rely so heavily on one man. Never do the Media show so much emphasis on National identity and the following of such an English tradition. Tim Henman represented the hopes and dreams of one nation and the newspaper media took full advantage of this.

Where the sport of football is concerned, another huge part of our English National identity has that of Hooliganism. Our actions abroad show to foreigners what it is like to be British. Our identity is recognised Worldwide by these actions that take place, most notably at Football events. The Media then use these actions to emphasise an identity that we all supposedly share. Domestic hooliganism became a huge problem represented by the Media in the 1970s. Deaths and injuries occurred at many matches, including a 15 year old Birmingham supporter after fighting broke out. Many clubs have established firms that help supporters form an identity at a local level. Their passion and support for their teams allows them to feel part of a their own little nation. This local level of identity can then branch out to a national level when England games occur. Firms come together from different clubs, although enemies throughout the season, to show support for the nation as a whole.

When abroad, English hooligans are unmistakable whether it is through face painting or tattooing. Towns and cities have been known to completely close down in the past due to an impending visit from English fans. We are recognised as a nation as troublemakers, which worsens when the match is lost. However, although past events show this National identity as representing England, the World Cup was a different story. People were proud to be English. We were proud to form a National identity that was accepted with excitement and expectations. It was almost as if the potential hooligans began to see what it was liked to be loved rather than loathed and enjoyed it. The host community of Korea was so overjoyed by English fans arrivals that it was impossible to create an attitude against them. So maybe, in the future the English National identity will be known as peaceful and nations will be excited about our arrival rather than dreading it.

Another area of sport that also encourages a National identity to be formed is the building of a national stadium. Evidence of this is the completion of the Millennium stadium in Cardiff which has given the Welsh people a revolution in their new successful sporting heritage. Another case that also built National identity is that of Wembley stadium. We must consider how the closing of Wembley stadium affected English football. To many people Wembley seemed an integral part of our National identity and provided an arena where patriotism could be formed. It was a central figure in our countries football history where people gained hope of victories and achievements. The stadium became almost like our twelfth man on the pitch, where our country could compete against the opposition together. Certain Media including Newspapers and Television, made it look as though the destruction of Wembley was the worst thing that could happen to English Football.

However, it seems to have had a positive effect on National identity and bringing more people together to watch matches. Instead of the crowds just being limited to people in London or the Home Counties, people across England can now all have the opportunity to watch their home team compete. England’s matches are now held nationwide from St. James Park to St. Mary’s in Southampton. It has allowed more people from different areas and different walks of life to become part of our National identity. So, although we may have lost the traditional feature of the twin towers, we may have gained a stronger National identity.

It could be argued that the Monarchy and key British institutes are eroding but could we not then argue that we now have a new National identity? ‘Britishness’ may have gone, but Englishness is here. Sport and it’s representation within media forms have allowed us to join together on a different front and establish new bonds and alliances. Sport is good for the function of nation building, as competitive sport teaches streamlining the body and keeping to rules. It homogenizes and normalizes the individual human being by adapting it to the rational body technique of winning and producing results. There is not much place for otherness. We are all united in the striving for achievement and excellence of a nation.

Ultimately, whether it be through football, tennis or hooliganism England has formed a National identity. Fans can be recognised worldwide following their teams actions and achievements. Not only does sport build an identity on a national level but it also does so on a local level. This local identity then becomes part of a National identity where everyone participates in our national heritage. At England matches, the St. Georges flag is proudly flown with aspects of the local identities coming through, for example, local team names written on the flags. Many of England’s finest players belong to local teams but all hostilities are forgotten when coming together on a National scale.

Sport has a massive effect on forming a National Identity. It brings the opinions of a whole country together and in doing this it unites a nation. The Media realises that sport sells and encourages a National identity to be formed in order for their products to be sold. Newspapers promote players, including pullouts and statistical figures that they know people will want to consume. Sport has become a way of life for millions of people in England and there is no way of escaping it. It has most certainly united a nation, bringing hope and establishing a strong identity for all.

Bibliography:

Horne, J., Tomlinson, A., and Whannel, G. ‘Understanding Sport; an introduction to the sociological and cultural analysis of sport’. 1999, London: Routledge. Whannel, G., ;Media Sport Stars’. London: Routledge. 2002. www.yahoo.com