Rip City Goes Wild

Peter McCormick

Sports & Society Blog Post #3

Rip City Goes Wild

            Damian Lillard made the shot of his career to beat the Houston Rockets propelling the Blazers to the 2nd round of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. The reaction from the people of Portland was tremendous.

Portland is fairly unique in the sense that it is a large city but only a one (big) sport town. We have and love the Portland Timbers but soccer is not on the same scale as basketball, baseball, or football in the U.S. Basketball is returning in Portland and it is a big deal. When asked about the shot, Lillard said “The most exciting thing was just to see how everybody reacted to it. You got to see how valuable that game was, how much it meant to everybody, how much it meant to see that ball go in and to win that game—from the fans to the coaches to the training staff to the ball boys to our team. That’s what made me feel the best about it.” Lillard saw the reaction Portland had and loved it. We haven’t had a big moment in Blazer history for a long time.

Geertz wrote that “cockfighting is a part of ‘The Balinese Way of Life’” (1972: 2) and basketball is the same for a Portlander. Just like cockfights brought the whole village together, Portland rallies to support to the Blazers at the Rose Garden. This is why the resurgence of basketball means so much to the city and why Lillard’s shot was so significant. He became an instant legend. His shot mirrored Brandon Roy’s buzzer beater against the Rockets in 2008 and Lillard’s teammate LaMarcus Aldridge said “he’s definitely in the Brandon Roy category for me” when speaking on Damian. This is huge praise since Brandon Roy helped the Blazers start being competitive again and is worshiped as a hero by Portland.  The Rose Garden is considered one of the toughest stadiums to play at because the Blazers play incredible at home with their fiercely loyal, and loud, fans.

People like to be a part of something bigger than themselves and sports often create that opportunity. Portlanders are proud to be a part of Rip City.  The phrase Rip City was first said by announcer Bill Schonely in a first season game against the Lakers. He didn’t know what caused him to say it but the term stuck. Now it is a tradition and honor to be a Rip City member. While the blazers haven’t been good for a while, Portland fans have to stay loyal since there is no other comparably sized team in Portland. That dedication paid off when Lillard made that shot and Rip City went wild.

 

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Confidence Pays

Peter McCormick

Sports & Society Blog Post #2

Confidence Pays

            Richard Sherman, a talented cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks football team, has been all over the news in recent years. In addition to his skill, he’s known for his cockiness and trash talking both on and off the field. He had an infamous post-game interview after clinching the win in their NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers where he insulted one of the opposing team’s receivers.

Sherman just extended his contract on May 7th with the Seahawks signing a $57.4 million over 4 years deal with $40 million guaranteed. This makes him the highest paid corner in the league. I believe a large reason why he is now paid such a large figure is due to his explosion in the media which seemed mostly negative at the time. Sherman knew exactly what he was doing.

Giulianotti wrote in Sport a Critical Sociology (2005) that “massive volumes of capital are entering sport, notably from media corporations” (pg. 29). The more Sherman got his name in the news, the more money was generated around him. Sherman knew the attention would eventually pay off even if it was hard to bear for a while. After his tirade claiming to be the best corner in the world while insulting another player, Sherman received a flood of hate mail in every form of media. Guttmann listed equality as one of the main qualities that separates modern sports from primitive ones meaning that “theoretically everyone should have an opportunity to compete.” (2004: 26). Unfortunately, many people wished Sherman kicked out and people hurled racial slurs and racist comments his way. Some African Americans stated that they thought he had made blacks take a step backwards from the civil rights movement and were disgusted with his behavior.

However, Sherman never backed down. He stood by his claims to be the best through all the flak he got and continued to put up numbers to back it up. He went on a talk show with a popular sports analyst, Skip Bayless, and laid into him for not recognizing Sherman amongst the top corners. When talking to Bayless, Sherman said, “I’m better at life than you.” He received a lot of negative attention from that media appearance as well since it is almost unheard of for that personal of an argument to take place between and athlete and a show host.

            Plenty of people did speak out on Sherman’s behalf though, and many people ended up supporting Sherman. He was listed in Time’s annual list of most influential people and invited to the White House correspondent’s dinner at which President Obama jokingly gave his own rendition of Sherman’s tirade. I think Sherman artfully created his image and knew he had the talent to back up all the attention he would receive. He funneled that attention into money. From the Seahawks blog, “Richard Sherman declared himself the best corner back in the NFL. Now he’s getting paid like it.”

 

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The March Madness Opportunity

           The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is starting again and it’s a big time for basketball fans, players and schools alike. The name of the event is March Madness because a crazy amount of basketball is played in a short amount of time and it’s exhilarating for everyone involved. But there is a very real method behind the madness.

            When analyzing what separates play and sport, Guttmann discusses how the “more highly structured events” (such as the NCAA tournament) attempt to create an escape or illusion focused on play which is separate from reality. Guttmann proceeds to say that “in his many guises, the ‘spoilsport’ stands ready to dispel the illusion and to allow the rainbow world of play to ‘fade into the light of common day’” (14). I intend to be the aforementioned spoilsport and shed light onto the non-play aspects of March Madness.

Generating publicity is one of the primary goals of every college in order to increase admissions and revenue. The tournament provides one of the only opportunities for some of the smaller schools to receive public notice and as such, is a very serious business venture. If a team makes the tournament and manages to pull off some upset victories, it can generate some otherwise unattainable opportunities for the coaches and players in addition to creating prestige for the college.

Gonzaga is one of the prime examples. Gonzaga is not in one of the larger basketball conferences and has not historically received much notice from the public eye for its basketball. All of that changed when Gonzaga made its “Cinderella run” in the 1999 NCAA tournament. Against everyone’s expectations, Gonzaga made the elite eight and exposure from their success allowed their head coach Dan Monson to take a head coaching position at Minnesota. After their big run, Gonzaga drew many more talented recruits to its basketball program and continued to be successful in the years to come. Now a-days everyone has heard of Gonzaga and the school receives more attention (and money) than ever all because of one deep run their basketball team made in the NCAA tournament.

Guttmann declares that one the distinguishing characteristics of modern sports is equality. He states, “everyone should theoretically have an opportunity to compete” and “the conditions of competition should be the same for all contestants” (26). This is not how NCAA basketball functions however. “In actual practice there are numerous inequalities,” the most obvious being that not every team makes the tournament and therefore does not receive the same possibilities for media attention. Every school does not have the same amount or allocate as much money to their basketball program, nor do they receive the same talent level in recruits. Thus the playing field is not level even before entering the tournament. And if a team with a smaller program does manage to make it, they are probably a low seed and will have to face one of the best teams to continue by how the tournament is structured.

Despite all the inequalities beforehand, once a team is on the court they are playing the same game with the same rules so there is some sense of fairness. If a team manages to make it to that point, they can shape their fate by winning against the odds and changing the future of their school, their coaching staff and their individual players for the better. So the NCAA tournament may be a serious, scary, career-determining event for many, but it remains twistedly beautiful since there’s always the chance that a new underdog will make it this year. 

Used: Guttmann From Ritual to Record chapters 1 and 2.

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