Option 1: Sport and Society Critical Analysis Paper (adapted from Dr. Dan Durbins course at USC). You are to trace a story involving sports and a key social concerns (or other major social concerns) from the last five years. Writing on an older story will lead to a zero on this assignment.
You are to trace the entire story of one major sports event of the last five years. You are to follow the storys trajectory from first report to last report. Thus, the story must (for the moment) be considered dead (ended). If you have any questions regarding this, ask me.
Your analysis of the story will involve a critical discussion of the value systems the narrators from sports and society brought to this particular issue. As weve noted, in some cases, sports have been well ahead of society in bringing about social change, in many other cases, sports have been way behind society and in most cases sports have followed their own unique value criteria in matters of race, gender, sexuality, disabilities, and social class.
In examining the story, you are to describe the values exemplified in the actions of sports organizations and compare those to the values shown in the actions of the contemporary society. You are to point out when the authors of articles on the event praise or blame a set of actions by the sports organizations or others. Your comparison should illuminate the distinct value systems brought to these important social arguments and the ways in which the media shape the rhetorical perspective of audiences concerning these values.
For example, in 1987, Al Campanis, General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, made some infamous remarks on ABC-TVs Nightline program. Campanis stated that African-Americans may not have the tools to be Major League Baseball managers. These comments immediately caused a firestorm of controversy throughout the country. Yet, as groups throughout the United States voiced anger over Campaniss comments, the first reaction of the Dodgers and Major League Baseball was to defend Campanis as a leader in positive race relations in baseball. These actions showed a clear disjunction between the perspective of the sports organizations and of the larger culture.
Or, in 1965, the Chicago Bears started assigning rooms on the basis of position rather than race. This action was perceived as radical and offensive in some parts of American society, especially the South. Yet, it made Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo into sports icons whose story was eventually told in Sports Illustrated and a pair of movies.
The tension between the pragmatics of sports and the views of the larger culture should give you a fascinating field to explore in examining the trajectory of a sports story that deals with issues of gender, race, sexuality, management and labor, classic American value systems, social class, and so on.
Reporters, caught between having to offer an accurate account of events and the current social dialogue concerning events, will shape the narrative of these events from their own and collective perceptions of values. So, your analysis should help your reader see the ways in which all discussions of sport promote values and how those values function between the pragmatics of sport (youve got to win) and the larger social issues that sport intersect.
Do NOT start with the most famous story you know. Likely, many other students have already started pursuing that one. Start with your favorite sport and look at various stories from the last five years that might impact the discussion of social issues and social change. To examine your story, you will need to search the archives of a major news service (The LA Times, The NY Times, etc.). You are to examine the reports to find the first notes indicating the event(s) that reflected social change or controversy, the evolving narrative as the story began to develop characters/setting/events/social tensions, and the climax and conclusion of the story.
Drawing on the theoretical approaches discussed at the start of the semester, you are to examine the narrative construction of the story, how reporters turned events into stories, how those stories framed events and sustained or challenged cultural norms, and how the narrated relationship between characters, setting, and events exemplified the tension between various players in the cultural drama. This is not a review of the events that were reported, nor is it a repetition of news reports. You are to critically assess the stories, explaining their role in sustaining cultural values. Papers should be 7-9 pages in length. Each paper should have a bare minimum of 10 cited references (you should easily find far more than this in news reports alone). All papers must follow MLA or APA guidelines for research paper writing. Papers will be graded on quality of writing, clarity of argument, depth of analysis, and quality of insights. While you will need to perform only limited academic research for this assignment (few journal articles), you will need to complete a full study of one story and your works cited page should note references to a complete cycle of reports.