Theory and Sport Tourism


Call for Papers – Journal of Sport & Tourism 

Theory and Sport Tourism 

The Big Questions Anniversary

Guest Editors

Sean Gammon (University of Central Lancashire)

Gregory Ramshaw (Clemson University)

Richard Wright (AUT University)

The Journal of Sport & Tourism is approaching its 20th Anniversary Year. To mark this anniversary four special issues of the journal are planned over the next two years focusing on the ‘The Big Questions’ for research into sport and tourism. This, the third special issue will focus on theory for sport tourism.

Although the preceding decade has seen concerted efforts to develop a more theoretically informed understanding of the field, a clear body of theory to inform research into sport tourism remains elusive. Concepts such as serious leisure and the travel career ladder have been adopted from wider leisure and tourism studies, whilst disciplines such as social psychology and geography have brought contributions to sports tourism informed by the theory of planned behavior and the concepts of place and space. However, these have tended to be isolated studies, and the extent to which concepts and theories from different subjects and disciplines might complement or supplement each other, or be used systematically over time to develop a body of theory to support research into sport and tourism, has not been explored. This is not to suggest that there exists an overarching theory that explains all related manifestations in the field, but rather that there still remains a good deal of untested models and theories which may help illuminate the very special interaction that takes place between sport and tourism. Furthermore, there have been concerns that contributions to the field have been somewhat gender specific, and that the present theoretical landscape has been dominated by largely western literature and world views. What is needed is a plurality of voices that may first, impact upon hitherto unexplored ontological and epistemological approaches whilst, second, adding to the bank of theories currently utilized by the field.

Therefore this special issue aims to encourage papers that:

• Expand and/or augment current theory adopted in the literature. This may focus on one or more of the key features of sport tourism research.

• Introduce and/or apply relevant interdisciplinary theory to the sport tourism domain.

• Provide alternative voice(s) to the study and understanding of sport tourism. This may stem from (though not limited to) studies that focus upon gender and or culture.

A two-step paper review process will be used:

Submission of abstract 

The abstracts will be reviewed by the editors and selected authors will be invited to submit full papers via the on-line system and blind review process.

Word count: 300 words.

Deadline: before 1st December 2015.

Submission: By email to Sean Gammon (University of Central Lancashire):

Questions: Via email to any of the three special issue guest editors (see below).

Please use the following format for the abstract:

1. Title

2. Authorship

3. Author affiliations

4. Corresponding author and contact information

5. Key Words (maximum of six key words)

6. Abstract (please use, where possible, the 5 sub-sections below to structure the abstract)

– Purpose

– Core Disciplinary/Theoretical approach

– Design/methodology/approach (if appropriate)

– Findings

– Originality/value

2. Submission of full papers 

Full papers will be invited upon review of abstracts. Full papers should be submitted through the Journal of Sport & Tourism online submission system for double blind peer review. Please indicate that the paper is submitted for consideration for the Theory and Sport Tourism special issue at the point of online submission.

Word count: Full papers should not exceed 8000 words

Deadline 29th April, 2016

Submission: Online via

Submission guidelines and author information:

Guest editors: Sean Gammon, University of Central Lancashire (; Gregory Ramshaw (, Richard Wright, AUT University (

The Guest Editors welcome approaches from authors who would like to discuss potential papers for this special issue. Please don’t hesitate to contact us directly for more information, or to circulate this call for papers to interested colleagues.

Journal of Sport & Tourism (Taylor and Francis)

Journal information can be found at:

Five Recent Sport Heritage Publications You Have to Read

Sport heritage research has grown from a relatively obscure sub-sub-sub field of sport tourism to a growing field of inquiry in heritage studies, sport studies, and tourism studies. Until a decade ago, the research about sport heritage and sport nostalgia was fairly scatter-shot.  The Sociology of Sport Journal had a sport nostalgia issue in the early 90s, for example, while Heather Gibson included nostalgia in her sport tourism typology in 1998 though, by and large, the ways in which the sporting past were created, commemorated, and commodified in the present went largely unexplored.

However, sport heritage now has a growing body of research.  Initially, sport heritage was largely considered a tourism resource, though most of the recent work has branched out from these beginnings to understand sport heritage from a variety of angles.  With that in mind, I give you some of my favourite recent sport heritage research. I have purposefully not included any of my own research (I feel it is up to others to determine whether my research has value), though some of the publications I list I was involved with as an editor.


Representing the Sporting Past in Museums and Halls of Fame edited by Murray Phillips (Routledge, 2012): I have written about this edited text both on this forum and in a review in the Annals of Leisure Research, and I can safely say my high opinion of it has not changed since I read and reviewed it a couple of years ago. Phillips understands the relationship between sport history and sport heritage better than most – he realizes that the aims and outcomes of each are different and that sports museums cannot, or should not, be history books on walls. Many of the contributions also push the boundaries of what constitutes a sports museum, what they might look like, and the power relationships determine their narratives.  This book is essential for anyone wishing to study sport heritage.

Heroes as Heritage: the commoditization of sporting achievement” by Sean Gammon (Journal of Heritage Tourism, Vol. 9, Issue 3, 2014): Dr. Gammon is a frequent co-collaborator of mine, so I was well familiar with his work when he wrote this paper.  However, this piece blew me away. Gammon took an idea that had been floating about for a few years – the idea that people (and, in this case, athletes) could be considered a kind of artefact – and took it in some provocative new directions. As I wrote in response to this article at the time:

The heroes and the sporting moments they create then, as Gammon argues, become artefacts, and though we can relive and replay the achievement (and, in a sense, preserve the moment(s) in time, perhaps through both personal memory and vicariously through media) we cannot preserve “the object” in the same way that we might other forms of tangible heritage. The relationship between the achievement and the athlete, in fact, demonstrates a paradox in sport heritage. Athletes age, change, and are no longer what they were – indeed, athletes are some of the few heritage “objects” that are not aided by the patina of age. However, their achievements may become more glorious – or heroic – as time goes on. 

Sport heritage has a unique relationship with time – both in terms of how quickly sport becomes heritage, but also how it is different than many other manifestations of heritage.  Gammon captures some of these issues, and more, in this wonderful paper.

It still goes on: football and the heritage of the Great War in Britain” by Ross Wilson (Journal of Heritage Tourism, Vol. 9, Issue 3, 2014). Dr. Wilson’s wonderful paper takes many different approaches to sport heritage – including tourism, memorialization, and commemoration – and views them through the lens of the Great War. As I wrote in response to this article at the time:

Football, Wilson argues, provides an emotive bridge as well as a marker for many British tourists. However, the emphasis on football also reveals much about contemporary British culture, as well as how the War is understood and remembered in Britain today. As such, this paper confronts many of the issues at play in contemporary heritage literature, albeit through a sports lens, including contestation over memory and memorialization, commodification and authenticity in heritage tourism, and the relationship between history and heritage.

The Great War has inspired many different types of heritages, including those in sport, and Dr. Wilson provides a thought-provoking look at how football, in particular, is mobilized in how we confront and remember the conflict.


Sport, History, and Heritage: Studies in Public Representation – edited by Jeffrey Hill, Kevin Moore, and Jason Wood (Boydell & Brewer, 2012): One of the aspects of sport heritage research that is sometimes overlooked is that there are real, practical implications to how the sporting past is created in consumed.  This edited text combines both academic and applied perspectives and, though I found it sometimes conflates history, heritage, nostalgia, and memory, it does provide some very interesting case studies about collecting, managing, interpreting, and representing the sporting past.

Non-events and their legacies: Parisian heritage and the Olympics that never were” by Ulf Strohmayer (International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol. 19, Issue 2, 2013): With Paris again bidding for the Olympics, Dr. Strohmayer’s paper is essential reading for anyone wondering about the many heritage implications of an Olympic bid.  Firstly, this paper presents a kind-of counterfactual sport heritage – that is to say, it presents a sport heritage that was never actually realized, at least in space and time. Secondly, it considers that archival documents – such as Olympic bids – are a kind of sport heritage.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it considers how an Olympic games might interact – or potentially damage – existing built heritage. As we know, heritage icons often form the backdrop to Olympic venues (consider Westminster Palace/Big Ben as the pan-away backdrop to beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympics), however what if there simply isn’t the room to accommodate Olympic venues in heritage districts? Is a Paris Olympics really “Parisian” if it is held in the suburbs rather than on the Champ de Mars?

Letting Go: The De-heritagization of the Sporting Past

One of the topics that has occupied heritage studies research lately is the process of heritagization; that is to say, the process whereby various pasts are constructed in the present to address a contemporary need, issue or circumstance.  As any heritage studies scholar will (or, perhaps, should) know, heritage is about the present and an imagined future – it is never about the past.  We leave the past to historians and archaeologists to critically assess.

What we don’t often talk about is de-heritagization; that is, when a heritage is no longer useful in the present and becomes part of, to employ an overused phrase, “the dustbin of history.” We talk of heritages changing, or heritages being malleable, but rarely of heritages simply becoming, for lack of a better term, “not heritage.” Perhaps in some cases – such as when a post-colonial regime looks to new national symbols, for example – heritage truly does transform into materials reserved for the historian or archaeologist. In any event, they are no longer part of our contemporary needs – we no longer use them and, as such, they are no longer heritage.

These thoughts came to me recently when I began to consider aspects of my personal sporting heritage and, in particular, how they became simply a part of my personal history and not my contemporary identity.  The first was when I was in my hometown of Edmonton recently shopping for a used pair of hockey skates.  I was a goaltender for most of my life, including through all of my adulthood, and made certain I brought my goaltending equipment with me to South Carolina seven years ago.  However, the lack of local hockey opportunities coupled with a busy career and home life meant that continuing to play goal – a central part of my identity throughout my life – was not an option.  I certainly thought about playing at times, to the point that I found out my goalie skates had fallen into disrepair and were no longer useable. When I looked for a replacement pair of skates a few weeks ago, I immediately went to the goalie skates when it dawned on me: I am no longer a goaltender, and will never be again. Most of my equipment – and not just my skates – have fallen into disrepair, I have little desire to replace my equipment and, though I might occasionally pine for another game in net, I am quite alright with that part of my sporting life being over.  Simply put, being a goaltender is no longer part of my contemporary identity and has ceased (for the time being) to be part of my heritage.  This is not to say that it won’t be resurrected as heritage at some point – if my son takes up goaltending, for example, we’ll probably talk about our family’s goaltending heritage.  But, for now, it is simply a part of my past.


Similarly, I was recently in Winnipeg, Manitoba when I came across the many advertisements for the city’s NHL hockey team, the Jets.  The Jets were, of course, the Atlanta Thrashers at one point – and I was a Thrashers season ticket holder. The franchise’s move to Winnipeg was personally quite difficult. I had come to strongly identify myself as a Thrashers fan, and going to games in Atlanta was one of the ways I came to embrace my new Southern home. I felt quite bitter towards the sport, league, and fans of the Jets for some time. Being in Winnipeg, however, and seeing all of those Jets banners didn’t really hurt anymore.  While I can’t say I’ll ever become a fan, they became just another team, and my Thrashers fandom became simply part of my biography and, again, not my identity.

These two personal examples, though hardly earth-shattering, made me think not just about how something becomes heritage, but how we let particular heritages go.  Again, we see the letting go of heritage all the time – and it can frequently be a painful and divisive process.  And, certainly, some heritages must change and become “history” – for a variety of social, political, and economic reasons. However, I think it is worth investigating the de-heritagization process, particularly in sport. Sport heritage no longer used is not heritage – by definition, it cannot be. I would like to say that there are, for example, Olympic cities in the act of forgetting or “de-heritagizing” – perhaps through neglect, or simply through a new generation not being tied to the symbols of the old. Obviously, each generation creates its own sporting heritage and, perhaps, through the ephemeral creation and consumption of heritage, particular sporting legacies aren’t as durable as they once were.  In any event, my two recent personal examples highlighted to me that the idea of letting go of particular heritages is as important to understand as why we created them in the first place.

Team Nicknames and Local Heritage

Few aspects of sport engender as much passion – and debate – as team nicknames.  Beyond the fact that they are often divisive, particularly when announced for a new franchise, they are also frequently triggers for larger social debates – including, most notably and recently, debates about racism. In the contemporary global sports marketplace, team identifiers (such as names, but also uniform logos and colour schemes) are commodities.  Heritage, of course, plays a significant role in team names – often, names are linked to local or regional histories and traditions, or have long-standing links with (for example) legacies of success. In this, heritage is both a signifier and commodity; it separates the team as something unique and special while also selling those unique signifiers to a global audience.  On the other hand, if the heritage is too local, it may not resonate with a wider audience.  In January 2014, I wrote about Hull City FC formally adopting their “Tigers” nickname in order to appeal to a global fan base, with some accusing the club of turning their backs on local history, heritage, tradition, and sentiment.  I wrote at the time:

What is fascinating about this is how the team’s heritage is seen as both a global marketing opportunity and a burden.  On the one hand, the fact that the club supporters have informally used the “tigers” nickname for many is a benefit that may resonate globally and separate the club from its rivals.  Essentially, it is formalizing and institutionalizing an informal heritage that has existed for years. On the other hand, the team’s “proper” name – which, too, has a long history and heritage – was seen as too local and too common and, as such, burdened the club internationally.

I would suggest – though I don’t know this for certain – that an animal nickname, such as tigers, perhaps too closely resembles American sport or other franchise sports (such as the IPL) and lacks a certain authenticity, as well as the public trust/connection to community that is traditionally view as part of English football. Perhaps this is part of the local resistance to the name change?

In Hull City’s case, local heritage was viewed as a burden, particularly to their global ambitions.  But, can a turn towards local history, heritage, and signifiers actually benefit a sports club?

Enter the Greenville Swamp Rabbits


The Swamp Rabbits are an ECHL ice hockey team located in Greenville, South Carolina, and are one of the minor league affiliates of the New York Rangers of the NHL.  They have been in Greenville for five seasons, though this is the first year they are called the “Swamp Rabbits.” Previously, they were known as the “Road Warriors” – a subtle and generic nod to the community’s current automobile manufacturing economy (metro Greenville is both the national headquarters of Michelin and the BMW’s only US plant). However, the name never really resonated outside of a small, hard-core group of fans.  So, the team turned to local heritage for their new name:

“We determined that we wanted our new identity to honor a piece of Greenville’s history while also being relevant within the community today,” said Fred Festa, owner of the Swamp Rabbits. “Ultimately, we selected the Swamp Rabbits because the name holds dear to a variety of residents, businesses, popular recreational areas and the historic landmark, the Swamp Rabbit railroad, dating back the 1920s in Greenville.”

The railroad, which linked the South Carolina city with the coal fields of Tennessee, became known as the “Swamp Rabbit” by locals who would use the freight train as a means of transportation to picnic in northern Greenville County. 

In a recent, long-form interview on the Tao of Sports podcast, the team’s Executive Vice President Chris Lewis describes that that the name change (though controversial among some supporters) not only links the franchise to the community through one of its most locally resonant histories, it also provides a strong symbol that the team is committed to the community.  Furthermore, he notes that it is meant to spur local interest in the team – both from sponsors and the general public – and drive new merchandise sales.  Surprisingly, this turn towards local heritage has resonated across North America, with both American and Canadian sports media outlets – as well as a nationally-trending social media – covering the name change.

Though it remains to be seen whether the Swamp Rabbit’s name will ultimately pay-off in terms of increased local interest, it does point to the fact that there remains a strong link between sport and broader forms of local heritage, and that local heritages are often unique, appealing, and (dare I say) authentic. It would make little sense, outside of Greenville, to name a team the “Swamp Rabbits” – but, in Greenville’s case, it appears to be a perfect fit. In addition, while Hull City rejected their local heritage to embrace a more palatable global brand, Greenville seems to have attracted inadvertent national attention while attempting to solidify their local footprint.  It also suggests that teams need to find ways of connecting themselves to their communities, and embracing a local heritage can be one of the ways to do this.

Empathy and Sport Heritage

One of the aspects which, I believe, separates sport heritage from other forms and types of heritage is that it is often corporal in nature.  That is to say, sport heritage requires us to continue to play and to watch sport in order to both compare with the past and to create more sport heritage for the future.  It must continually be made and remade through play, performance, and spectacle. No heritage building is more “dead” than an empty, abandoned stadium.

Perhaps because of the sensual and emotional nature of sport, we can understand and empathize with the sportsperson.  Even though most of us have never played at elite levels, or maybe not have played at all, we can still understand something of what it is like to taste victory and defeat.  In Sweet Summers, the collection of JM Kilburn’s cricket writing, the excerpt below perhaps best describes the empathetic connections between all those who have played:

Every boy who has defended a lamp-post wicket is in blood brotherhood with Bradman, and knows Hobbs or or Sutcliffe as himself…every man who has by reflex action or conscious effort flicked a boundary past point knows a thrill of intense physical delight when he sees Woolley bat.


(“The Don” – Don Bradman. Do all who’ve played share a connection to him?)

In many ways, this goes beyond simple childhood imagination and flights of fancy, and rather an understanding of what it’s like to be a sportsperson. When I was an ice hockey goaltender in my youth, for example, it wasn’t that I was prentending to be Grant Fuhr or John Vanbiesbrouck or Ron Hextall when I played, but rather that I knew – like them – what it was like to make a fantastic save or let in a bad goal. We shared an emotional connection that only we, as goaltenders, could understand.

Perhaps our ability for empathy – or, perhaps, our desire to feel empathy for the sportsperson – makes certain sport heritage experiences both desirable and memorable.  One of my earliest memories of being at a sports museum was at the ski jump simulator at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Canada.  Using a point-of view immersive film screen, hydraulics, and several industrial-sized fans, the simulator gave me a taste of what it might be like to ski-jump, and provided me a level of empathy and understanding that wouldn’t have been possible by simply looking at the ski jump tower.  Of course, it was also a mediated form of authenticity – I could “ski jump” without actually ski jumping.  However, I never forgot that experience, nor could I ever forget the sensations and emotions it created.  It is also top of mind every time I watch ski jumping at the Olympics, knowing something of what each skier must be feeling.

Naturally, the ability to experience something of the athlete, particularly in a unique and historic place, is also one of the features that sets sport heritage apart. It can also be a way for visitors to create connections – such as fandom and support – with particular athletes, teams, and sports. Of course, all heritage sites – to some degree – use empathy by, for example, comparing our lives to those of our ancestors.  However, these are more cerebral connections; they are not immediate and current in the same ways that sport is, and perhaps not as sensually felt.  We often don’t think about empathy as a topic in heritage, and it seems that sport heritage might be a good vehicle for exploring it.

Liverpool’s Sport Heritage

The city of Liverpool has numerous heritage-based claims to fame.  It’s role in immigration, shipping, and transportation is well known.  Of course, it is also home to the most famous band of all time, The Beatles.  However, it is also a major centre for sport heritage – and, as a recent trip to Merseyside revealed – the city’s sporting past is well represented through museums, tours, and other heritage-based experiences.

Of course, Liverpool’s sport heritage begins – most notably and publicly – with the city’s football teams.  Liverpool FC is, far and away, the most broadly and widely represented – at least in the tourist areas in the city centre and at the Albert Dock.  In fact, there is a dedicated hop on/off Liverpool FC tour bus that runs between the Albert Dock and the team’s home stadium, Anfield.


The bus runs all day (with the team’s famous anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, blaring from the bus’ speakers). En route to Anfield, the guide provides a thirty minute commentary about the team’s background, as well as it’s historical connections and rivalry with Everton, before arriving at the gates of Anfield.


In speaking with our guide, Paul, he mentioned that the tour bus has been running for a little over a year and has been immensely successful.  Specifically, he noted that the bus was initally only going to run during the summer peak tourist season, but that demand pushed it to a year-round venture.  It should be noted that my colleague and I were the only patrons on the bus during our tour, though Paul mentioned that this was quite unusual.  He did say, however, that as Anfield was undergoing extensive renovations, the stadium tours were somewhat limited and they did notice a dip in visitors this summer.  That said, Liverpool boasts over 500 million global supporters and, as such, there seems to be the potential for a steady supply of sport-based pilgrims.  It is also fascinating – and, as far as I know, unique – to have a city tour and tour company dedicated to a specific sport club.  Indeed, this appears to signal a growing demand – at least in certain places – for sport heritage experiences and particular forms of heritage sport tourism.  Places like Anfield appear to be able to welcome a variety of visitors who wish to “make a day” out of experiencing the club’s heritage and culture.  Arriving at the stadium, tourists could take a standard stadium tour, a tour with an ex-player (demonstrating the links that both myself and Sean Gammon of the University of Central Lancashire have explored linking sport heritage to “living” artefacts like ex-athletes), as well as visit the team museum, take their picture next to several team statues and plaques, visit a large team shop, and dine at a team-themed restaurant (complete with team and player artefacts adorning the walls).

Just across Stanley Park from Anfield resides Goodison Park, home of Everton FC.  Although the two squads compete in the same league, and the stadiums reside steps from one another, they feel like a world away – at least in terms of touristic support.  Everton feels like a local club, whereas Liverpool appears to have much larger global ambitions.  Similarly, a tourist could spend much of a day at Anfield, whereas Goodison Park did not offer a stadium tour and had a small shop across the road .  In fact, my colleague and I appeared to be the only people visiting the stadium.  That said, there is still a very prominent representation of the club’s history and heritage around the stadium.  For example, the entire circumference of the stadium is ringed with  a club timeline, highlighting the club’s major victories, players, and accomplishments.


The main gates to Goodison Park also featured a statue of Everton’s greatest and most beloved player, Dixie Dean.


While the heritage experience at Everton was much more muted, and less public, that at Liverpool, there was a strong appeal to it as well.  In many respects, it was a heritage for the faithful; for people who already loved and supported the club, rather than as primarily a commodity for a large international fan base.  As complicated as this word is, it felt more real and, in that I suppose, that give it a greater sense of authenticity.

The importance of both Liverpool and Everton football clubs are also prominent in the Museum of Liverpool’s popular culture gallery. In particular, the events of the Hillsborough disaster, where 96 Liverpool supporters were killed at a match in Sheffield in 1989, are described and commemorated in the gallery, and specifically how the two local rival clubs came together in remembrance.


However, the gallery represents much more than football, demonstrating the variety of different sports, pastimes, and athletes that make up the city’s sporting heritage.  From horse racing, to athletics, to boxing, the gallery shows just how many different sports are “played in Liverpool.”


Indeed, one of the surprising elements of the gallery are the variety of different sports played in Liverpool and how they have shaped different parts of the city.  Perhaps most surprising is that the city has a significant baseball heritage stretching back several generations.


Many cities seem to hide their sport heritage, or don’t actively represent or promote it, perhaps viewing it as less serious than other cultural markers. However, Liverpool is a perfect example of how sport cultures can be embraced, and exist beside – and even enhance – other heritage attractions.  Indeed, having the Liverpool FC bus or the city museum’s popular culture gallery displayed next to Beatles exhibits, or contemporary arts galleries, or a slavery museum simply demonstrates the broad heritage palate of the community.  Tourists and locals can be both interested in a Jackson Pollock exhibition AND maritime heritage AND architecture AND sport.  Liverpool is a great example how these different topics can co-exist in telling the stories of a community, and other cities should look to their example to see how this can be accomplished.

Of Time and Timelessness

It has become somewhat of a gospel truth that, in order to appeal to sports fans these days, games have to be (among other things) relatively quick.  That is not to say that the sports must be speedy in terms of the run of play itself – though, of course, this helps – but rather that a match cannot last an interminable length of time.  Get the game over with, and in under two and a half hours if possible.

Of course, there are massive – and massively successful – exceptions to this rule.  American football – be it NCAA college football or the professional National Football League – is far and away the most popular sport in the United States, and many matches can take upwards of four hours.  If one is actually attending a game, the commitment of time is much greater.  And, given that both college and professional football in the US normally involve a significant social component – tailgate parties (or tailgating) – the time commitment can stretch to several days.


(Play Ball – and do it faster)

However, many traditionally leisurely sports – golf, baseball, and cricket among them – are looking for ways to speed up, mainly to enhance the spectating and television viewing experience, but – in the case of golf – to curb a large decrease in participation. A recent essay in The Economist about golf’s decline in the US and Europe points to several factors: economic decline in the US, the skills required to make golf an enjoyable experience, the time commitment and pace of play, the change in aspirational capital for the middle class, the rise of video games as a form of sporting leisure for young people, the fact that the sport is largely still hostile to women and minorities, and that white males – the bread and butter of the industry – are often significantly more engaged in child-rearing and other family and career activities.  As such, many people in golf are looking for ways to engage a time/money stretched population with ways of making golf – or versions thereof – enjoyable again:

Similarly, baseball – the most timeless of sports – is looking to speed up.  In particular, as this excellent article from Grantland explains, the sport that has no clock – where a game, in theory, could last forever – has introduced time limits, in particular for the time between pitches and the time between innings.  The reasons for this are similar to golf, albeit looking at the preferences of the viewer rather than participant.  In particular, the idea that a game should be finished quickly, that the pace of play should increase, and that the sport must attract the next generation of fans who, it is supposed, are not used to a leisurely pace in their leisure, are all part of the reason for these changes.  Timelessness, and perhaps a sense of stillness, is not conductive to contemporary habits, it would seem.


(Under the floodlights at Headingley: T20 match between Yorkshire and Durham, July 10, 2015)

While golf is looking to attract more participants through changing their game, and baseball is looking to appeal to more (and younger) spectators through the introduction of time, cricket has been grappling with these issues for years.  Indeed, cricket’s introduction of different forms of the sport – the one day limited overs match, and the Twenty20 three hour bash – have, in some ways, both enhanced and divided the sport, particularly between those looking for a pure representation of the sport (such as exists with long – and multi-day – traditional formats like test cricket) and those looking for a fun, exciting, and enjoyable day or night out.  Personally, I am a huge supporter of test cricket and, if I was living in England or another cricketing country, I would almost certainly cast my support behind something like the county championship – with their four day matches – rather than any sort of limited overs competition.  Still, when I witnessed my first T20 match earlier this month at Headingley, I could see the appeal of that form of the sport.  Indeed, the ground was full, the weather was beautiful, and the match was truly exciting.

Sport – at least in the examples I provided – is a business, and the idea that tradition, ritual, and heritage must bend to the demands of Mammon.  Indeed, many of the golf pros I know both lament the potential changes to the sport while also acknowledging that something has to be done to bring people back to the course.  In baseball, I understand that viewing habits have changed, and that there is a desire to make watching a game – for lack of a better term – efficient.  With cricket, there seems to be more of a balance in terms of time – choose your “brand” of cricket, as it were.  But, the great success of, in particular, T20 cricket in virtually every cricketing nation has lead to suggestions that longer forms of the sport are inevitably doomed.

However, I wonder if something will be lost if we simply try to appeal to a perception of what non-or-casual participants and spectators want.  Indeed, I wonder if one simply “grows” into more leisurely sports.  I, for one, have noticed my palate changed considerably in recent years.  I simply couldn’t imagine myself at 15 or 20 wanting to watch baseball or cricket, no matter how many rule changes were introduced.  But, similarly, now I find that I enjoy the spaces between play that a golf, or cricket, or baseball allows (and for which hockey or cricket or football seeks to eliminate).

In his excellent article about test cricket, Wright Thompson wonders whether timeless – or, at least, time-intensive – sports like cricket might actually be welcome in contemporary society; that we go so fast and cram so much in to our days that a “slow” sporting event might actually be an antidote of sorts for our industrial lives:

I’m into the rhythm. I enjoy the silence. I work a crossword puzzle, looking up every minute or so to see the bowler begin his run. A thought assembles in the white spaces. Being here feels like a vacation, not just because the days are free of responsibility, but because they feel so different from the rest of my life. The world is full of people trying to slow down. There’s the slow food movement, a rejection of consumerism and industrial convenience. Knitting, baking, urban farming. There’s yoga. Folk music is inexplicably huge in England again. People are seeking something.

Maybe Test cricket is part of that search. Maybe slowness won’t kill Test cricket, but instead will spark a revival: the right game at the right time. Not long ago, I read a magazine excerpt of a new book, “About Time,” by astrophysicist Adam Frank. He believes we are living at a vital moment in the history of time. For thousands of years, we’ve been shrinking time, making minutes important, then seconds. Frank says we can’t shrink it any more. An enormous change is imminent. Oil will run out and with it cheap transportation, both of goods and people. He believes that, contrary to our view of a world always growing smaller, the planet will spread apart again. Only the extremely wealthy will be able to afford flying to Europe, for instance. Global shipping will regress. Email won’t be as commercially important since the businesses it exists to support will lag behind. “We’re at a breaking point,” he says. “We just can’t organize ourselves any faster. We’ve grown up with this amazing idea of progress. That’s operating with the mindset that science will provide miracles. There really are limits. One of the things I think about this generation we’re living in: This is the age of limits.”

Time is important in heritage; age often makes particular legacies more important and, in certain contexts, more saleable. However, the idea of time itself – and how we use it, or at least comprehend it – is often overlooked as a kind of heritage value as well.  As Wright says, we seem to be interested in aspects of antiquity – even from the recent pasts – as a way of slowing our lives down; that the choice of inconvenience might actually be a pleasure.  Certainly, sports have – and always have – adapted to suit contemporary tastes; Stuart Shea’s recent exploration of the Wrigley Field argues that this historic stadium was, through much of its history, considered rather modern, comfortable, and convenient. That said, perhaps not only its there a pleasure – and, maybe even a market – for slow sports, we have to question whether we can make sport any faster than it already is and, if we do, what would that mean?  Do we really want a baseball game to last an hour?  Isn’t the pleasure of sport that it is different from the rest of our industrial lives; that we can lose ourselves and feel something of our real selves and the real lives of others in a “day out” at the ballpark, or cricket ground, or golf course?  Shouldn’t sport be different than the rest of our industrial lives?



© Gregory Ramshaw and The Sport Heritage Review, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gregory Ramshaw and The Sport Heritage Review with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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