Sport Heritage Review

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Sport, Heritage, and Going Home

Home is important in both sport and heritage. Home-field advantage, for example, is one of the true-isms of sport.  In heritage, the homes of famous people or events can be a mark of distinction as well as a competitive marketing advantage for tourism.

The idea of home has also been adopted in sport heritage.  I have written more extensively about the sport/heritage/home connection here, but needless to say “home” often evokes strong impressions and emotions for followers of sport. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, for example, frequently uses home in terms of framing our connections to sport – most notably here in a love poem to the “homes” that connect baseball fans.

In terms of sport heritage, home is often seen as an extrinsic place – an institutionalized and codified location where one visits, perhaps a museum in the home town of a famous athlete, the location where a sport was said to be “born”, or the stadium of a world-renowned sports team. Because “home” is so powerful, evocative, and marketable, it is also a source for disputes and disagreements between rival “home” locations.

However, sport can also be one of those cultural touchstones that help define our personal or national identities, particularly when we are away from “home”. Sometimes, literally “going home” – whether it be returning to a home city, region, or country after a long spell away – often includes reconnecting with those sporting practices that helped to create and define our identity in the first place.

I think about what home, and sport, and heritage means to me as I return to my hometown and to my homeland tomorrow for a few weeks.  Living in a different country, not to mention in a region that has very strongly defined sport/cultural practices, has created some distance – both literal and emotional – from sport cultures that helped to define me.  Certainly, this has been mitigated through media mobilities – after all, one can now watch almost any sport from anywhere in the world, live.  However, there is something about reconnecting with my sports culture and my sports people in the places that we collectively hold dear that has me quite excited to return home again.


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