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Not everything is (sport) heritage, but anything could be

During my graduate studies, as I was attempting to sort out all of this sport heritage stuff, a faculty member asked me if domed stadiums could be sport heritage.  At the time, I bristled at this notion – of course they couldn’t!  Domed stadiums aren’t historic, they don’t have a particular heritage aesthetic, they don’t look like heritage!

Of course, I was completely wrong.

Not everything is heritage, but anything could be heritage.  Every building, trinket, event, heirloom, ritual, etc, etc, etc, could enter the heritage cannon, given the right set of circumstances.  Naturally, there are scales to this heritage – not every trinket is globally significant, after all – but we all have examples in our own lives of items, or events, or traditions that we consider part of our own personal heritage that don’t immediately appear to be “heritage.”  In my own life, I have saved the ticket stubs of games my son and I attended – there is nothing inherently heritage about these ticket stubs, but they have come to symbolize something more and, as such, they have become part of my own personal heritage.

In any event, two recent examples – one from the sports world and one from outside of sports – illustrates that heritage can come from most any place and most any resource.

The sport-related example involves the Houston Astrodome – a once futuristic stadium, now both a resource for sports memorabilia and an historic structure that may be subject to adaptive reuse.

The Astrodome was once futuristic, then common, then outdated, then abandoned, then reconsidered, then historic, then (potentially) valuable.

The other recent example is the historic designation of Steve Jobs’ house:

Again, there is nothing that intrinsically says “heritage” about a non-descript bungalow, but it has been infused with meaning and, therefore, has entered the cannon.  Of course, there are many examples of this throughout heritage – birthplaces, etc, are often recognized and enshrined.

Obviously, we don’t yet know what we might consider sport heritage in the future and, as such, it is difficult to plan for such things.  However, as the Astrodome and the Jobs house illustrate, something doesn’t have to look particularly “heritage-y” to be considered heritage.


3 Comments

  1. Raises the question as to whether personal narratives and memories of past sport events/places/people, discussed informally, can form part of personal sports heritage. Starting off from the premise which Smith (2006) puts forward in that heritage is not a ‘thing’, but something that we do that is valued and meaningful, how do we incorporate narratives of past sporting events as a form of heritage? or do we.Considering that as you state “not everything is heritage, but anything could be heritage” how do we think of intangibles (conversation and memories) of sport as forms of heritage.

    I am thinking here of pre -match rituals (tailgaiting) that take place before rugby games in South Africa, where fans braai (barbeque) either at their homes or at fields outside the stadium and speak of the previous week’s game or the previous season, or an era when their particular team was successful. These conversations are infused with meaning, not necessarily only about the outcome of the game, that is who won or lost, but relates to their own personal lives. For example, a conversation along the lines of ” I remember the Super Rugby final two years ago,that was the weekend your sister called from Australia to tell you that she was pregnant, and then you still joked and said she has to name the kid after the man of the match.” Although such a conversation does not sound “heritage-y” it could be in that it is infused with meaning of a time, place and memory, associated with a particular game and its broader personal significance.

    I enjoy following your blog. I am currently busy with my PhD in Anthropology at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. My research is concerned with memorialisation and commemoration of South African sport stars in sport museums and Halls of Fame. Keep blogging…

    • Hi Marizanne – thank you for your comments and for reading the blog! Your research sounds very interesting – I would love to hear more about it!

      Yes, I agree that personal sport heritages are important, though have not been widely explored. I have a paper coming out next year about personal sport heritages, and have written about this topic on the blog (https://sportheritagereview.com/2013/07/09/on-cricket-and-personal-heritages/). But, yes, the weaving of the personal narrative into broader heritages needs some research, in my opinion.

      The tailgating element sounds very interesting there – and has many parallels to football tailgating here. In fact, tailgating in college football, particularly in the Southern US, may be as or more important than attending the game itself. I currently have a doctoral student exploring the nostalgic components of tailgating, and I know that many of my undergraduate students see tailgating as a central part of their heritage identity. Mason, Duquette & Scherer (2005) also discussed this in respect to attending junior ice hockey games in Canada – where the nostalgia/heritage isn’t about the “artefact” (such as the arena or sports facility) but about the socialization, the ritual of attending games on a cold Saturday night in January, and about remembering past players, games, and events with friends and family.

      Please keep in touch – again, would love to hear more about your work!

  2. moz53 says:

    Raises the question as to whether personal narratives and memories of past sport events/places/people, discussed informally, can form part of personal sports heritage. Starting off from the premise which Smith (2006) puts forward in that heritage is not a ‘thing’, but something that we do that is valued and meaningful, how do we incorporate narratives of past sporting events as a form of heritage? or do we.Considering that as you state “not everything is heritage, but anything could be heritage” how do we think of intangibles (conversation and memories) of sport as forms of heritage.

    I am thinking here of pre -match rituals (tailgaiting) that take place before rugby games in South Africa, where fans braai (barbeque) either at their homes or at fields outside the stadium and speak of the previous week’s game or the previous season, or an era when their particular team was successful. These conversations are infused with meaning, not necessarily only about the outcome of the game, that is who won or lost, but relates to their own personal lives. For example, a conversation along the lines of ” I remember the Super Rugby final two years ago,that was the weekend your sister called from Australia to tell you that she was pregnant, and then you still joked and said she has to name the kid after the man of the match.” Although such a conversation does not sound “heritage-y” it could be in that it is infused with meaning of a time, place and memory, associated with a particular game and its broader personal significance.

    I enjoy following your blog. I am currently busy with my PhD in Anthropology at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. My research is concerned with memorialisation and commemoration of South African sport stars in sport museums and Halls of Fame. Keep blogging…

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