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New Research: Towards a critical sport heritage

I am pleased to announce the publication of “Towards a critical sport heritage: implications for sport tourism” in the Journal of Sport & TourismThis paper was authored by myself, Gregory Ramshaw of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University, and Sean Gammon of the School of Sport, Tourism and the Outdoors at the University of Central Lancashire, and looks at the growing relationship between sport, heritage, and tourism. In particular, it reexamines Ramshaw and Gammon’s (2005) sport heritage typology, particularly given the immense changes in critical heritage studies research over the past decade. From the abstract:

This paper reflects upon the development and increased acceptance for heritage becoming a key component of sport tourism research. The original sport heritage typology, as posited by Ramshaw and Gammon (2005), is re-examined through a more critical lens, revealing additional dimensions that help augment its key components. More specifically, it is argued that future studies should consider the more intangible features of sport heritage, as well as acknowledging the expanding global nature of sport and its impact upon fandom. Also, the case is made for research to explore the dissonance inherent in much of sports heritage, as well as determining where the power lies in allocating and championing current sport heritages. Lastly, the more general implications to the field of sport tourism are offered with particular regard to motivation, place and consumption.

We hope that this paper helps to reframe our original sport heritage framework, noting both how this topic area has evolved as well as suggesting areas where sport heritage research ought to go.

There are a limited number of free downloads of this paper available here. We hope that it helps take sport heritage research in some new and exciting directions.

 

 

 

The Sport Heritage Gift Guide

The holiday season is upon us and, if you have someone in your life with an interest in sport heritage, gift buying can be difficult and quite expensive.  Of course, there are many gift options in terms of memorabilia, autographs, and the like – though, often times, these can be costly and sometimes difficult to obtain depending on the item. Other sport heritage-related gifts – such as attending a fantasy camp or an historic event like the Masters golf tournament or Wimbledon – can be equally expensive and inaccessible to all but a wealthy few.

Not to fear, however, as we have some gift suggestions for the sport heritage person in your life to suit both your budget and their interests!

Art

Though there are many options in the art/sport heritage landscape, the work of Paine Proffitt is particularly notable. I first encountered his work in the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham Stadium back in 2007 when on a research project, and I was thrilled to see that he is still producing magnificent artwork. Although much of his current work is based in English football, as an ex-pat American he also covers North American sports such as baseball and ice hockey. Visit his website at www.painproffitt.com – you’ll be pleased you did.

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(Some examples of Paine Proffitt‘s outstanding artwork.)

Apparel 

Retro and throwback sports jerseys and apparel are fairly common now, but weren’t always so. Several companies – most notably Ebbets Field Flannels and the Old Fashioned Football Shirt Company (or TOFFS) – now produce sports apparel from bygone eras, or from long forgotten teams, often in era-specific fabric (I have a replica 1950s canvas football jersey from TOFFS). I was amazed at some of the replica items of truly quirky teams and eras that these companies reproduce. For example, Ebbets Field Flannels, though mainly reproducing baseball apparel from various minor league teams from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, produced a replica jersey from the Edmonton Flyers – a  semi-pro hockey team that most people in my hometown of Edmonton had probably long forgotten existed. Much like Paine Proffitt’s artwork, people interested in throwback sports apparel would have a field day looking at all of the reproduction items available.

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Books and other reading material 

There are many, many, many sport history books released during the holiday season, as books are an easy fall-back as gifts. Of course, there are also several academic sport heritage books as well, some of which were covered in a previous post. However, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, the holiday season is the best time to dream about the spring and summer to come. Few things are more enjoyable to think about during the cold winter months than a perfect day at the cricket ground and, for that, Wisden is your spot. This time of year, there are many cricket books on sale at Wisden – not the least of which is the famous Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack

Memberships

Memberships to sports museums, halls of fame, and sports clubs make some of the best gifts. Even if the recipient is not living near the museum or club, it provides an opportunity to both provide support as well as give a sense of being a part of the organization. Most museums and halls of fame provide various levels of membership – including the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum – while some sports clubs have memberships for patrons living away or abroad, such as Kent Cricket’s affordable “13th Man” club membership.

Donations

For the sport heritage aficionado who has it all, donations to organizations involved in the preservation and interpretation of sporting heritage make wonderful gifts. The International Sports Heritage Association has a list of member organizations – perhaps find one in a local area and provide a one-time or on-going donation as a gift. Another possibility are donations to organizations – such as the excellent Sporting Memories Network – that use the sporting past to tackle major health issues such as dementia and depression.

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.

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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.

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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?

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.

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(“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.

New Research Articles: A Conceptual Model for Nostalgia, and Baseball Fan Sculptures

A couple of new sport heritage-based research articles are now available for view and (for a limited time) free download:

In the Journal of Sport & Tourism:

A conceptual model for nostalgia in the context of sport tourism: reclassifying the sporting past” by Heetae Cho (Clemson University), Gregory Ramshaw (Clemson University, and William Norman (Clemson University).

Abstract:

The concept of nostalgia is complex and difficult to measure, in part because of its diverse emotional perspectives. Various authors have attempted to classify aspects of nostalgia to further describe this phenomenon and understand its broader application. However, the nostalgia that sports fans experience, particularly in a tourist context, appears to be unique from its other types and forms. This difference is in part because the relationship between sport – and, by extension, sport-related travel – and nostalgia appears to be distinct. To address this issue, this paper provides a classification and a conceptual model to clarify the concept of nostalgia in the context of sport tourism. Specifically, this research suggests a four-way classification of nostalgia in sport tourism: (1) experience, (2) socialization, (3) personal identity, and (4) group identity. In addition, the conceptual model shows the process of the development of nostalgia by emphasizing the importance of the types of experience. The classification and model suggested in this paper are important for future empirical research to accurately measure the concept of nostalgia and to understand it in the context of sport tourism.

Download this paper here

In the International Journal of the History of Sport:

Standing out from the Crowd: Imagining Baseball Fans through Sculpture” by Chris Stride (University of Sheffield), Ffion Thomas (University of Central Lancashire), and Gregory Ramshaw (Clemson University)

Abstract:

Sculptures of athletes that immortalize heroic feats have long been part of the sporting world. More recently, statues of sports fans have appeared, particularly at baseball stadiums across North America. Whilst athlete statues usually represent specific subjects, fan statues typically depict anonymous figures, giving commissioners and sculptors broader license to incorporate particular ideals. This paper investigates how the fan statuary’s form reflects commissioners’ motivations, values, and views of fandom, and whether fan statues promote a preferred (but often imaginary) narrative regarding the fan experience. A tripartite fan statue design typology is proposed: hero worship, family experiences, and the crowd. By examining an example of each type, with context provided by a unique database of baseball statuary, the fan statuary’s predominant themes and tensions are illustrated. Fan statues are concentrated at Minor League ballparks, and all feature children. The majority are alloys of both real and imagined components of the idealized fan experience of the baseball organization’s ‘ideal fan’, projecting inclusive, family-friendly, and timeless game day experiences, and evoking nostalgia for childhood. Crowd-type statues offer a more free-spirited and spontaneous aesthetic, with the crowd creating and becoming part of the spectacle – a reality that sports organizations may be less comfortable with. 

Download this paper here