Entrance to the CFB Museum in Rio de Janeiro.
Special post by Felipe Tobar, doctoral student at Clemson University:
As a social phenomenon, sports provide a rich platform of controversial and interdisciplinary topics to be investigated within the academia. Although limited by a pattern of selecting specific narratives over other for commercial reasons, sports museums – through what they display and what they omit – are a fruitful spaces whereby historical or/and contemporary sporting issues such as gender, racism, sexism, gambling, migration, politics, corruption, culture or economy can be critically scrutinized.
This is the first post of a two-post series that will examine my perceptions regarding a tour that I took on 9 May 2018 at the “Museu da Seleçāo Brasileira” (Brazilian National Team Museum – BNTM) located at the Headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Seeking to advance on the findings of my master’s thesis entitled ‘Brazilian Football in the ‘game’ of Cultural Heritage: An interdisciplinary analysis about the relations of power’, and rather than making a recreational visit, the purpose of the tour was twofold: First, analyze how the museum displayed the images of the last two CBF presidents, Mr. Jose Maria Marin, and Mr. Marco Polo Del Nero, both involved in corruption scandals. In this particular, it is essential to highlight that at that time of the tour, Mr. Marin was already found guilty in New York by the practice of money laundering and wire fraud conspiracy, while Mr. Del Nero, on 27 April 2018 was banned for life from all football-related activities after FIFA’s Ethics Committee considered him guilty of receiving bribes in exchange for his role in awarding contracts to companies for the media and marketing rights to various football tournaments in Latin America.
The second aim was identifying whether the museum exhibits the view of the National Squad as part of Brazil´s Cultural Heritage, or if it rejects such notion to the same extent the ‘ball bench’ – a group of more than 40 politicians (congressmen and senators) who are close to and guided by the CBF, have been assuring at the Brazilian National Congress. Since 2005, six bills, one provisional measure and one constitutional amendment were unsuccessfully presented to nominate both the practice of football and the National Squad as part of Brazil´s Cultural Heritage by politicians like the former player and 1994 World Cup Champion, Senator Romário. The intentions surround these projects was seeking to put CBF under the radar of the Public Prosecutor’s Office by the fact that in Brazil, session 5 (III) of the Public Prosecutor Act states, among others functions and duties, that the public prosecutor shall protect the Brazilian Cultural Heritage. Consequently, CBF’s controversy economical transactions could immediately be placed under investigation if the practice of football and the National Team become part of the official heritage realm. That said, in this post, I will shed some lights on the first intention of the tour, primarily because the topic has recently gained in relevance after Mr. Marin was sentenced by Judge Pamela Chen in a Brooklyn federal court on August 22, to four years in prison following his conviction on corruption charges, thus becoming the first football director involved on `FIFA Gate` to be sent to jail.
The pictures show how Mr. José Maria Marin and Mr. Marco Polo Del Nero are being depicted through the Interactive and electronic panel of the session ‘A centenary legend’ in BNTM.
The tour itself, originally named “The CBF Experience,” mirrors the Real Madrid and FC Barcelona Experience Tours, as it shares the same Spanish company (Media Fio), which oversaw the creation, concept, and layout of all three museums.The intentions of the tour lead visitors to ignite or reaffirm the love of Brazilian people to its national team, regardless of their geographical location. Visitors were encouraged to watch a nostalgic video entitled ‘We are Football,’ which featured the most memorable moments of the National Team in World Cups as well as fans cheering and dancing the samba (Brazilian popular music genre) either on the streets or at the stands, thus emulating a sense of national identity through football. After that, an interactive audiovisual journey guides the visitor through the history of the National Team by ten exhibitions: 1 – ‘Passion’; 2- ‘Origins’; 3- ‘Our skin’; 4 – ‘A centenary legend’; 5- ‘A Galaxy of Trophies’; 6- ‘360º – The kings of the World’; 7- ‘Brasil: 27 States, only one DNA’; 8- ‘Brazil Planet’; 9-‘CBF Immersive’ and 10- ‘We are Canarinho’. The tour ends at the CBF store where fans can purchase souvenirs (e.g., official t-shirt) related to both the country and the National Squad.
“We Are Football” at the CFB Museum
Managed by interactive and electronic panels, the fourth session provides to its visitors an immediate contact with the past throughone single touch, either by listening recordings of memorable matches called by sportscasters from radios or tv channels or looking into theachievements of the `protagonists` (players, head coaches, and CBF former presidents) at international contests since its foundation. After a quick search of the displays, Mr. Marin and Mr. Del Nero, as well as Mr. Joāo Havelange (former FIFA president too) and Mr. Ricardo Teixeira – both of whom were part of a bribery scheme from a collapsed marketing company (ISL) in the 90’s as documents released by a Swiss Court in 2012 proved – were easily identified. As expected, they were depicted in a celebratory fashion and displayed alongside of the titles captured by the National Team under their leadership. As such, realizing that CBF intentionally omits these dark chapters from public attention, I asked the guide whether there was a kind of embarrassment in his perspective by continuing displaying those sports directors. Although he answered that they were part of the Brazilian football history, thusdeserving a place in the museum, there was no explanation (and only an awkward silence) about why the other part of the history such as the corruption scandals were not being told to the public.
The pictures show how Mr. Joāo Havelange and Mr. Ricardo Teixeira are being depicted through the Interactive and electronic panel of the session ‘A centenary legend’ in BNTM.
When omitting or ignoring critical moments from the past especially if they are broadly known by both fans and non-fans alike – as the corruption scandals was for Brazilians – are a way to jeopardize the legitimacy of the site as a repository of a sport’s past. It can be said too that is a way to not harm the public image of the sponsors that contribute to the maintenance of the CBF’s private museum. In this sense the BNTM through its fourth display reflects much about what the most important institution of football in Brazil defends as its values.Regardless of the current discourse that portrays a “new” CBF, based on transparency through compliance methods, nothing indicates that CBF no longer will continue displaying convicted former directors as role models for sporting success within its museum. The election of Rogério Caboclo, former CBF Executive Director, as the new President of the sports entity, helps us to conclude in such a direction, mostly if we take in account that according to Brazilian football press, he was an indication of Mr. Del Nero.
In the next post, in addition to showing how CBF is managing the discourse of the practice of football and the National Team as Brazil’s Cultural Heritage through its museum displays, more details about the other sessions available to visit in this one-hour tour will be provided.
Additional Note: On September 29, 2018, the author’s father went to BNTM museum and confirmed that all those former CBF presidents, especially, Mr. Jose Maria Marin and Mr. Marco Polo del Nero, are still being displayed without any mark of corruption. In fact, Mr. Marco Polo del Nero even though is currently banned for all football activities is still presented as the CBF President.
FELIPE BERTAZZO TOBAR is a doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department at Clemson University. His interests lie in critical studies of heritage, with a particular interest in sport heritage. He received his bachelor’s degree in Law (2014) and obtained a Master’s degree in Cultural Heritage and Society (2017) from the Univille University, in the city of Joinville, Brazil.
Special post by Jungah Choi, doctoral student at Clemson University:
The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics closed seven months ago though, in fact, the events were held in three different cities in South Korea: PyeongChang, Gangneung, and Jeongseon. The city of PyeongChang was the main focus of the Games with main Olympic stadium and with venues for many of the outdoor sports which were held at the PyeongChang Olympic Plaza. Gangneung is a neighboring city of PyeongChang with venues primary for the indoor ice sports which were held at Gangneung Olympic Park. Jeongseon was the location for all the alpine skiing events and snowboard events which were held at Jeongseon Alpine Center. Since the end of the Olympics, what has happened to those three places? Two of them are planning to create the Olympic Museums. In the case of PyeongChang, most of the main stadium – except for an the office building – was pulled down and only pentagon-shaped Olympic cauldron remains. Plans are currently underway for the remaining building to host an Olympic museum, in large part to attract tourists to the site. However, this project is delayed due to conflicting opinions about the scale of this Olympic Museum. Meanwhile, in the city of Gangneung, the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on mutual cooperation and collaboration in view of the creation of the Gangneung Olympic Museum. At present, the Olympic Promotion Hall during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games was renovated to temporarily house the Gangneung Olympic Museum. As such, the city of Gangneung is a step ahead of Olympic museum legacy planning. The grand opening of Gangneung Olympic Museum is slated for 2019 and will be located at Gangneung Ice Arena.
All that remains of the Olympic stadium is the torch and an office building.
Of course, the 2018 Winter Olympic Games were not first time South Korea has hosted an Olympics, having previously hosted the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul. Almost every Olympic venue from the 1988 Games is still used today. The Seoul Olympic park is used as leisure and sports facility for local residents. The main stadium and other stadiums are mainly used for concerts and various other events. There is also a post-event museum – the ‘Seoul Olympic Museum’. The museum was built in 1990 by Seoul Olympic Sports Promotion Foundation, an affiliated institution under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, to commemorate the glories and achievements of the Games. This museum consists of three exhibitions themes: place of peace, place of harmony, and place of prosperity and holds a variety of artefacts related to the 1988 Olympic Games, including from from preparation and planning phase, the opening and closing ceremonies, the torch relay, and artefact which highlights important moments from the Games and Olympic achievements. Meanwhile, the Seoul Olympic Museum also hosts many Olympic and sport-related events, meetings, and conferences, and has also been used as an educational centre which hosts sport-related programs for young people. However, at this time, the Seoul Olympic museum is temporarily closed for remodeling to become a National Sports Museum.
The main foyer of the Seoul Olympic Museum, soon to become the National Sports Museum.
Do you think the Pyeongchang Olympic Museum and Gangneung Olympic Museum are in good positions to be a successful Olympic legacy that will fuel economic growth and tourism for years to come? There is a geographical issue in comparing these projects to the Seoul Olympic Museum. The Seoul Olympic Museum is located in the capital city, specifically close to Gangnam and Jamsil, which are famous tourism destinations for international visitors, while PyeongChang and Gangneung are located in the remote mountainous region of Gangwon Province and are not easy to access for international visitors as they do not have international airports. Another problem is an awareness issue comparing these project with existing Winter Olympic museums in Vancouver and Lillehammer. Many visitors may choose to visit the ‘Olympic Experience’, which is the museum for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, or the ‘Norwegian Olympic Museum’at Lillehammer instead of their Korean counterparts. In the case of PyeongChang and Gangnueng, they are not well known locations for winter sports, which means people may wish to visit the ‘Olympic Experience’ or ‘Norwegian Olympic Museums’ as these locations are closely associated with winter sports. One of the reasons the IOC selected the unfamiliar Korean city for the 2018 event was to spread winter sport to a new part of the world which had not held the Winter Olympics. However, winter sports becoming part of this destination’s identity and culture seems unlikely.
Why then is South Korea is planning to have two new Olympic Museums at different locations? It could be related to commemorate the cities’ Olympic involvement, to keep alive the memory of Olympics Games, to inspire future generations with the Olympic spirit or to enhance tourism development. What about converting these remaining venues to a local recreation center, athlete training facilities, or as centres to host regional/international events, rather creating new Olympic Museums?
South Korea has become the second country in Asia that has hosted both summer and winter Olympic Games, which means South Korea should have consider new forms of sport tourism However, what might be the roles of these Olympic museums in future sport tourism development? The area of heritage sport tourism is a relatively new concept in South Korea. There are currently some sport heritage attractions in South Korea. For example, the World Cup Museum has been changed to Football Faentasium, which is the first soccer-themed experience museum in Korea. The name comes from a mix of the words fan, fantasy, museum and stadium. This theme park includes exciting displays, experiences, and educational lessons. Also, several Korean professional baseball teams (KIA Tigers, NC Dinos etc.,) which occasionally operate stadium tours. Currently, Seoul Olympic stadium has a stadium tours that visitors can visit VIP rooms, exhibitions with donations from medalists, view Olympic posters, and walk along the track. As mentioned, the Seoul Olympic Museum will be expanded to National Sports Museum and opened in 2020 to further commodify the sport museum as sport tourism product.
In terms of PyeongChang and Gangneung Olympic Museums, there are several issues which should be addressed in order to contribute to the development of heritage sport tourism in South Korea. The national government should support Gangwon province to pay for maintenance of these remaining Olympic sites after games, including these Olympic Museums, since the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic was a national event, not a Gangwon event. Also, it would be good idea to create these Olympic Museums not only focus on the Olympic one, but also on Korean culture – including its cuisine, music and cinema – which is well-known and admired worldwide, in order to attract more international visitors and make the attractions more sustainable.
JUNGAH CHOI, is a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management department at Clemson University. Her research focuses on sport tourism, especially on post-event Olympic tourism, Heritage through the Olympics and Olympic legacies. She received her bachelor’s degree in Sport Science from Ewha Womans University, South Korea and a masters’ degree in Sport Management from Seoul National University, South Korea.
Over the past four years, many communities have paused to remember the sacrifices of those who fell in the First World War. Anniversaries, particularly hallmark ones such as centenaries, are often afforded special meaning. However, those anniversaries associated with 1914-1918 have been particularly powerful, perhaps because we fear losing those memories and having the Great War become just another bloody conflict from our past. There are no living veterans and there are now only a handful of people remaining who would have any memory of the war. Yet, public ceremonies, artworks, and locations associated with the First World War have become increasingly popular, despite this temporal distance. One need only look at the public reaction to the Wave and Weeping Window sculptures across Britain, or the many pilgrimages which continue to the battlefields of Belgium and France, to see that the memory of the First World War remains. However, whether this interest remains following November 11 of this year has yet to be seen. In many ways, the commemoration of the Armistice centenary – when on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the First World War officially ended – feels somewhat like a natural break, like a kind-of ending. Certainly, interest in the First World War will remain though, perhaps, it will become more academic than emotive.
Over the past four years, recognition of many different groups of people who fought – and fell – in the fields of Europe have been part of the commemorations. Remembering sportspersons in particular, as well as moments such as the Christmas Truce football match, has been a significant theme in First War commemorations. Perhaps it is the comparison between the sportspersons of yesterday and those of today is part of why sport has been used. Similarly, the fact that sport can be a conduit to other forms of heritage, in large part because of its contemporary popularity, may also be one of the reasons sport has been used so frequently.
I wonder, however, if part of the reason is that athletic prowess involves speed, grace, balance, and beauty – and that those attributes inevitably are a part of youth. We can imagine strong, fit bodies playing sport – and, we can also think of those same bodies being cut down on the front or returning home mentally and physically mangled – and we weep for the injustice of it all. As Sassoon wrote, the front was “the hell where youth and laughter go.”
There have been many fine books published over the past four years which capture the connection between sport and the First World War, but none are finer than Andrew Renshaw edited collection of cricketers’ obituaries: Wisden on the Great War: The Lives of Cricket’s Fallen 1914-1918,. It is simultaneously an impressive feat of archival research, a moving tribute to a generation of sportspersons, and – given the immense size of the book – a sobering reminder of the cost of the war. It is this book in particular that came to mind when I received a surprising notification in my email last month.
London’s Armistice commemoration on November 11 this year will include something called “A Nation’s Thank You – the People’s Procession” where 10,000 members of the public were chosen by ballot to participate in the ceremony. I entered the ballot and found out last month that I was selected as one of the participants. I have long held an interest in the Great War, which has inspired numerous trips to sites across Belgium, but I do not necessarily have a personal or family connection to the war. Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists twelve Great War casualties named “Cosh” (my mother’s maiden name) and twenty-nine named “Ramshaw” (my father’s name via adoption), none that I am aware of are direct relatives. However, I felt that if I were to walk in the procession, I wanted to walk on behalf of someone. Given my research interest in sport heritage and my admiration for Wisden on the Great War, I decided to reach out to editor Andrew Renshaw. I noted in my message that I wanted to walk on behalf of a cricketer and wondered if he had any recommendations for someone he felt ought to be honoured at the ceremony. I also mentioned that I am Canadian (despite now living in the United States).
Andrew responded straight away and suggested Capt. Robert Leighton Moore Ferrie. In addition to being captain of his high school cricket team at Highfield School (now Hillfield Strathallan College) in Hamilton, Ontario, Capt. Ferrie was an all-around sportsman who was also captain of the hockey team, a football player, a rifler, and a lightweight boxing champion. He later attended the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. He was born on October 7th, 1898 and fell in action on January 3rd, 1918. He was only nineteen years old. It was announced on February 4th, 1918 that he was awarded the Military Cross and, on July 5th, 1918, the War Office issued the following description of Captain Ferrie’s accomplishments for the Royal Flying Corps:
He led his flight with great skill and determination in very bad weather, and dropped bombs on an enemy aerodrome from a height of 400 feet, destroying one shed and badly damaging another. On two later occasions he bombed villages and attacked enemy infantry with his machine-gun from a low altitude. He has brought down two enemy machines and assisted in destroying others. He has shown great courage and resource at all times.
He is buried at the Izel-Les-Hameau Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France. He is referred to at different points as both a Captain and Lieutenant, though Andrew feels he was posthumously promoted to Captain. He also appeared to be known as Leighton Ferrie, rather than Robert.
Capt. Ferrie’s obituary, listed on p. 397 of Wisden on the Great War, is deeply moving and demonstrates just how loved and admired he was:
Glorious boy, beloved of all, boy with the brave heart and the great soul, you have left us, and have not left your peer. Left us in the zenith of your vigour, your usefulness and your triumphs. Who that knew Leighton Ferrie will not drop a tear that the world has lost such a bright gem? So full of promise, so strong in character, so pure and lofty in soul, so formed for great and heroic deeds; so lovable and so admirable, so young and so beautiful. Is the world to be bereft of its best? Ought our hearts to break, or ought they to rejoice? If we were more than human, we might see in this decree of Providence the winning of a glorious crown; but being creatures of imperfect vision, we mingle more suffering than pride in our present feelings. We think too much of our own loss and too little of the hero’s triumph.
I am deeply humbled and honoured to walk in memory of Capt. Ferrie. He was a champion, a hero, a leader, brave, vigorous, and lost to us far too soon. Let us never forget this glorious boy.
Here at Sport Heritage Review HQ, we’ve been busily at work on a number of different research projects – which, unfortunately, has lead to a bit of neglect for our social media channels. As such, it seems like the time is right to provide a few updates about our sport heritage research:
Clemson Football Memories Project: The findings from this project, which links sport heritage (specifically about Clemson University’s football program) with reminiscence therapy, have been shared at academic conferences including the North American Society for Sport History (NASSH) conference in Winnipeg and the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) Conference in Grand Rapids. The project, in fact, was awarded the Excellence in Education Award at ATRA. Findings will soon be submitted to peer-reviewed journals in both Recreational Therapy and Heritage Studies. The project team will also soon be meeting with members of the BasebALZ baseball reminiscence therapy project in Austin, and one of our project team members will be attending the Football Memories Scotland convention in Glasgow in November. It is hoped that these meeting will provide both learning opportunities and research directions for the project team as well as provide valuable networking connections within the sport-based reminiscence community.
Baseball Heritage: Two manuscripts about the baseball research projects, which included stops in both Cooperstown and Cincinnati, will soon be submitted. One of the research projects explores the cultural and economic outputs, duties, and tensions at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, while the other looks at representations of Pete Rose at both Cooperstown and at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.
Post-Event Olympic Museums: Jungah Choi, a doctoral student in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University, is currently researching post-event Olympic museums (in other words, Olympic museums in former Olympic host cities. She will be presenting her research proposal at the International Symposium of Olympic and Paralympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario. Ms. Choi will also be contributing posts to the Sport Heritage Review about her research in the near future.
Politics of Sport Heritage in Brazil: Felipe Tobar, a doctoral student in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University, is currently working on a manuscript and conference presentation related to the politics and corruption of listing football stadia as heritage properties in Brazil. Mr. Tobar will also be contributing posts to the Sport Heritage Review about his research in the near future.
Sport Heritage Travels: Our travels this past summer have included a number of sport heritage stops, including in Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Cincinnati. The Ottawa trip was particularly informative, as several prominent national museums and public spaces included sport-based heritage – including a large scale public art project featuring a rendering of the Stanley Cup (see above), the trophy awarded to the champion of the National Hockey League. The Canadian Museum of History also included a tremendous amount of sport heritage in telling the story of Canada, while the Canadian War Museum held a special exhibition about armour, including the use of armour in medieval and contemporary sport.
We hope to be back shortly with updates on these projects, announcements of new and exciting project, as well as posts about sport heritage research from a number of new voices and perspectives.
As we head into the summer months, at least here in the northern half of the globe, there is normally a chance to slow down, take it easy and, perhaps, browse our local bookshop (or, probably more likely, our Kindle app) for something to read during our downtime. Somewhat sporadically over the last few years, I have written blog posts recommending some sports-centric books suitable for beach/cabin/cafe/holiday reading (see the 2014 list here, the 2015 list here, and the 2016 list here). Some books have a sport heritage component to them, some do not, though they were popular sports books that over the past year or so I enjoyed reading and would recommend (which also means that they were not necessarily published in the last year, but that I happened to read them over the past year). That said, there are a number of other sites that I would also recommend (most notably, the frequent and well-written reviews from our friends at the Sport in American History blog comes to mind.
In any event, here are a few 2018 recommendations for your summer sports reading:
Part memoir, part ethnography, the author spends a year becoming a professional “horseplayer” and meeting other gamblers along the way. I think horse racing inspires entertaining books, particularly when focused on contemporary rather than historical horse racing, because it is such a niche – and, in many ways, antiquated – sport. Whereas knowing and gambling on horses in the US was once a major leisure pastime, now it attracts an incredibly quirky group of people – each with their own system of handicapping the races. McLelland provides a very engaging narrative about the culture of a track, the people it attracts, and his own highs and lows on the road to becoming a professional handicapper.
This was probably my favourite sports book I read in the past year. Marzorati’s memoir of taking up tennis in retirement, obsessing over it, acquiring skills and milestones and victories and setbacks and, ultimately, something resembling contentment was, for me at least, inspiring. Part of this is that I recently took up tennis as well and, though I am not in retirement, I am also not in great physical shape (and certainly not at the level of Marzorati). In many ways, this book has taught me that there is still time to learn, to try, and to achieve no matter the stage in life.
On a recent episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Rethinking History podcast, he discussed an academic paper which concluded that a hockey coach who’s team is down a goal should pull their goalie with nearly six minutes to play in the game. While “pulling the goalie” is a common tactic in hockey, it is normally done with fewer than two minutes remaining in the game. Gladwell used this point to discuss, among other things, the idea of approval in decision-making (a coach who pulled the goalie with six minutes left would, almost certainly, not be a coach for very long despite the fact it might actually be the statistically correct move). The idea of trying tactics that are statistically defensible but completely fly in the face of a sport’s culture and norms is the focus of this entertaining and often funny book by the hosts of the excellent Effectively Wild baseball podcast. Given almost complete control of the on-field tactics of a minor league baseball team, Lindbergh and Miller quickly learn that what might be right on paper is not always going to be accepted by players and managers on the field.
Though likely a bit dated, given that it was from the late 1980s/early 1990s, it is nevertheless a disturbing though compelling account of hooligan culture in England. Although there is an entire subgenera of memoirs from hooligans, this one is unique in that it was written by an American who didn’t grow up in football/soccer culture but who slowly went from being revolted by what he saw to being a participant in the mayhem.
Pete Rose is either viewed as a hero – the “hit king” who topped Ty Cobb’s record – or a villain – the man who sullied the American Pastime through gambling on games he managed. Kennedy’s memoir is a nuanced account of Rose, a remarkable player who was a deeply flawed (though never particularly mean) character. Kennedy doesn’t particularly make the case for or against Rose as much as asking those on either side to take a closer look.
The study of sport heritage has come a long way.
When I first began researching this topic fifteen years ago, it seemed that sport heritage and its many variations – including sports museums, heritage-based sport tourism, preservation and heritage recognition of sporting venues, heritage sporting events and the like – was receiving limited research attention. Sport historians would occasionally write about museums, tourism scholars would suggest that sport nostalgia might be something examine in greater detail, and geographers might note the use of heritage in stadia, but it wasn’t a particularly deep or coherent body of knowledge.
I look at where we are now and I am amazed!
I think part of this has come from many different scholars from a variety of fields realizing that many forms of popular culture, including sport, are important in revealing something about ourselves, our pasts, and our current culture. Sport is no longer the ugly stepchild of heritage. I recall when I was working at a historic village in the 1990s and asked to develop sport-based public programming (primarily involving cricket, which was a popular pastime in the era we were representing). I was told that sport wasn’t “particularly serious” and that we ought to focus our interpretive efforts on “serious issues and topics.” I think the fact that sport is becoming a topical mainstay of historic markers, of preservation activities, of tourism development, and of permanent museum exhibitions is an important development.
I think there has also been a broader engagement from traditional academic disciplines such as history, geography, archaeology, and anthropology to engage with heritage more generally, and sport heritage in particular. While I used to regularly hear from scholars that heritage was little more than “fake history,” there is now I believe a broader understanding that this idea of heritage – how, why, and by whom the past is used in the present – is something we need to understand. This is not to suggest that heritage is “good” – in fact, the entire purpose of critical heritage studies is to understand and reveal which voices are given priority and which are marginalized and why – but rather that an understanding of heritage in sport is a way of engaging with the many reasons the sporting past is created and mobilized in the present. Furthermore, the idea that sport heritage in its many forms is something that many sport historians, sport geographers, and others see as something that is important to understand has been a significant and, I believe, a positive change for the field.
It has also been great to see scholars engage with specific aspects of sport heritage. Topics such as sports museums, sports venues, and heritage sport tourism have received the bulk of research attention, but the work of scholars like Joel Pinson to examine sport heritage events in depth has been a welcome development.
The development of numerous organizations that link scholars with sport heritage topics and issues has also been welcome. While organization such as ISHA have been around for decades and are integral to the continued maintenance of sport heritage for the public, recent work by organizations such as the Sporting Memories Foundation, who use sport heritage resources such as archives and museums to address issues of dementia and loneliness, Sporting Heritage, who advocate on behalf of sports museums in the UK, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who have been integral in the preservation of historic sports venues in the US, and ICOMOS, who recently recognized sport as an important part of heritage conservation, are all welcome developments to sport heritage scholarship and understanding in the public sphere.
Finally, the connections between scholars who share an interest in sport heritage, sport history, and sport culture has become more robust in recent years, developed in large part through Twitter. As a sport heritage scholar, I have learned a tremendous amount from sport scholars in a variety of fields in large part because we have “connected” on Twitter. In fact, as I was perusing the conference schedule for next month’s NASSH conference in Winnipeg, I realized just how many scholars I “knew” because I became familiar with their work through social media. Perhaps most notably, the excellent work by the group of scholars involved in the Sport in American History blog and website has not only engaged sport heritage scholars, but has engaged in “real world” topics and demonstrated the important role of the sporting past in contemporary debates.
There is still much work to do in sport heritage research, and many places scholarship can go (those thoughts are for a future blog, perhaps). There are also many more ways in which scholars from a variety of disciplines, as well as public agencies and other interested parties, can go with this field. However, I think it is important to pause for a moment and realize just how far this research area has developed.
If you ever wish to go to Cooperstown, New York and visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame – and wish to have the museum largely to yourself – I suggest a visit in early January, particularly during a brutal run of sub-zero temperatures. There were days that the only people in the hall of fame were myself, my frequent research partner Sean Gammon, and the museum staff. Hand on heart, we essentially had a multiday private viewing of one of the most famous sports museums in the world.
While Sean and I are hard at work on a couple of manuscripts based off of our time in Cooperstown, I thought I’d share a few stray observations about the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
– I was impressed at how the museum handled some of the more contentious debates in baseball, in particular PEDs, labour disputes, and Pete Rose. They provided space for visitors to express their views, and allowed museum guides to express their own opinions. There’s even signage early on in the exhibits that positions the museums approach to, in particular, PEDs.
– Visiting the museum, ironically, made me interested in learning more about Negro Leagues baseball. That said, the section on African-Americans in baseball was a bit sparse, and seemed to suggest that racism in baseball ended in 1953.
– Some of the more surprising artefacts I noticed in the collection included items from Marvin Miller and Curt Flood, buttons made by fans protesting labour disruptions, a copy of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, a copy of the Mitchell Report, and a Detroit Tigers pride cap.
– Guides told us that Ichrio often visits the museum and is one of its most generous patrons.
– There are very few mentions of death in the museum. Only the exhibits about stadiums, interestingly enough, had dates of “death”.
– The hall of fame section is like a mosoleum. People speak in hushed tones. It is also warmer than any other section of the museum.
– I found it interesting that the only two players who had individual exhibits were Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. I was expecting one for Jackie Robinson.
– I think my favourite part of the museum was the exhibit about stadiums (“Sacred Ground”). The interpretive panels were very well written (with some remarkable observations about nostalgia and topophilia), and was the one section of the museum that really addressed the traditions and rituals of baseball spectating.
– My favourite artefact was the Barry Bonds “asterisk” home run record ball.
– It is well worth a visit, though I think my experience was unique given the time of year. The place must feel claustrophobic in the middle of summer.