Watch the content of lecture and answer the question

1) Post in Theoretical Perspective Blog.a) Quote (cut and paste) what you said was the ‘value of sport’ from Question 1 of Blog 1. [Please just include the values, not the entire section.]b) Identify the theory with which your ‘value’ most closely alignsc) Tell me why you think your value reflects the theory you’ve indicated in (b). Please support your response with a quote from the theoretical discussions.d) IN YOUR OWN WORDS, why do we study theory? Hint: answer is on page 1 of this lecture.


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Some housekeeping before we get into lecture.
-Thanks for the personal profiles that some of you provided in the first assignment! You
bring quite a variety of experiences and backgrounds to this course which should make
for some interesting conversation. Also, remember whether or not you play(ed) sports
does not matter (hopefully, this lecture will make that clear). It’s just interesting to see
what everyone’s background is and where people are coming from.
Quick comment: please make sure to reread your post before submitting it
because writing does count! Your ideas may be fabulous but if they are not
communicated well and I can’t understand them, I will have to mark you down.
-Also, do not forget that your initial commentary/post MUST be based on lecture
concepts and supported by quotes and information from lecture (or readings or other
outside materials) and referenced properly (see citation description in Syllabus Folder for
how to cite your source). If you do not do this, you will lose points!
-This lecture is a bit drier than the last one but we need to go through this following
discussion of sociological theory in order to understand how we will approach the rest of
the course; also, it’s a large part of why you get credit for this class. So stick with it…ok?
-As you no doubt noticed, our first assignment was quite easy; it was mainly intended to
be an intro and an opportunity to learn the navigation and deadlines, etc. This lecture, the
length, content and the work assigned, is more typical of the remaining lectures; which
will require a greater level of effort and attention to the contents of the lecture.
I. Sociological theory
In this lecture on Theory, we will study the most common sociological theories about
how societies function. These theories macro (broad world view stuff) and micro
(personal) in scope and are not a perfect explanation of society but we still study
theories because:
they help us to move beyond our personal point of view or thoughts, and,
to develop a broader, more educated, rational set of ideas!
Although there are many sociological theories, in this course we will study 3 of the most
popular. They are:
I) (Structural) Functionalist theory – hereafter referred to as Functionalism
II) Social Conflict theory
III) Feminist theory
A) Main Assumption:
Functionalism suggests that each aspect of society is interdependent (‘we need each
other’) and that each part has something to contribute to society functioning as a whole
(‘we are all parts of the whole’).
Functional theory is based on the idea that, because no one person can do everything that
they need to survive and function for themselves. So, we, as a society, create social
structures (or institutions) which perform functions that benefit each of us and the society
as a whole. In this way, one person can have all they need but is not doing everything for
themselves – ex: being their own doctor, accountant, making all the laws, cooking, etc.
Think about your body or a car – there are multiple systems governing each; each system
or part contributes to the overall function of the whole. These systems are separate yet
necessary for the ‘organism’ or entity to work. These are NOT just physical structures;
rather they are social structures/institutions, such as schools, hospitals, government,
mass media, banks and military
Functional perspective attempts to explain how these social institutions as a group meet
individual necessities and societal needs; ex: build roads, hospitals, postal system, fire
service, etc.
Is sport a social ‘structure’? What function does sport fulfill?
Functionalist theory suggests that social institutions work together to maintain the status
quo and reproduce our society. This is how we perpetuate society in order to make sure
that society, its values and its institutions survive.
“According to functionalist theories, institutions come about and persist
because they play a function in society; institutions promote order, stability and
(Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology)
In general, it is thought that the institutions work for the good of society. According to
Functionalist Theorists, there is broad societal consensus on what is considered ‘good’
for society. There is also a high degree of cooperation among people to work together to
pursue that ‘common good’.
In order words, there is a general societal agreement about what is good and worthwhile
to pursue; this comes with encourage to conform to these values and morals. For instance,
some common ‘goods’ in US society are education, hard work, health, happiness, etc.
Ex: As college student, you are upholding the value of getting an education.
The government operates to support that value by setting up a school
system. Schools educate, graduates get jobs, start paying taxes to the
government in order to support the schools, thereby perpetuating the value
and the very schools they attended.
In order for this to happen, all roles (teacher, janitor, principal,
administrator, students, etc.) must be filled.
So, although it may not always appear this way—we need each other in order
to survive as a people, as a culture, as a society. No (wo)man is an island, right?
Functionalist theory focuses on the social processes, which promote cooperation,
stability, consensus, balance and harmony. Functionalists usually aim to maintain the
status quo or the way things are and always have been and always will be.
Functionalist perspective reflects the ‘American way of life’ and is the most popular
because these views help to maintain and support the social order.
B) Functionalism and Sport – What do sports contribute to society? What is its
Stevenson and Nixon suggest that social functions which sport performs are:
1) socialization – instilling values
2) integration – helping players get along in a group
3) politicalization – promotes team and/or national identity
(Remember Zirin video, lecture 1? If not, go watch it.)
Functionalists examine how sports contributes to an individual’s learning of
societal values and provides ways to test and improve their integration skills.
Functionalists believe that sport teaches youth basic values and desirable
characters such as teamwork, discipline, hard work, accepting authority, which
help us get along in society, in the world. And encourages players/athletes to
accept rules; for them to play their part on the team. It is also a way to impact
values through the generations.
In this way, you can see that sayings like…Sport builds character, sport brings
people together, anybody can succeed, if they just work hard enough, and
there’s no ‘I’ in team?…. reflect a Functionalist point-of-view.
Conflict theory is based on the ideas of Karl Marx. Although Marx was an Economist,
not a Sociologist; however, his ideas are without a doubt among the most influential
socialist thinking to emerge in the 19th century. Marx studied the rise of the capitalist
society in the mid-19th century but investigating working conditions in factories.
In those factories, he saw conflict, tension and power struggles; opposing sides
competing for scarce resources (money, land, power, opportunity). So, instead of working
together, as we discussed in Functionalism, he observed groups or classes of people
working against each other. There were factory workers (he called proletariat) of which
there were many but with little power. And there were owners (called bourgeoisie) of
whom he saw very few yet very powerful men. He saw this as a hierarchy with hidden
The Conflict theory is based on Marx’ work and based on the idea that people are not
equal, nor do they have equal life choices or chance. His theory is centered on the idea
that social control is maintained not by the individual but by powerful groups. These
groups control everything based on their wealth and the resulting economic power.
Conflict theory does NOT see society as a stable or enduring system; rather, under this
theory, society is a ‘constantly changing set of relationships based solely on
economics/wealth’. Conflict theory focuses on the social processes, which lead to
disharmony, instability, competition and conflict.
Note: this is different from Functionalism, which views society as operating to
maintain the status quo, right?
A) Main Assumptions of Conflict Theory:
Marx felt that conflict was inevitable in society. Conflict, according to Marx, would
come about because:
i) All people desire the same things – money, property, jobs, and power.
ii) However, these things are not distributed equally; some have more than others.
iii) The groups/people who have the most resources – business owners and the
elite of society – are a privileged class; while the rest of us, the masses (the 99%),
are stuck in a lower class.
The 99%: Recent global social movements, such as the ‘Occupy
Movement’*, Black Lives Matter and even the NFL players and others
who kneel during the Anthem have brought recognition to the fact that
most of society resides lives in struggle. Yet, in spite of our clear numeric
majority, we lack the power and/or ability to control our lives in the same
way that the powerful can. Think: tax loopholes-who gets ‘em?
* I use the Occupy Movement because its main focus was economic inequality, which
Marx discussed.
iv) Marx thought that the masses would rise up in protest against the privileged
class due to unfair treatment by a system which is skewed toward the wealthy: a
system with unfair taxation, lack of reasonable medical coverage, foreclosures. In
other words, the middle/lower classes have a general lack of power over major
aspects of their lives. But prior to the Occupy Movement, protest was scare! Why
might that be?
v) Marx had an answer: distraction. We are distracted from our own reality by
spectacles and events which keep our minds occupied on something else and help
us forget our relative powerlessness.
Do sporting events make good ‘distractions’? You bet, normally; but maybe not
as much as they used to. Do you think this is why the fans are getting upset with
the NFL, etc. protests?
The privileged class, which includes team owners, who provide us with games and
leagues and even the media coverage needed to create these exciting spectacles. We like
to think being a fan is just fun, we think we are getting this for ‘free’ but it has its costs.
Being a fan ‘requires’ that you look the part (buy team garb from the business owners),
watch the game (supporting the media outlets, might even need a special package to do
that), go to the game (well, you know that is expensive and benefits the owners). All of
this fandom is expensive and WHO DOES IT BENEFIT? The owners, the rich, the
How much team gear do you own?
Raiders, Giants, As, Warriors
How much did it set you back?
The privileged are using their power and wealth to maintain their power by providing
opportunities or creating products which come at a cost to us and are a benefit to them.
These institutions – SPORT, SCHOOLS, and GOVERNMENT – teach us via MEDIA to
behave, think and act in ways which may even be against our own personal interests.
An example: Do all of us know who our State Senators are or how they voted on local
issues? Do you know your rights as a worker? Do you have insurance?
These are the kinds of things that might have a direct impact on your life,
but we tend to switch on a game, rather than look into our own personal
A sport example:
An example for this class might be that you buy 49ers tickets
because you are a big fan and it’s cool! You do this instead of
getting your car repaired, or taking a class, or buying a suit you
need in order to interview for a better job.
In other words, you operate against your own best interest when you take YOUR
hard earned money out of your pocket and put it into some rich guy/gal’s pocket.
No doubt the game was fun but what does it really get you in the long run?
Really, what did you gain? The right to brag about it, but you can’t eat bragging,
and some rich person got richer off of your decision.
B) Conflict Theory and Sport
Sport can, then, be referred to as an OPIATE FOR THE MASSES. Like a drug,
providing ‘magical moments’ which can be way for us to escape the reality of the
difficult conditions of our daily life: unemployment, health care costs, rising energy
costs, climate change, and overall dismal life chances.
Can you see how the producers of sport (networks, team owners, sponsors) use sport to
occupy the ‘little peoples’ minds (that’s us, unless you come to school in a Lear Jet)
with escapist spectator events?
Think about how prominent the Super Bowl, the World Series, and NBA finals are? Have
you ever noticed how we get ‘prepped’ for them before they happen?
Sponsors and media interests create commercials, write articles, and flood sports talk
radio shows with ads about these upcoming events; do you think that they are doing this
just they think we shouldn’t miss the game/event? Or could it be that they don’t want us
to miss an opportunity to be exposed to their brands? What do you think?
An example for you Giants fans: consider how many accessories you own – home
game jerseys, away game hats, throwback uniforms, Friday night orange? Do you
really NEED all of it? Who benefits from you buying it?
Here are a couple more examples of stuff you really need!
An ad for the Super Bowl, it’s on NBC and,
by the way, do ya wanna switch to NFL mobile?
Budweiser Patriot cans
Raiders M&Ms
But on the positive side, though, sport participation can relieve physical and mental stress,
which might better prepare one to deal with their problems. Also, the preoccupation with
sport, can keep serve to keep people/kids busy and out of trouble.
Feminist theory is a contemporary sociological theory, which was born out the
Women’s movement of the 60s and 70s. It grew out of the general dissatisfaction with
societal customs which were based on the values and experiences of men. This theory
examines how women’s experiences and position in society is different than.
Historically, major social institutions in most societies have been dominated by men. As
a result, women, in US culture and globally, have been subjected to many inequalities:
discrimination, objectification, systematical oppressed, and generally, devalued. Women
have been marginalized or have been confined to a lower limit (‘glass ceiling’) than men.
Although the extent of the inequality has varied, most societies are still patriarchal.
Note: Patriarchy is a system in which males are the primary authority figures.
We still see this in the US, as men dominate the economy, politics, religion, military,
business, and sport. To this day, women are still underrepresented in all of these
Women’s experiences were only seen as a variation or deviation from men’s experiences.
Using men as the reference point for many facets of life has lead to a basic sex inequality
which overlooks women’s voices or contributions.
Think science: most experiments and studies are still run using college-age men as
subjects, and then findings are applied to women without future testing.
Or sports: Until the last decade or so, sports clothing for women used to be men’s
clothes but made smaller and pink or purple for women but it didn’t fit.
Feminist theory aims to understand the nature of inequality (what does make 2 people
unequal?) in women’s and men’s experience in society and focuses on gender politics,
power relations and sexuality as an explanation.
A) Main Assumptions:
Feminist theory is based on recognition of the notion that men and women have been
unequal and had unequal opportunities. Feminist theory seeks to understand this power
differential, and how culture assigns roles that we ‘play’ in life. Also, looks at how this
stratification tends to benefit men; limiting women to the private arena – home, childrenconversely, allowing men limitless access to the public sphere.
?An irony of this idea is that women have too often accepted their own
subordination to men. Why? From a young age, women and girls have been
socialized to believe ideologies that justify male domination and female
subordination. We will see this as we move along further in the course.
B) Feminist Theory And Sport What is the connection between gender and sport?
Feminist theorists study discrimination and unequal opportunities for women and female
athletes. They contend that there is a need to change the male-oriented system,
suggesting that it might even be a bad idea for women to participate in activities which
have been created primarily by and for men. Like sports?
Modern organized sport was created by and for men, and sport is generally
associated with of ‘male’ values; values such as aggression, physical domination
and physical power, women have had a difficult time ‘breaking in’. In addition,
men still tend to hold positions of power in sport, tend to run the games, be the
coaches and administrators, which further encourages the idea that men are
superior to women.
Feminist theory approaches sport as a gendered* activity that is specific to, or biased
toward the male sex.
*GENDERED means…
“Relating or specific to people of one particular gender” (
From a feminist perspective, gendered in sport means “the skills and attributes
required for the activity are typically associated with masculinity, thereby
supporting the values of men.”
We see many areas in which things are gendered: toys, language, ads, colors, even
food. Here is an eye-opening discussion on the gendering of products:

Yes, We’re Still Gendering Everything

So, it’s probably comes as no surprise that sport is a big, significant area in which
we find ‘gendering’ and/or is gendered.
Feminist theory also notes the fact that even the term ‘athlete’ is gendered. Do you
agree, let’s check…Who do you think of when you hear or see the word ‘athlete’?
Probably A, right?
But if ‘athlete’ is traditionally thought of as someone who is male and possesses the
attributes: of tough, aggressive, domination opponents and competitive; where do
female athletes fit into that?
Feminists look at:
-How girls/women have been systemically discouraged from sport participation.
-Why men resist the entry of women into sport?
-How girls and women are represented in the media; why are women’s teams
referred to as ‘lady’ this or ‘lady’ that or the ‘ettes’? (Thank goodness, female
athletes at East Bay aren’t called the Lady Pioneers or the Pioneerettes. Yo!)
-How sports is involved in the production of gendered ideas about physicality,
sexuality and the body.
V. Conclusion
A) Commonality between theories
People who use the theories we have discussed believe that ‘sport is a reflection of
society’. The general idea that the rich (usually) white (typically) men who have the
power, can determine what we see, hear, read, and watch. Usually, what we then see and
hear generally benefits these powerful (wo)men and their business interests. Think: how
do we see this is happening in our culture?
However, other theorists suggest that sport is much more than that. They contend that
?Sport is the actually a place where culture is generated, the ‘place’ where
society and culture intermingle and maybe shift.
Think about how sport can be an opportunity for men/women of different
races/classes/national origin to interact and learn to depend on one another. Does this
change our culture or not? These theorists say yes because …
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