Monday, 10 August 2015

Redhead parks a theoretical bus in front of goal

A review of Steve Redhead’s (2015) Football and Accelerated Culture: This Modern Sporting Life Routledge

I’ve tweeted some potted reviews of early chapters of this book and even linked to the video in which the author is interviewed by his wife. Many of these have been retweeted by them.

My first tweet was not RT’d and my last not so far. The first tweet read
engaging chapter 1 really preface/intro with enough music mentions to float @TimNewburn boat but poor index!
More popular were:
Ch2 Football and Accelerated Culture roars down left wing exchanging 1-2s with Baudrillard, Badiou and Virilio. Will score? 
in Ch 3 of Football and Accelerated Culture @steveredhead bigs up his firm (university archive) and 'hits and tells' about #criminology 
also picks out the ‘camp’ in hyper-masculinity #footballaccelaratedculture I’ll claim that for #queercriminology
ch 5 mixes hooligan memoirs with some academic ones of his own - his greatest hits 
mentions @DonalMacIntyre journalism not his professorship 
So far my final tweet has gone unanswered.
What do pages 58 and 74 have in common?
The answer is a very lengthy and identical quote (third of a page) from ‘Pete Walsh, publisher of Milo books’. Readers of subtext might see some criticism in the other tweets too but no subtlety is intended in my complaint about the index. I’ve complained in the past about the index in other titles in Routledge’s Research Sport, Culture and Society series. Rosie Meek’s Sport in Prison is compromised by a poor one but I’ll return to this from time-to-time as the are other complaints and some praise to attend to.

It is appropriate that some of my first thoughts were dashed off quickly on social media and the index has mentions of Twitter on pages, 1, 9, 12-15, 19, 76 and 80 only missing the discussion on page 40 of the campaign demanding justice for the 96 (Hillsborough #jft96). The accelerated culture of Twitter means I can, with sufficient wit, give the impression of deep reading but the slower pace of writing this blog with quill pen by candle light demands more.

I think the book better illustrates the acceleration of culture than football does. I’ve been supporting football less assiduously than Steve and only slightly longer but for all the changes many things have not changed. The length of match and the means of deciding the game have not changed. What has changed is the amount of space (I’m not sufficiently aware of Virilio’s work - and Redhead’s 34 mentions largely assume you are - to know if his dromology covers time and space) given to sport, specifically football. Once only the cup final enjoyed as much pre and post match speculation and analysis but even the most mundane, end-of-season, mid-table match is declared the wonder of our age.

Twitter is quick and this book has been written quickly. I used some football metaphors in my tweets but cricket fits the purpose better here. Cricket has become quicker with a variety of short forms that some blame for the speed of even its full test version. Redhead is found at the crease knocking the bowling of those less versed in high theory to boundary in a series of aper├žus, reminiscences and boasts (which might have been demoted to footnotes) about his knowledge, connections and archive.

Tackling that high theory we find that he is attracted to Virilio’s work (but rejecting his idealist phenomenology) and to Baudrillard’s late (in his life and posthumously published) work (31 mentions) and dislikes attempts to position such work as either modern or post modern, preferring the term late modern. Zizek appreciatively mentioned nearly a dozen times.

He knows his criminology and criminologists (nearly 30 mentions but no index entry!) but you will need to them too as he rarely goes beyond a sketch or name check, save for a big shout out to Steve Hall and Simon Winlow’s Teesside Centre for Realist Criminology (TCRC) though not all of TCRC’s mentions are indexed and none of Hall and Winlow’s half dozen citations are indexed. Sociology has no index entry despite nearly 20 mentions.

He deploys terms like Claustropolis, Claustopolitanism and Claustropolitan Sociology extensively and these gets many index mentions and much of this is foreshadowed in his earlier work when at Brighton. From Virilio ‘Claustopolitanism’ is the move from the cosmopolis that classical sociology has studied to the gated (figuratively and metaphorically) ‘communities’ of today that require his Claustropolitan Sociology, ‘or ‘bunker anthropology’.

In addition to the problems with the index and the elliptical nature of some references to high theory and score settling the writing is often unnecessarily dense. Sometimes this in the obscurantist manner of some cultural studies but also, and contrawise (and here I’m aping the style) legalistically with, asides, and conditional legalistic, deemed necessary - but please in another sentence - clauses.

Additionally, and here we are moving on from the speed of the writing, we have the speed of the production. It has clearly not been properly edited or sub-edited and for this I blame his publishers. Thus, in addition to the repeat of the quotes on pages 57 and 74 we find that the term ‘Pete Walsh, publisher of Milo books’ appears six times. The expression ‘What I have called, with a considerable irony’ appears on pages 23, 51 and 67 and again as ‘heavy irony’ on pages 70 and 78. Throughout I found myself thinking I’d already read something in this book or his earlier work which he promotes at length throughout.

But it is not all bad. I’ll quote his work on the ‘camp’ ness of the hyper-masculinity of some of his hooligans (p23) and the queer tone of Morrissey’s love of Georgie Best (p92). I’ll quote too his opinion that sporting mega events will not regenerate Cities but ‘resettle’ them (p80).

I am grateful to learn of ‘physical cultural studies’.
And the football? Quite. There are sometimes long quotes (whole pages!) from the 108 hooligan memoirs covering the years 1987-2014 held at Charles Sturt University which are part of his ‘hit and tell’ project (nearly 20 mentions in book but none in index). Many of the mentions are otiose and repetitive. The contents of the archive are set out in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 matches clubs and their ‘firms’ with the memoirs. A further appendix should have removed the unwieldy list of the ‘firms’ associated with various clubs that take up pages 29-31.

Most chapters start with a claim to link theory to the hooligan memoirs but most involve lengthy theoretical approach work and then some mention of those memoirs, diddling about the box, before shooting wide!

And finally back to the Index. As noted it is short and misses many of the most important topics, subjects and authors but it also includes some random elements. Reference to the Large Hadron Collider does appear on page 17 but only in most aleatory fashion. This book is as much about popular music as it is about football - and I agree with him about the need to treat sport as part of the cultural industries - though it is more about picking fights with fellow theorists, so it is worrying that Happy Mondays lose their second capital in the index though not throughout the text, as do Joy Division yet The Farm and The Hollies get their full appellation and Morrissey acquires his birth initial, ’S’ (and full name in text, p92).

I've torn this book apart. It should be disassembled and put together in a new order with greater eye to detail.  It might then meet Steve Hall's encomium for it:

Redhead’s state-of-the-art exploration of contemporary football culture is bursting with fresh ideas, which he applies with both imagination and precision to his object of study. This trenchant mixture of raw realism and high theory is exactly what is needed to break the study of football culture out of its current ailing paradigms and reset the coordinates for a new trajectory. A genuine pathfinder.

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Fantasy Sport Industry: Games within games a book review

Billings Andrew C (@andrewcbillingsand Ruihley Brody J (@ruihley(2014) The Fantasy Sport Industry: Games within games Routledge 

Confession time. I was not a train spotter nor am I a stats nerd. I’ve been aware of fantasy sport leagues and even celebrity ones speculating on their death of divorce. I was surprised to discover that there is Fantasy Sport Trade Association (FSTA) whose website provides updates on Billings and Ruihley’s 2012 figures.

Fantasy sports players are younger, better educated, with higher household incomes and more likely to have full-time employment:
66% Male
Average Age: 37
College Degree or More: 57%
Have a household income of $75k+: 47%
Have full-time employment: 66%
Average Annual Spending Per Fantasy Player: $465
Favorite Fantasy Sport: Football (73%)
Fantasy Sports Players that Pay League Fee: 60%

Also Andy Murray, real sportsman, is said to keep his fantasy soccer trophy in front of his tennis ones.

And, further confession, my interest in this book is as criminologist seeking to examine sport so this skews my review. Self confessed fantasy league player and viewer of ESPN’s programming about fantasy sport and even the drama series The League  Shawn E. Klein The Sport Ethicist reviews Billings and Ruihley here.

Given the large sums of money now involved and the extent of crime within and alongside online games I had expected some mention. There is some mention of legal matters particularly around betting. Thus there have been legal challenges to fantasy leagues that it is a form of betting and certainly its use of statistics mirrors those beloved of legal and illegal gambling. Both legal and illegal gambling have lead to match and spot fixing but perhaps these are some of the things that might arise in the future. There are other things they might like to examine in the future. Klein particularly asks what effect fantasy sports have had on ‘real’ sport.

But in reality this is more like a media book or, indeed, for the American market and college system, a communications book and is to be commended as such.

In Chapter 2 we discover (except it turns out how we might expect) why people play.  They play for all the reasons people play any game or sport. It is here I might have expected something on cheating but nothing here or elsewhere. A couple of late mentions of ethics in the concluding chapter (7) are about it. The Code of Ethics of FSTA forbids gambling and we are told the FTSA developed those ‘in response to some ethical debacles such as the folding of the World Championship of Fantasy Football (WCOFF) (p142). They give no further details and the internet has not found me any information save it seems to be in rude health currently.

In Chapter 3 the demographics are examined and again as the FSTA figures above confirm men of a certain age and income. They mention gender throughout but offer no analysis, though where women play their consumption of sport rises like men’s. Similarly ethnicity is essentially a category about which stats are given and differential uptake puzzled over. Participation of black players in Basketball and identification with by urban youth might have prompted some interest in fantasy play but perhaps the intersection of class might be relevant here.

Chapter 4 is given over to US based ‘major players’ in the FSTA and the media ties in that country should be noted. Fantasy sport there, like sport is highly integrated with the media whereas in the UK there is some separation with fantasy sport piggy-backing off sport (to the annoyance of rights owners?).

Chapter 5 examines the role of money. High stakes players are, not unsurprisingly, financially motivated but still get a ‘rush’ and are less likely to have a favourite team or favour any team over their fantasy selection. Both found some companionship in play.  I wonder if they ‘bowled alone’ or this more participatory screen use was better than TV (Putnam suggests, ‘Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital’). I agree with Klein that, ‘various views on the relationship between gambling and fantasy but it is not clear how they view it.’  Perhaps this as the whole book feels almost like a report or pitch to the board of FSTA not a piece of critical scholarship (see comment on Chapter 6 too).

Chapter 6 is on why people give up playing.  In criminology this is called desistance and maturation often given a prime spot.

Again it is difficult to disagree with Klein who says:
There might be some useful tidbits for someone in the industry who is trying to identify how to head off customer attrition, but in terms of getting a better understanding of the industry and its participants, there wasn’t as much here as I would have liked.

So fascinating to the ‘non-fantasist’ and to the industry and a chance for the Schwabist (NB to non-US users: some may know the term ‘maven’ but Schwabism had me stumped) player to nit-pick and suggestive of further work into other areas and informed by theory.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A Punch of Flower's - sport’s domesticated violence

Back in November I talked about consent in sport and concluded that discussion of the informal and formal acceptance of (consent to) violence might be the place to start discussions of off-field violence, specifically sexual violence.

I ranged widely over boxing and other sports and included material on Ben Flower.  This is what I said about him then.

This post is inspired by the recent case of Ben Flowers and a reminder from Christopher Matthews of the violence in Ice Hockey which reminded me of the violence of professional wrestling which Corteen and Corteen cover.  I rely on Matt Rogers for the facts and some of the law and can recommend his extensive analysis of ‘implied sporting consent’.
Flowers received a six month ban from Rugby League Football (RFL) at the hands of the its match-review panel.  It represents potentially missing 13 games and is the most severe option open to the panel.

More interestingly the question might have been should his actions have been subject to police action - perhaps, there and then.  It would seem that Greater Manchester Police propose not to disturb the RFL’s jurisdiction but are investigating threats of summary informal justice on social media against Flowers.

I want to concentrate on Flower today as is due to return to action tonight in a Super League game against Warrington according to this Guardian article by Donald McRae (@donaldmcrae).  Some of the article might be seen as placing Flowers as the victim. His tears and familial shame are related; or is the victim his team? - his early sending off may well have contributed to their defeat. But half way through McRae tells us in a single sentence paragraph:

Flower also thought of Hohaia, the real victim that night.

We learn that he messaged Hohaia but heard nothing;then we are back to his fears of jail, the twitter abuse and death threats.  Restorative Justice might have been tried here.  Especially since another article says:

“Sometimes these things happen in a game,” said Hohaia, a 31-year-old who was a World Cup winner with New Zealand in 2008, and was unable to return after being knocked out by Flower’s first punch less than two minutes into the match. “In the heat of the moment people do things they regret. I’ve done some silly things myself, so I don’t hold any regrets against Ben – he’s probably disappointed with himself.

And this should also remind us of the high rate of violence between young men off pitch.

McRae is heartened by the quick cooperation of both clubs to support both men.  I am less so.  It might be argued that commercial imperatives - and the good standing of Rugby League with fans and sponsors - might be behind this.  There is also plenty of precedent and legal backing for such sport crime to be dealt with by the justice systems of the sport.  A feminist might note too the closing of ranks amongst men.

It is this thought that puts me in mind of other violences.  That closing of ranks amongst men - including media men - raises the issue of whether there is or isn’t a link between on field and off field violence.  That cannot be decided here (or at all?) but the description of Flower’s attack on Hohaia and the gathering around of the rugby football ‘family’ also reminded me of some responses to domestic violence.

Deb Waterhouse-Watson notes the narratological work done by clubs and media to move the ‘trial’ from men accused of sexual violence onto the complainant.  But what of the case of on field, televised and spectator-witnessed violence between players?  Clearly this needs narratological work (and subsequent analysis) too.  It is downplayed. 


Monday, 13 April 2015

Fight Club - a prison of masculinity?

First rule of Fight Club is broken by former Prison Officer at HMYOI Feltham in blowing the whistle about fights organised by Officers amongst inmates.

I touched on some of these issues when I reviewed Rosie Meek’s work on Sport in Prison.  This is what I said about boxing:

For every boxer who claims that without the sport he would have ended in prison (for instance Luis Collazo) we might find lists of the ten best boxers who ended up in prison.  And yet we also have Prison Fight a charity which claims world connections but seems only to be Thai-based and uses Thai boxing as rehabilitation and holds out the possibility of amnesty; but to my untutored eye it looks exploitative.
Yet boxing rates only 3 mentions in Meek's book: one to note that in her survey boxing was the favoured activity for inmates though banned at the time (p109); that it had recently been approved for use with non-violent offenders (p33) and that it was now offered in a number of establishments (p28). 
In ITV’s Bring Back Borstal the ‘boys’ play a game of Rugby Union against a local team and go on cross country runs - shades of the book and film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - but they do not box.  Several fights break out and a punch ball takes a hammering in Episode 3 to allow one young man to ‘let off some steam'.  In Meek’s mentions and more generally it is not clear whether boxing training - i.e. pad work, speed ball, skipping or running - is meant or more serious sparring or even a boxing match - with headguards and gumshields.  Organisations like Boxing Academy and Fight for Peace use ‘boxing training’.

So it is interesting to come across Deborah Jump’s article in the Howard League’s Early Career Network Bulletin 26 based on her PhD ethnography in a boxing gym which concludes:

… this article discusses and elaborates on existing assumptions in sporting and desistance literature, and argues that while relevant, diversionary activities and sport-based programmes that incapacitate are only one element in the theory of change. In conclusion, I have argued that boxing actually traps men in an attendant culture of respect that requires them to respond in aggressive ways to maintain an image of both masculinity and respect. This attendant culture, that is transposable between gym and street, can override the pro-social incapacitating elements that the gym can offer, and reinforces the logic and discourses that evokes and traps men in habits of responding to violence. Therefore, in terms of future policy and practice, new directions need to be sought.

I agree and believe it chimes with my work on motor projects for my PhD where masculinity was an issue too.  Whilst I drive a car - and have done for over 40 years - I’m no ‘petrolhead’ and incline to the ‘green’.  However, I sort of concluded that motor projects for joyriders - where they get to fix and race cars - made sense within a ‘car culture’.  That is not that they ‘work’ but that the logic is interesting.

So boxing for violent men also makes sense in our current culture and is a targeted ‘bait’ for desistance work for some.  Boxing has been more acceptably mainstream in the past and my only experience of it is in boxing training - and Deborah’s article is illustrated with her in boxing attire, pose and surroundings - but as a former rugby union player cannot claim to be as non-violent as I’d wish.

If I understand Deborah correctly then I believe we are both saying that crime associated with troubling and troublesome masculinities can be ameliorated by working with that masculinity but that in the longer term work on masculinity needs doing.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Book Review: Yar Majid (2014) Crime, Deviance and Doping: Fallen Sports Stars, Autobiography and the Management of Stigma Palgrave Pivot

Occupational drugs - the amphetamine of the people?

My reason for reviewing this book is that I thought it would help me write a book I'm currently writing called Sports Criminology for Policy Press.  It did; and whilst Yar talks about criminology and the sociology of deviance in early chapters he does not use the term 'sports criminology'.  But as the inventor of the term I'm happy to induct Yar's book into the canon.

Yar admits in a preface that his interest in sport as a site of criminological interest came during a period of enforced inactivity that found him in front of the television watching sport, particularly the Tour de France. Clearly cycling and the Tour will feature strongly as a sport in my book but it should be noted that the Tour will also be treated as a spectacle, a narrative, a business.

Yar specifically examines a number of ‘fallen-star’ autobiographies to reflect on how they manage the crime-like stigma that they live under.  The key and ongoing exemplar in all of this is US Cyclist, and one-time record breaking Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong but he also examines the cases of British Sprinter, Dwain Chambers, Armstrong’s antagonist Tyler Hamilton and UK cyclist David Millar (who becomes David Millar in a couple of places earning himself a separate index mention! and even becomes Mark Millar on back cover blurb!!).  The only woman is US sprint star Marion Jones.

Turning to the specifically criminological Yar (p2-4) asserts, ‘Criminology and allied disciplines are no strangers when it comes to sport’ but goes on to say, ‘even if its study remains a rather marginal and somewhat neglected area.’  Hence my book. He sees criminological engagement in 3 areas: that of desistance; cultures or sub-cultures, specifically hyper-masculinity and finally sport as the site of the crimes of corruption and doping.  However there are also some other criminological mentions.
Yar notes the belief in the power of sport, and tests of it, as one of the few engagements that criminology has has with sport.   It is Yar’s interest in desistance that led him to examine the management of stigma by ‘fallen sports stars’.  Participation in sport can be seen the sort of activity that might bolster an individuals, ‘investment in conventional social values by imparting a belief in fair play, cooperation, persistence and rule-following’ (p3)  He mentions Zamanian et al (2012) who specifically locate their work in a differential association framework but still warn against overestimating the role of sports in tackling social problems. His mentions cultures or sub-cultures are specifically of the ‘hyper-masculinity’ (p4).  See my review of Meek's work on sport in prison for fuller discussion of the utility of sport in crime prevention/desistance.
cultures or sub-cultures
Yar specifically mentions theories of social control and differential association (p3) cultures or sub-cultures, specifically hyper-masculinity (p4) and ‘techniques of neutralisation’ (Sykes and Matza, 1957) (p6). He touches lightly on the possibility that Sutherland et al’s (1995) social learning theory might suggest sport as promoting the pro-social.  
sport as the site of the crimes of corruption and doping
This is the focus of his book; Yar concentrates on the wrongdoing of a number of 5 sports stars but he also lists: John Daly (golfer charged with assaulting wife); Mike Tyson (boxer, rape); O J Simpson (NFL, charged with murder and convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping); Michael Vick (NFL, interstate dog fighting); Mickey Thomas (soccer, counterfeiting); Graham Rix (soccer, indecent assault and unlawful sex) and Wolfgang Schwarz (figure skater, kidnapping and human trafficking).  This is a wider list of crimes and sports but emphasises again the joint maleness of sport and of crime.
Yar’s longer list further highlights the randomness of his list and suggests it to be almost as serendiptious as his Tour de France watching.  No reason is given for the inclusion of any of the athletes.  Only Armstrong's case can be seen to be beyond question and Jones's inclusion necessary for gender reasons.  Other sports have had drugs test crises but cycling and athletics ‘shine’ in this competition.
His discussion of gender issues is deficient as Penfold-Mounce makes clear in her review in Theoretical Criminology whilst only lightly touching on his failure to mention her work on celebrity and crime from their shared publisher.  Given that women criminals and sportswomen are doubly deviant this makes Jones deviant 'cubed'.  No wonder that she still labours under the stigma.  Even before her own drug ban Messner (2002: 109-111) notes that when Jones’s husband C J Hunter failed a drugs test in the build up to 2000 Olympics she moved from ‘our’ (USA’s) ‘girl’ (gender) to that ‘black’ athlete under a cloud.
Sykes and Matza
Given the emphasis on stigma in his book it is no surprise to find Yar leans heavily on Sykes and Matza (1957) but whilst it structures his investigation of the star's autobiographies it constrains him too.  Thus discussions of early childhood parental loss, abuse or separation is seen as 'denial of responsibility'.  But just because you are ‘neutralising’ does not necessarily mean you are deluding yourself or others. I think he is right to see such appeals as drawing on a 'folk criminology'.
He sets out Sykes and Matza' 5 'techniques' and suggests another (described on page 29 as a ‘fifth’, but surely sixth, see also page 71) derived from his reading, that of 'denial of the deviant self'.  That is the stigmatised athlete's 'discreditable' behaviour has now become known and the athlete is now 'discredited' (Goffman, listen to Thinking Allowed special).  Having become discredited they seek Resolution (his chapter 7) through temporal distance (as celebrities they can't move) by arguing 'I'm no longer that person'.  He notes all the athlete's accounts start with tales of innocence (chapter 3) so during their Initiation (chapter 4) and Commitment (chapter 5) they must also have become 'not that person’.  That person we find paid his taxes (Dwayne Chambers) and was brought up to tell the truth (Tyler Hamilton) (p41).
other criminological mentions
Yar protects his use of ‘moral panic’ with scare quotes and makes not mention of Cohen merely stating, ‘media discourses of doping have also inevitably been subject to analysis through the time-honoured sociological lens of ‘moral panic’ theory’ (p6) noting, ‘such accounts suggests the problem has been exaggerated and sensationalised, with anti-doping moral entrepreneurs playing a key role in defining the issue according to their own particular interests.  He cites Christiansen (2007) and Goode (2011) but we might now also have mention Coomber (2014) or Critcher (2014).

Christiansen uses the term ‘moral’ he does not speak of ‘moral panic’ though Critcher specifically does so.  I’m less convinced that these constitute ‘moral panics’ as panic is present and ‘folk devils’ may abound but their is no amplification spiral where more deviance/deviants is created by the social reaction.  I’ve long grizzled about the degradation of Cohen’s original concept.

A final criminological mention is Shaw’s (1930) The Jack Roller: A Delinquent Boys Own Story (which has no mention of sport) which leads to a discussion of the use of autobiography citing the likes of Maruna and Copes (2005), Maruna and Matravers (2007), Gadd and Farrall (2004) and Gadd and Jefferson (2007) and his own (2011).  The times may be passing when we feel the need to explain (auto)biography in social ‘science’.

In his discusion of neutralisation he leans heavily on Ophir Sefiha (2012) ‘Bike Racing, Neutralization, and the Social Construction of Performance-Enhancing Drug Use’ 
The abstract of which reads;
Drawing from participant observation and interviews, I examine the attitudes and beliefs of elite and former professional cyclists and team personnel regarding performance-enhancing drug (PED)  use and the neutralization techniques they employed to excuse and justify PED  consumption. Participants most frequently  adopted accounts in which they condemned the condemners, viewing as hypocrites those labeling PED  use as deviant, and arguing that all manner of PED  use is commonplace throughout society. Participants further expressed distrust of sporting federations, law enforcement, and medical professionals, whom they viewed as exaggerating and distorting information about the dangers of PED  use. Riders also appealed to higher loyalties and defense of necessity, claiming that PED  use was for many professional cyclists nearly an occupational necessity. Members viewed PED  use as a rational means to an end while also embodying fundamental tenets of professional cycling culture which prizes risk taking and commitment.
Sofia’s work might have lead Yar to baseball star Barry Bonds on whom (auto)biographical material is available though allegations remain largely unexamined and remorse absent.  And Walsh (2013), who he quotes on Lance Armstrong, might also suggest looking at swimmer, Michelle Smith.  Smith sets out her story in the ghosted autobiography Gold: A Triple Champion’s Story (1996).  Allegations of doping were made against her at Atlanta, had been proved against her husband/coach Erik de Bruin, and two years later she received a four year ban for tampering with her urine sample.  She is now a barrister. 

Interestingly Sykes and Matza make observations about sport directly in their short paper:
the juvenile delinquent may exhibit great resentment if illegal behavior is imputed to “significant others” in his immediate enviornment (typo in original) or to heroes in the world of sport and entertainment (1957: 665).
So Yar’s work is clearly in my field of sports criminology but he too easily assumes the star’s criminality.  He is a criminaliser and uses Sykes and Matza to condemn them.  It is more complex.  Thus Walsh is passionate in his defence of sport and proud of his part in Armstrong’s ‘fall’. But in his work you see that when the dopers claim ‘everybody is at it’ this is not just neutralisation but truth.  Walsh’s book contains some mention of recreational drugs but, and thi my coining, we are talking about industrial amounts of ‘occupational’ drugs.

As Fotheringham (2009) reminds us there is a history in the Tour, for instance 
Fausto Coppi twice winner of the Tour and Giro d’Italia double (1949 and 1952):
was upfront about his use of drugs, particularly "la bomba", a mix of caffeine, cola and amphetamine pills. His great rival Gino Bartali preferred more natural stimulation and would drink up to 28 espressos a day.

Moreover, Yar ignores too easily the pressures on the riders to perform and on the journalists not rock the boat.  The Tour was invented by a magazine (L’Auto) and its successor publication L’Equipe is owned by the Tour’s organisers who promote and cover other sports too (Paris Marathon, Paris-Dakar rally).  Again Walsh is recommended on these angles.  Yar was drawn in by the spectacle but too easily forgets how it is provided - capital and cycling labour.  

Monday, 23 March 2015

Book Review: Waterhouse-Watson, D. (2013) Athletes, Sexual Assault, and ‘Trials by Media’: Narrative Immunity. United Kingdom: Routledge.

Waterhouse-Watson is a academic who writes extensively about sexual violence and the media.  This review is about her book on the ‘Trial’ of athletes by media but I will also refer to the work of Anna Krien Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport (2013).  They both cover sexual violence associated with sport in Australia and take some of the same examples.  Here is Waterhouse-Watson’s review of Krien - that she is insufficiently feminist and too close to the accused footballer.

Waterhouse-Watson book opens with a note on Terminology and - spoiler alert - concludes with an Afterword in which she declares herself once to have been the No 1 fan of the Aussie Rules team the Hawthorn Hawks but now has hung up her scarf and cancelled her membership.  It is sometimes disparagingly said of sports journalists that they are fans with typewriters perhaps we might now warn of academics that to study their favourite sport will end in disillusion.  Sports journalist Walsh is eloquent on the disappointment he felt in discovering his beloved Lance Armstrong was a ‘drugs cheat’, and then resolute in pursuit of him.

She declares in her Introduction:
Disproportionate numbers of elite athletes, at high school, university and professional levels, have been accused of sexual assault as compared with men in the wider community. (2013:1).
She gives no reference for this but a few pages later she later mentions Crosset and BenedictMessner (2002: 26) notes that Crosset found in 1995 ‘athletes’ made up 3.7% of the student population but accounted for 19% of sexual assault reports.  But that 30% of the athlete population were in the money-spinning, contact sports of basketball, football and ice-hockey and they accounted for two thirds of those sexual assaults.

Crosset (1999) is very specific in his abstract:
The current sociological debate on whether male athletes commit more violence against women compared to those who do not participate in organized sport is unproductive and simplistic. Theoretical constructs such as athletic affiliation and rape culture are too broad to capture the unique dynamics of athletes' violence.
And yet Waterhouse-Watson inclines to these wider tropes.  However, she is not a sociologist, letalone a criminologist, but a narratologist and does not rely on those matters.  She seeks to show that footballers are given ‘immunity’ by the media in its ‘trials’ of the players by the ways in which they are spoken of.  Benedict is seen, perhaps correctly, to incline to viewing the actions of sports stars as arising from individual pathology unconstrained, then covered up, by the authorities.  Messner is treated more kindly but still seen to ignore the failure of the criminal justice process.

Waterhouse-Watson states that 55 elite AFL or NRL players since 1999 had ‘been involved in alleged rapes’ (p2) and in an endnote (n2, 219) makes the point that many were not named and that there may be overlaps.  She gives an Appendix (1) that sets out some of that detail but doesn’t refer to that in the body of the text and only in a later end note.  The appendix itself adds some further confusion as both team members and non-playing staff are mixed in (not her fault as relying on news reports).  A quantitative summary and some discussion of methods might have helped.  My small effort in that direction follows.
She lists 22 incidents (that may cover the 55 figure mentioned above) from 1998-2011 plus six others believed to be ‘before 2009’.  The greatest number of men mentioned was an incident in 2002 involving ‘a dozen Cronulla Sharks’ and 2002 the year with the greatest number of incidents involving 12 men in total.  And in the text (p2) 2004 is noted as the third year in a row when the opening of the season began with an alleged sexual assault.  In the 28 incidents in total: 19 ‘no charges’; 4 show the victim pressed no charges; 3 ‘charges laid and later dropped’ and 2 acquitted at trial.
She properly notes the Ched Evans case (and the timing is fortuitous in enabling her to incorporate it) and contrasts it with the Australian cases, in that he was convicted.  Evans, a   Wales football international, was jailed for five years in 2012 after being found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman at a hotel.  He maintains his innocence. The facts of his case seem very similar to those that she covers. One can see that Evans may think that since his circumstances are no different to cases he does know then he too is innocent.  No supporter of rape, McKinnon notes:
.. men who are in prison for rape think it’s the dumbest thing that ever happened …It is just a miscarriage of justice; they were put in jail for something very little different from what most men do most of the time and call it sex.  The only difference is they got caught.  That view is non remorseful and not rehabilitative.
Waterhouse-Watson does not quote McKinnon, nor when, she discusses Mike Tyson, does she mention Tony Jefferson who has written about as a pro-feminist.  This is a shame because one weakness of the book is the issue of race and ethnicity and it might have assisted her discussion of the footballer’s body (ch 4).  Ethnicity is discussed in respect of some players from the indigenous communities (p 86 and 158) but they are seen largely as ‘footballers’ so receive the immunity due them (chapter 2). 
The first mention of Tyson is aligned with his attorney at appeal, Alan Dershowitz’s, claim that, ‘Whenever I come into a case my client has already been tried and convicted in the press’ (Chancer, 2005: 134). Here Waterhouse-Watson doesn’t pick up enough on the issues of ‘race’ or that Tyson was found guilty in a criminal justice ‘trial’.  Deadlines mean she missed that Alan Dershowitz himself is currently actively contesting sex accusations made against him.
In Chapter 3 she notes the silencing of women victims in both the legal and media trials but this would require a change in the law and the willingness of women to speak out.  Later (p 169) she notes how ‘Sarah’ a victim is allowed only to talk on a TV show about her personal experience but experts and others get to talk about ‘rape’ and ‘football’.  However Krien mentions one young woman Kimberly Duthie, a 16 year old school girl who willingly slept with two St Kilda players and had a relationship with a third.  She was briefly a media sensation when she released naked pictures of the men. She blogged as ‘The small girl, with a big voice’ and still has 13.3k followers on Twitter as @NotASchoolgirl.  She refused to be silenced and possibly because she was voicing the ‘Party Girl’/‘Groupie’ was given much media attention.  Krien is not condemnatory or celebratory but tackles the issue; Waterhouse-Watson does not.  However, she touches on the matter in this journal article.
In chapter 4 on the footballers body it is suggested that the automaticity of and the concentration on the athlete’s body means that whilst the actus reus may be present the mens rea is not.  He is a weapon.
Chapter 5 concentrates on alcohol and team building and brings no surprises; but in modern professional sport it should, perhaps, be more surprising how much alcohol abuse still occurs.
In Chapter 6 she uses Messner (2002: 157/158) to dismiss the ‘education’ offered by the clubs and authorities under their programmes like the AFL’s Respect and Responsibility or the NRL’s Play by the Rules:
I suspect these programs will have little effect, especially when they are one-shot interventions that are not organically linked to longer-term institutional attempts to address men’s violence at its psychological, peer group and organisational roots.
I agree but she does not continue the quote to the point where he still support such efforts in hope that one participant ‘might then take the risk to break the silence and speak out against the dominant discourse and practices of the group’!
In Chapter 7 she addresses the possibility of ‘alternative strategies’.  I cannot address the narratological issues but note the naivety of her reliance on a guide to journalism, Reporting in Australia.  It suggests a level of objectivity and fair-dealing that her own work suggests is rare.
She approvingly quotes two journalists coverage (Jessica Halloran and Jacquelin Magnay’s ‘Bulldogs Party Ended in Woman’s Screams by Pool’) and picks out some good practice then opines that the use of ‘accommodation’ avoids the ‘sordidness’ of ‘hotel’ and ‘the sexualisation of the woman and consequent implication of consent’ (p162).  I think this is far too strong a suggestion when journalistic practice of stylistic variation suggests itself.  Moreover, the term ‘hotel’ appears six times in the article and ‘novotel’ once against two appearances of ‘accommodation’.
Equally contentious are her readings of Cindy Wockner’s interview with a victim who came forward after the report of a similar case to hers (‘Secret Victim Breaks Silence — “It’s Time People knew the Truth”’ - no trace on internet but this article tells of police views on the case that brought her forward).  Waterhouse-Watson suggests that introducing the complainant as, ‘a 43-year old mother’ (About 84,800 results on Sydney Daily Telegraph website!) ‘immediately positions her as an object of illegitimate violence, as the mother marker de-emphasises her sexuality and positions her as a subject of (stereo)typical feminine virtue’ (p164).  Apart from being potentially ageist it ignores the burgeoning number of MILF websites and ‘the rise of the cougar’!
Waterhouse-Watson very successfully puts the Australian media in the dock for their faulty ‘trials’ of these footballers and notes herself
Somewhat ironically the best chance that victims have of seeing players penalised may be the football leagues themselves, as they have no burden of ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ to uphold. (p183)
I hope that it is not just because I am a man that I have criminological and legal concerns about replacing criminal justice trials with narratological or sports authority ones whilst recognising she is right to contest the power of the media to conduct their trials.
She has shown that Australian male sports stars appear to have considerable immunity in rape and sexual assault cases.  But is this more than men more generally? How many non-celebrity men have the same immunity? And is it the celebrity that grants immunity? And is the fan’s worship - including her own - also part of the problem?  We give celebrities too much slack (see Penfould-Mounce).  And, criminological point, we also give them more opportunities. Whether feminist academics or Gold Diggers we feed the delusion that we have given prior consent.
Here I suggest how sport might be used to discuss issues of consent.

She mentions her previous work in various journals for many of the chapters.
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 4
Ch 5
Ch 7

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Why I’m declaring myself ‘Professor of Criminology in the Twitterverse’.

I can see why Chris Parr (‘A lifetime’s worth of insight in 140 characters max’, 19 Feb 2015) opens with a ritual nod to popular views of Twitter as ‘a frivolous tool for procrastination’ but it would be nice if we could move on.

He moves on to discuss the value to young academics of Twitter.  I want to emphasise the potential benefits for older academics such as myself.  As part of my commitment to ‘Public Criminology’ I tweet as @criminology4u to 5571 followers.  Only professors David Wilson and Tim Newburn have higher profiles. I once crowned David Britain’s foremost Criminologist in the THE (‘CSI: crime story interpreters’ 23 July 2009). His media output is controversial (Bring Back Borstal met with mixed reviews and many brickbats from criminologists on Twitter) but it brings undergraduate students - and their parents - to Birmingham City University.  Tim’s work on the Riots and all-conquering textbook are only part of his many talents.  Both tweet.

My Twitter following rests entirely on building it up over many years.  I like to think I retweet colleagues generously and take issue politely and appropriately.  It has lead to some invitations to events where professors proliferate and some invites to guest lecture due to pressure generated by student Twitter followers anxious to hear me.  But I want to illustrate the impact this can have with an ironic tale.  My published, peer-reviewed work is eclectic but includes two specifically on public criminology.

I recently found these denounced along with the work of other, better known academics.  I invited the author to do shorter version for my public criminology blog.  He declined and I wrote up the ‘dispute’ myself for my blog as Nic Groombridge, ‘Public Criminologist’ and ‘Master of Truth’ where I suggested he was the elitist not public criminologists.  I noted that in the week of 15 November 2014 my tweets received 3,809 views, that I had 55 new followers with 74 visits to links that I had posted. My most popular tweet that week accounted for one third of those link visits; with one in ten of those viewing visiting the link to his article in Radical Criminology.

I, and he, probably got more coverage from that tweet than any amount of journal publishing which brings me back to my own frivolity and procrastination.  I like to think that if I’d published more I’d be a Professor by now.  But I want now to argue that such is the reach of social media it should be taken into account in selection for titles.  Whilst I wait for the Academy to catch up I’m declaring myself ‘Professor of Criminology in the Twitterverse’.