Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

American Studies

Major Professor

Daniel Belgrad.

Keywords

Focal organization, Mass-media gatekeepers, Cultural product, Cultural industry system, Oppositional text

Abstract

Popular and consumer cultures share a similar trajectory in the United States with spectacle and money being key ingredients in the construction of both. This is most apparent in the sports industry in America with billions of dollars in revenue generated every year. During the first half of the twentieth century sports like baseball and boxing commanded a significant amount of cultural and economic capital. It was not unheard of for sports teams, talented athletes and even a few select coaches to ascend to a legendary or even mythical status. The spectacle and revenue generating capacity of amateur and professional sports was considerable during this time, but it was not until the early 1960s that the true potential for an American sports was constructed. The introduction of television in the development of the National Football Leagues spectacle redefined what sports in the United States means to popular and consumer cultures.

The enormity of the National Football Leagues premier annual spectacle, the Super Bowl, is a testament to the sports dominance of American popular and consumer cultures. By analyzing the National Football Leagues formative years during the 1960s and 1970s, it is my intention to demonstrate how the NFL was able to reframe its cultural product, and achieve an unprecedented social and economic status in American culture. I will employ an organization set analysis of cultural industry systems proposed by Paul M. Hirsch in conjunction with Clifford Geertz and Jerome Bruners studies on the cultural power and significance of the narrative form to trace the trajectory of the NFLs social and economic success. Popular fiction will also be included to demonstrate how thoroughly professional football infiltrated popular and consumer cultures and changed how Americans viewed televised sports.

American sports have undergone amazing changes over the last century, but it was the National Football League and television that changed what the sports industry means to American culture.

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