A Historical Overview of Sports and Media in the United States

Authored by: Jennings Bry\ant , Andrea M. Holt

Handbook of Sports and Media

Print publication date:  April  2006
Online publication date:  March  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805851885
eBook ISBN: 9780203873670
Adobe ISBN: 9781135257347


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Although the United States is a relatively young country, it has spawned many of the world's preeminent developments in sports communication, several of which epitomize modern sports-media relationships. In fact, the idiosyncratic nature of U.S. culture has jreatly facilitated this close-knit, even symbiotic, association. As McChesney (1989) noted:

The nature of the sport-mass media relationship has been distinctly shaped by the emerging contours of American capitalism since the 1830s. On one hand, much of sport and virtually all of the mass media have been organized as commercial enterprises throughout this history. Many of the specific developments in the sport-mass media relationship can be fathomed only through the continual recognition that each of these institutions has been constituted of individual units first and foremost striving for economic profit in some level of competition with each other. On the other hand, sport emerges as an institution especially well suited culturally and ideologically, first, to the emerging capitalism of the century, and, second—and indeed, far more so—to the mature corporate capitalistic society of the twentieth century, (pp. 49-50)

We have no disagreement with the thrust of McChesney's (1989) assertion. However, for the sake of completeness and veridicality, we think the claim is overly narrow in two ways. First, we would argue that many cultural forces and social movements other than capitalism helped shape the complex, mutually interdependent relationship between sports and media in the United States Second, it is important to recognize that some of the essential elements of the sports-media union in the United States, capitalistic or otherwise, were derived long before the 1830s. In fact, some of the most important formative roots of the relationships between sports and media in America were developed during the colonial era.

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