Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Knowledge is Good?

For reasons we need not discuss here, I spent part of yesterday morning perusing "Sociology and Sport Journal." Studying this learned publication was a true learning experience, or rather, a re-learning experience. As I was taught as a young man, higher education and I were not meant to be soulmates.

No one besides fellow contributors to the journal could be soulmates with the writers in "Sociology and Sport." Yours truly has been reading for over 50 years- for work, pleasure, and to get directions for assembling children's toys. Never had I read such dizzying hooey as I found in this journal. Every essay was an exercise in incomprehensible reasoning conducted in unintelligible prose. Each one could have been a parody of leftist academic prose written by Rush Limbaugh, if the fat bum were both actually funny and in the throes of an LSD overdose.

Forget discussing sports. There weren't even any mentions of sociology I could find. A diligent search turned up just one fact (white and African-American young women perceive different ideal body types). The rest of the many long words in the journal were devoted to its unifying theme and title "(Post)Identity Studies."

A handy rule of thumb for you beginning writers. Never, ever, begin a title or anything else with a parenthese. Just don't, OK?

One professor devoted her essay to looking at the influence of Michel Foucault and Jacques Lattin on the sociology of sport. Those two chaps are not homesick defensemen for the Nashville Predators. They're founding fathers of the French intellectual concept of poststructurialism, an idea roughly summarized as the attempt to destroy reality in its currently accepted form. The future unity of discourse and psychoanalysis figured prominently.

It got better. Another treatise dealt with personal identity. By asking test subjects their reactions to a photograph of a woman athlete looking in a mirror, the author claimed to demonstrate how "the idea of identity cannot be separated from the body, and the perception of the body inevitably creates the misperception of the body which forms the basis of we call identity."

To quote the immortal Bertie Wooster, "Well, I mean to say, what?!" And believe me, the debate over Marxist interpretations of sociology in sport was worse. Far worse.

The journal's editor declared the issue's intention to be "to see sport as a seat of power in the struggle against social inequality." That may be a noble goal, but history and current events teach us sports' seat in that struggle is usually at the furthest end of the bench. Exceptions to the rule such as Jackie Robinson and Muhammed Ali are rare. They're also too well-known to serve as fodder for professional scholars whose world obviously consists of the library, office, and faculty lounge. I bet none of 'em has seen their school's sports teams play.

Why bring this up to innocent readers? I just want to let folks know a night's brooding has come up with the perfect idea for my revenge. The study of sports sociology needs new blood, and I have just the writer for the NEXT issue of Sociology and Sport Journal. He's a well-known writer well versed in all aspects of sport, has never met a topic on which he didn't have an opinion, and enjoys debate more than dessert.

No doubt about it. These eggheads and Curt Schilling are made for each other.


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