Screen & Roll: How entertainment gives and takes from sports culture

first_imgWhat do a journalism major with a sports media minor and a cinema and media studies major have in common? Enough to argue about.Think of this as an introduction, the only edition of this column in an explanatory format. Every edition after this will read as a running dialogue between the two of us about a number of subjects under the umbrella topic of sports entertainment, including narrative films, television shows and documentaries.We felt that a written conversation was the best way to display our thoughts in the most engaging manner. Sports and movies are particularly ripe topics for fun and informative arguments among friends, and we want this to read almost exactly that way.The cyclical nature of sports culture is inextricably linked to entertainment. From beach volleyball Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings drawing inspiration from soccer star Mia Hamm’s prominence after mainly watching male athletes on the screen, to researchers studying the effects of watching televised sports on physical activity, the connection is stronger than ever.There’s even more ways to investigate their mutual influence (if you’re willing to separate sports as its own entity from entertainment), whether it be Jim Brown and Gina Carano turning in the pads and gloves for the silver screen, Jay-Z selling his portion of the Brooklyn Nets to lead Roc Nation Sports as an agent or the Golden State Warriors becoming the “centerpiece” of a larger sports and entertainment conglomerate.It brings us here — a place that hasn’t quite been tapped as much as it can be — as our tenuous connection to sports currently relies on a cable TV, a WiFi connection and professional sports organizations throwing their players to the coronavirus wolves. Mediums such as movies, television and more are some of the ways that have brought us closer to the sports and athletes we love, and we want to discuss why they are so good at imparting those experiences.There needs to be an honest examination of how the entertainment side of sports culture exploits the same athletes that bring us to the TV or theater.We’ve seen athletes recounting the mental health suffering that goes ignored once they are past their “prime.” We saw it when the NFL Draft relayed with sickening tediousness the trials and tribulations athletes faced to even get a spot on the map. All of this highlights structural inequities of race, class, gender, sexual orientation and disability that often are swept under the rug unless it has a quantifiable entertainment “value” to it.A key motivation for us writing this column is the fact that sport is a fantastic source of original stories, and so it makes sense that it would translate to entertainment mediums. There’s inherent drama that comes with games and seasons where the outcome is unknown, which is the entire basis of movies and television (as long as no one spoils them for you). We track the streaks and runs of games and seasons for the same reason we follow “Game of Thrones” to the bitter, bitter end: We want to find out what happens, who wins and who loses.That leads us to the first — though not necessarily most important — purpose we want this column to fill: It will be a space for us to explore how the storytelling structures of movies, TV and documentaries apply to sports.Sometimes the sports side of the story is too good to stray away from (as was the case in “Miracle”). Sometimes sports are used as a way to ground the story and provide an intriguing subplot (like in “Uncut Gems”). And sometimes sport is lazily thrown in a way that spits on the entire industry (clearly, “Duff” didn’t have anyone on staff who had seen a snap of football in their life and could keep Robbie Amell’s travesty of a throwing motion from seeing the light of day).We will also examine how documentaries go about telling the stories of things that really happened. For example, we can reflect on a long overdue portrait of the “Women of Troy” and their influence that will last generations. Or, after we watch “The Last Dance,” do we really want to accept that Michael Jordan could be a total jerk, or do we want to keep the image of our idols alive and well?Second, we’d like the column to serve as a forum for us to discuss and appreciate how sports entertainment adds to sports culture. A lot of the stories we discuss will be fictional, but they still teach viewers a lot about sports’ core values and place in society. “Rocky,” “The League” and “The Fab Five” center on the important roles of competitiveness, social life and capitalism in sports, respectively, and those are just a few examples of the lessons we can learn from these mediums.Lastly, since we are both sports and entertainment nerds, this will be a place for us to geek out on some of our favorite viewing experiences. So expect to see “White Men Can’t Jump” brought up at least once. Maybe we’ll mention the ESPN 30 for 30 “Trojan War” segment, too.Aidan Berg and Lauren Mattice are seniors writing about sports culture and entertainment. They are also the deputy outreach director and digital managing editor of the Daily Trojan, respectively. Their column, “Screen & Roll,” runs every other Monday.last_img read more

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