Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture

By Andrei S. Markovits; Lars Rensmann | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
THE TRANSATLANTIC TRANSFER OF
SPORTS AND THEIR CULTURES

INSTITUTIONALIZATION AND DIFFUSION

We now explore how the second globalization of sports cultures affects today's transnational political cultures and identities. We first look at soccer's development in the United States and argue that the sport's presence has indeed undergone a significant transformation over the past three decades, without its becoming part of America's hegemonic sports culture at the time of this writing. Rather, we argue, soccer in America has reached a stage of what we call “Olympianization.” The game's big events—the World Cup, the European National Championships, the year-long Champions League matches, and stateside visits by the best European Superclubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Inter and AC Milan—have indeed garnered solid attention and robust traction in America's sports topography. In stark contrast, the game's local manifestations, as notably expressed by MLS, continue a marginal existence. Even the “Beckham effect,” which entails the import of a foreign bona fide superstar to help a struggling sport in a country where it has languished on its cultural margins, has its major limits.

Across the Atlantic, intra-European changes in soccer's existence have in turn been part of the game's globalization. In basketball, we discern what we have called the “Nowitzki effect,” meaning that a local boy rises to superstardom in a top league of his sport and helps catapult the sport way beyond its former marginality in his home country, merely by activating a powerful synergy between national pride and the universal desire to succeed among the best. In a way, we find the “Nowitzki effect” to be much more beneficial—as well as more facile—in improving a sport's cultural standing than the “Beckham effect” by dint of the undiminished power of

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