Discipline and Indulgence: College Football, Media, and the American Way of Life during the Early Cold War

Discipline and Indulgence: College Football, Media, and the American Way of Life during the Early Cold War

Discipline and Indulgence: College Football, Media, and the American Way of Life during the Early Cold War

Discipline and Indulgence: College Football, Media, and the American Way of Life during the Early Cold War

Synopsis

The early Cold War (1947-1964) was a time of optimism in America. Flushed with confidence by the Second World War, many heralded the American Century and saw postwar affluence as proof that capitalism would solve want and poverty. Yet this period also filled people with anxiety. Beyond the specter of nuclear annihilation, the consumerism and affluence of capitalism's success were seen as turning the sons of pioneers into couch potatoes.

In Discipline and Indulgence, Jeffrey Montez de Oca demonstrates how popular culture, especially college football, addressed capitalism's contradictions by integrating men into the economy of the Cold War as workers, warriors, and consumers. In the dawning television age, college football provided a ritual and spectacle of the American way of life that anyone could participate in from the comfort of his own home. College football formed an ethical space of patriotic pageantry where men could produce themselves as citizens of the Cold War state. Based on a theoretically sophisticated analysis of Cold War media, Discipline and Indulgence assesses the period's institutional linkage of sport, higher education, media, and militarism and finds the connections of contemporary sport media to today's War on Terror.

Excerpt

On select Saturday mornings, our fall ritual began in the parking lot of Kentucky Fried Chicken on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California. A bucket of golden fried chicken and a jug of Dr Pepper went into a bag that my father and I carried across the University of California campus to Memorial Stadium. Measuring and metering of time as we relocated ourselves in space was central to the ritual. The expedition was timed so that we arrived in the stadium just at noon to watch the boys stretch, jog, and cut crazy patterns on the grass as they warmed up for the one o’clock game. Our postgame walks down the hill gave us time to reflect upon the games and gave my father the opportunity to teach me the requisite knowledge of a competent fan. I learned the difference between a four-three and a three-four defense, when to run a draw play or a blitz, and that Jim Brown was the greatest running back ever. But the knowledge shared was more than simply technical and historical knowledge that I was later quizzed on. For instance, I learned that American Indians like us do not stand up during the national anthem, what to eat when Mom was not around, and, more generally, how to engage intellectually with mass culture. Watching football involves more than sitting with your eyes and mouth open since it is a performance situated in the fabric of social life. Despite walking farther to the game than the average fan and boycotting the national anthem, my father and I participated in a larger social process that ties football fans across the nation together on Saturday afternoons. Watching football allowed us to build a shared history, language, and set of values available in good times and bad.

College football is a social institution with its own history, lore, values, norms, rituals, and traditions. In the early Cold War (1947–1964), the period under consideration, college football games were, for the most part, performed simultaneously in regions across the country on Saturday afternoons. Since individuals, families, and friends have their own private traditions, experiences, and memories as they participate in the time-space of the national culture, people . . .

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