G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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My interest in the prole/elite dynamic at Yankee Stadium and within professional sports in general led me to research on the working class roots of English professional soccer and the evolution of attending crowds (mentioned here by Steve Sailer):
Shouting for your team in a rickety, windswept stadium, then drinking a few pints in the club and conducting a post-mortem on defeat or reliving a famous victory: this was the essence of Saturday afternoons in small town England and Scotland for decades. It lasted until the nineteen sixties, when the television boom and off-course betting gave working men something else to do on a Saturday afternoon. The seventies saw a switch in family values which meant that the football match no longer figured top of the list of Saturday priorities for many men, and the hooligan explosion of the late seventies and eighties further cut back the numbers of those prepared to endure cold fingers, poor toilet facilities [sometimes none for women] and a barrage of foul language in order to shout for their local team. The recent resurgence in the numbers attending football matches has come about as a result of safer and more comfortable grounds and the almost total disappearance of the hooligan problem. It has also, however, signalled a shift in the social backgrounds of those attending. Along with an increase in the numbers of women at matches, there are notably more middle-income people attending, and most clubs now have family stands, where parents accompanying children can sit in reserved accommodation. This is, in many ways, a welcome change, and the image of football has had a facelift over the last three years which would have been unimaginable as recently as the crisis-ridden nineteen-eighties, which saw many lifelong football fans give up going to the game in the wake of the disasters at Heysel and Hillsborough, among others. It has also, however, taken football away from its working-class origins, and there are many in the North who feel that the game has been usurped by the middle-class entrepreneur. This perhaps accounts in some measure for the fact that many youngsters in Lancashire and Yorkshire have switched their allegiance to rugby league, the other great working-class pastime of northern England.
And later in the piece:
Although there was still a spirit of rational recreation in working-class sport, it had taken new directions by the end of the century. The combination of benevolence from a ‘kindly’ ruling class and a desire for an orderly and healthy workforce had led to initiatives from factory owners such as the provision of after-hours sports clubs for the men and, albeit rarely, organised day-trips to the seaside or to the country.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a pro-union guy I met at a local Occupy Wall Street protest I was observing. The guy, who was dressed up as Benjamin Franklin, theorized (a la “Bowling Alone” though he didn’t mention the book) that bowling took off in the “Golden Era” 1950s and 1960s as men who worked in factories and where naturally part of unions formed league teams in order to escape the toil of their jobs and the families that naturally followed from these jobs. While bowling alleys of the working-class mold have mostly disappeared (the only bowling alleys that exist cater to kids with full arcades and “cosmic bowling” specials and curbs and such; not like the old grease-monkey bowling alleys where the mechanical behind-the-scenes activities were front-and-center to the bowling experience), softball leagues have sprouted up in their place, probably because they can be played in public parks or recreational complexes rather than at places of business which have overhead i.e. electricity and labor costs.