Professor Erin Nunnally
The Mascot: Commodity Fetishism in Sport Culture
Sport culture is something, which is of great importance in today’s society. Interest in sport ranges from kids to sports fans to scholars. Sport culture is an effecting way of a contributor to physical and social development. It is a universal language, that has the power can diminish cultural gaps and create a family feeling and unity. This feeling of unity is created by the performances that come with sport culture such as victory dances, school songs, cheerleaders, and mascots (Lüschen). According to Rick Minter in “Mascots: Football’s Furry Friends”, “We all care about the symbols, nicknames, and legends of our clubs-mascots make them real again. They are a bit of our club that we can reach out and touch.” Minter is completely right about mascots. They make us laugh, we enjoy their athleticism and kids really love them. However, their purpose for being present in the arena is far deeper than just entertainment.
While most people believe that mascots are only present for the entertainment of the fans, the sociological perspective argues that mascot performances are fetishized aspect of sport culture, and that the rituals performed by the mascots show the magic to relate to and influence a chosen athletic team. Arguably, the success of college and professional sport teams is dependent on the ability to win games, and mascot performances are a key part of that process of winning the crucial games that come down to the last minute (Sheed). While sports fans enjoy mascots for their physicality and their dance along the sidelines, their significance can be found on a supernatural power. James Frey, in his scholarly article “Sport and society” states “The performance of mascots are continued to be a fetishized status in sports ranging from high school sports to professional sports.”
In the discussion of mascots, one must know the origins of the word and the mascot itself. The word mascot comes from the French “Masco” or “Mascotte”, which when translated into English means “witch”(Frey). According to the American Writer James Frey, the word comes into play in 1880 when Edmond Audrian’s opera “La mascotte” gained popularity. The opera was a story about a young woman who brought luck to those people who were around her. This was the reason he gave the opera the title ‘The Mascot’. This introduced the idea of a mascot being something that brings good fortune. Yale University was the first team ever to have a mascot in 1889 and now they perform at all levels of the NCAA.
Commodity fetishism is an idea explained in the second edition of Marx’s Capital. A commodity looks simple says the bourgeois economist. Most economist say it is any object that has a use value that somebody wants and is willing to pay for. The value is determined by the supply and demand of the market. The word fetishism was originally used to describe the practices of religion with magical powers, like idols or charms (Sheed). Marx shows the way in which the idea of a capitalist economy is majorly driven by the monetary value of goods and not the value of the labor, which was put into the commodity. He describes that an economy requires that labor have to be paid at the lowest rate in order to create the highest profit. This creates the theory of commodity fetishism.
This theory can be applied to today’s economy. An example of this is the incredible long lines for commodities like IPhone’s; even though it’s just a regular smart phone; it has a ‘magical power’ that creates the commodity to be fetishized. I believe a really good way to tell if the commodity fetishism applies is if the commodity affects society in any way. This was the case in Japan when the new video game Dragon Quest was released. Japan had released a game, called ‘Dragon Quest’, it was such a popular game that when it was released on a weekday many...