As a society, humans have a natural tendency to form certain communities. Let us think of communities as a group we associate or identify with for a certain reason. For example, we form working communities and living communities that tend to be determined by where an individual works or lives. It should come to no surprise then that there are also communities that center around sports and certain sports teams and culture. Social theorists have analyzed the various trends of society, that when placed in the right context, can help us better understand the sporting community. Through the reading and studying of these commentators, two important social ideas begin to separate themselves in terms of applicability to sporting community examination. The concepts of sound and momentum are important to any community, but they distinguish themselves when speaking in terms of sports. Sound, from an anthropological standpoint, is observed and utilized mainly as a method of recording ethnographic evidence. Momentum, defined in science as force derived from the “combination of mass and velocity,” in social context “describes the entire process through which action occurs, encompassing rate, grace, intensity, effort and success” (Adler 1981, 14). Sound and momentum often operate separately, but in the social context, we are most interested in how they work together. The relationship between sound and momentum can be seen through evidence presented in our readings, but our greatest evidence for this claim is the fieldwork we have done throughout the year. Having attended various sporting events over the semester and taken notes and jottings, we have had a chance to see first hand how sound and momentum operate together. One major topic of discussion was how sound responds to momentum. In this paper I will also attempt to show how momentum responds to sound through evidence from field notes I have taken and analytical support from social theorist and ethnomusicologist. In sports, sporting communities help shape sound and momentum, which operate in a cyclical pattern. This dialogue between momentum and sound is part of what makes a sporting community.
The sporting community lies at the center of the idea of sound and momentum. The fan is the integral component of the community, each fan adding an individual aspect to the formation of a greater group. Sporting communities are a group of people, in this case fans, that gather together to follow and support a certain sport or sport’s team that “reflect and represent specific locations and local identities” (Crawford 2004, 52). Sporting communities often have deep historical roots, and as Durkheim explains, social tendencies must be explained “historically” or in context in order for them to have any sort of scientific validity. Certain sounds and changes in momentum are exclusive to certain communities because the community is tied to a sport with unique properties. For example, a fan that follows baseball and attends many baseball games is going to experience sound and momentum shifts differently than a fan attending a basketball game. In a field note from March 2nd, 2011 from the Duke basketball game against Clemson, sound is present throughout the event, and the momentum is changing almost constantly. From the moment we walked up to the line till the sound of the buzzer for halftime, sounds dominated the scene. The chants and cheers from the crowd, the songs blasted over the speakers, the tunes played by the band, the talking and screaming on the court, and all happening at the same time, give just a sampling of what the auditory experience was like. The momentum shifts were in constant fluctuation as well. Waiting patiently as the line inched along, and then the reward of finally rushing into Cameron Indoor Stadium were merely precursors to the erratic game to come. Coach K and the rest of the Duke team attempted to control the momentum of the game via timeouts and “sparks” provided by players such as Ryan Kelly and Nolan Smith. The basketball game is chaotic, but it is thrilling and exciting. On the other hand we have a baseball game. On Tuesday April 5th, I attended the Duke versus Wofford baseball game. While there was a line and music being played and sung at the basketball game, I showed up to this game early in the second inning and just walked right in. There were fans, and there was music being played, but the atmosphere was different. The fans were more adults than students and there were few cheers. But they were still sounds that needed to be recorded because that is what distinguishes these two sporting communities. The momentum, though not as constant in its change, was still exciting and elicited reactions from the crowd. The reason that these sporting events differ so much is because of the historical and cultural differences in their sporting communities. The Duke basketball community is one of the greatest sporting communities in the world. The “Cameron Crazies” are a national sensation for their devotion and spirit for their team and outstanding legacy. Meanwhile the Duke baseball community is not nearly as large or well known. Their legacy is not as recognized as the basketball program is. The differences in sporting communities in this example factors into the differences in the sound and momentum of the two sporting events.
Steve Feld, an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist, was one of the early researchers to realize the importance of ”sound and sound recording” while studying writings and recordings of central Africa (Feld 2004, 461). Thanks to his realization, a recorded account became as valuable and valid if not more than one that was described through writing. The importance of sound in social context began to take a new meaning, and a budding field of study began to bloom. Sound is a fundamental aspect of human society and community. Sound expresses emotion and can describe a scene. Sound is also an integral part of the sporting community. Sound encompasses everything from the conversation a coach has with a player, to the music played at halftime. The sounds of a certain event will be determined by the sporting community, similar to how a band may sound different because they are aimed towards a certain community. The community determines and shapes the sounds. Applying Keil’s theories of “participatory discrepancies,” that deal with what Durkheim would call the “value,” or human perspective, and the “out of syncness” and “groove” of music, to the sporting community helps us better understand how this part of society operates (Durkheim 1972, 59). When at a game where there are many sounds, it is reasonable to ask one’s self how all these people can all be together when everything seems so chaotic. Keil would argue that because of the “creative tensions” and “participatory discrepancies,” these fans become more cohesive than if they are to all be doing the same thing (Keil 1987, 275). Often times there are sounds that are individual to sporting events. Cheers tailored to a specific team are one example, but sometimes a community takes it a step further. During the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa, the vuvuzela became the sound of the tournament. The South African sporting community brought a part of their culture and history and gave it to the world. Every game was accompanied by the incessant drone of thousands of people blowing their horns. It became the sound that was identified with the tournament. Unfortunately it was too distracting for the players and has since been banned from FIFA games.
Momentum is heavily dependant on a sporting community. Being a part of a sporting community is something that can become very intimate and collective. Crawford tells us “fan communities are frequently exclusionary of certain individuals, on the basis of class, disability, ethnicity, and gender” (Crawford 2004, 52). Because of the exclusivity of these communities, they become tighter knit and the experience becomes more intimate. Thus when something goes wrong or right for someone on the court, the fan is more likely to react with more passion thus either giving the players positive or negative feedback. Although momentum is determined directly by the players on the court, the crowd can play a large role in how a player performs through jeering or cheering. For example, on the day of the Duke game against Clemson, Nolan Smith made a turnover that could have been avoided. He looked to his teammates, patting his chest and saying, “My bad.” The fans in the crowd, emotionally charged by this display, cheer even louder for Nolan the next play and on a subsequent play he makes a huge dunk that sends the crowd wild and leads to a momentum shift towards the Duke team. The crowds personal investment in Nolan gives him the confidence he needs to provide a solid play that result in points being earned. Sometimes sporting communities have rivalries that ignite players into action. One of the best sports rivalries in all of sports happens right here in Cameron Indoor Stadium, when Duke University plays the University of Chapel Hill in their annual faceoff. Another sports rivalry is that between the two soccer clubs Arsenal FC from England and FC Barcelona from Spain. These cubs play each other outside of their regular season game play, but the match is just as exciting. Both clubs have a great legacy and both have an incredible fan base. In their previous meeting, Barcelona had wiped Arsenal 4-1, meaning the Gunners were looking for revenge. At the beginning of the game Arsenal looked sloppy, and ready for another loss. But thanks to two quick goals from Arsenal in a quick shift of momentum, they managed to escape with a win. Because of the rivalry between these two communities, the players from the underdog team fought harder and escaped with a victory.
Sporting communities respond when there is a shift in momentum. They cheer, they jump up and down, they boo, and variety of other reactions. As expected one of the most accurate methods of measuring a team’s performance is by the sounds of the game. That is, sound marks the momentum of the game, and because of the cyclical nature of sound and momentum; the momentum of the game also may change due to the sounds. The intimate nature of momentum mentioned earlier can be transferred to sound as well. Angela Impey, after research of African people and their instruments, concluded that the music, among other things, provided “a focus for mobilizing collective evocations of self and place” (Impey 2008, 33). The music, or sound, for the people in these African countries, very unique and exclusive to their cultures, serves as a group action or movement that occurs through emotion brought about by sound. The momentum of the action relies on the sounds that are in the music because of the personal involvement. If we think in term of sports, then the sounds from the crowd give certain power to the players on the field. Returning to the field note on the basketball game, whenever a player from the opposing team shoots free throws, the fans scream and move in order to distract them. On the other hand, when a Duke player shoots, the stadium is silent and then grunts in approval when one is made. Free throws are an element of the game that when made can lead a team to victory. Making or missing free throws can affect performance and can slow the gaining of momentum. And yet even in this example we can see the cyclical nature of sound and momentum. When an opposing player makes a free throw, fans hiss and boo, and when he misses they yell and cheer. These taunts and jeers come with an emotional attachment that can either rile up a player or dishearten him, once again either allowing either for a gain or loss in momentum. How the dialogue between sound and momentum progresses is also dependent upon the sporting community. Golf is a sport that often demands a certain class and etiquette that is not present in other sports. The “golf clap” is unique to golf. It is a clap, but softer and more delicate; in order to not create a loud noise and distract other concentrated golfers. Because of the level of skill needed to play golf, concentration is key and it is important to not become distracted, and therefore it is important to remain quite while shooting; However, there is an exception to the rule. Sometimes when an incredible shot is made, for example a hole in one, or a long put, the crowd becomes excited and cheers loudly. The relationship between sound and momentum in golf is regulated by the golfing community and thus specific to this community alone.
The cyclical nature of sound and momentum, both influenced by the sporting community in which they exist, is an important part of sports. Whether as a player or as a spectator, momentum and sound are present and present and operate together. The field notes presented offer insight into the sporting world, with emphasis on how sound and momentum work. Sound and momentum serve not only to play off each other, but also to make the game more involving for those included in the community. Emotional and personal investment in sports is necessary in order to properly appreciate the complexity and intricacy of a game or match. Sports have the capability of making an individual feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. That sense of community heightens an individual’s investment because now everyone involved is connected and feeling the same. Music has been called “the language of the world.” It has the ability to bring together people from many different places and backgrounds and provide some sort of common ground. Sound has much of the same affect in sports. Through chants and cheers, the participants are presented with a way to connect to fellow fans. The momentum of the game adds thrill and excitement. A participant’s involvement in a sporting community dictate the experience.