Penn State Professor Marie Hardin took a stab at football, serving as a panelist for “Unnecessary Roughness: Football as a Reflection of American Culture,” a Sunday web broadcast on BagNews.
The broadcast — which took the form of a GoogleHangout — featured several panelists, all of whom were involved in communications and the sports world.
Michael Butterworth, an associate professor at Bowling Green State University, moderated the panel.
Butterworth showed the panel several pictures of football games and players. The panelists then based their discussions around the photographs.
The panel, which lasted about 90 minutes, discussed topics such as the link between sports and American patriotism, the hero-worship of athletes and the acceptance of violence in football games.
The first photograph featured a professional football stadium with an American flag covering the field.
Hardin, associate director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, began the discussion by referencing questions she asks her own students. She said many of her students accept symbols and shows of patriotism at football games as a natural occurrence.
Hardin then said she asks her students to question the link between patriotic displays and football games, while other panelists brought up the singing of the national anthem at football games.
Scott Strazzante, a photojournalist for the Chicago Tribune, said there is enormous pressure on people, such as standing and signing the national anthem, at sports games to conform to patriotic ideals.
Strazzante said this contrasts with the tenet that Americans are free to be “different.”
Much of the conversation followed the theme of the elevated status given to professional football players and other athletes.
Tom Oates, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa, called this elevation the “cult of the warrior.” The discussion of the “cult of the warrior” turned to Ray Lewis and the evolution of his football career.
In reference to Lewis’ involvement in a murder trial in 2000, Hardin called his journey from a man involved in a murder trial to his celebrated career a story of redemption.
The final photograph featured in the webcast was one of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State football team at the 1999 Alamo Bowl. Responding to the photo, Hardin referenced the “strong sense of community around sport.”
Hardin also spoke of the grief and sadness associated with the events of the Sandusky sexual abuse case. But, she then said she might be “too close” to the situation to comment in an academic sense.
Butterworth talked about the loyalty found in college sports and the importance of a feeling of community.
“The ‘We Are’ mantra at Penn State has not diminished, it’s only intensified,” Butterworth said.