Injury, Fandom, and the Business of Sport
“You’re not a human being, you’re a number, a product, an asset as long as you can perform. If you can’t perform, then you’re a liability and they’ll drop you.”
Professional athletes suffer tremendous damage to their bodies over the course of their careers. Some literally lose years from their lives because of their injuries. Why do athletes sacrifice themselves? Is it the price of being a professional? Is it all for the fans, or the money? What’s clear is that the physical and emotional tolls of being a professional athlete may not be worthwhile. In Game Misconduct, Nathan Kalman-Lamb takes us into the world of professional hockey players to illustrate how money, consumerism and fandom contribute to the life-altering injuries of professional athletes.
Unlike many critical takes on professional sports, Kalman-Lamb illustrates how the harm suffered by the athlete is a necessary part of what makes professional sport a desirable commodity for the consuming fan. In an economic system — capitalism — that deprives people of meaning because of its inherent drive to turn everyone into individuals and everything into commodities, sports fandom produces a feeling of community. But there is a cost to producing this meaning and community, and it is paid through the sacrifice of the athlete’s body.
Drawing on extensive interviews with fans and former professional hockey players, Kalman-Lamb reveals the troubling dynamics and dangerous costs associated with the world of professional and semi-professional sport.
Nathan Kalman-Lamb is a lecturing fellow in the Thompson Writing Program at Duke University, where he teaches on social inequality and sports. His research and teaching focus on labour, race, multiculturalism, gender, spectatorship and sport.