The Tim Tebow Effect

In popular culture football player Tim Tebow has become a major phenomenon. As a quarterback for the Denver Broncos his team up until this past Sunday had won six consecutive games, many of them in very dramatic fashion in the final minutes of games. Part of the allure to journalists and opinion makers about Tebow is his in your face way of pronuncing his religious faith. It should be remembered that during last year's Super Bowl that Tebow and his Mom appeared in a controversial Focus on the Family advertisement against abortion rights. At the same time an ad by a pro-choice to counter Tebow was rejected by the network carrying the Super Bowl. When someone like Tebow becomes a major phenomenon and a success at that, millions of people are watching. They are objectively being fed a political message. What does it mean when politics (even in the form of right-wing religion) enter into the realm of sports? What effect does Tebow's open reactionary Christianity have on the political terrain and how should communists respond? How should communists relate to sports culture and how can we encourage more popular athletes to take stands on the side of the people? We need more Muhammad Ali's and also more Dave Zirin's. I say this as a communist and a pretty big sports fan.

The following video is a skit done on Saturday Night Live parodying Tebow's personality and extreme faith. It has been attacked by many right wing media outlets and most recently by Pat Robertson.

People in this conversation

  • Guest - KobaSounds (@KobaSounds)

    Worth noting his relationship to imperialism: Tebow was born in Makati City in the Philippines, to American parents who were serving as Christian Baptist missionaries at the time. His mother, Pamela Elaine (née Pemberton), is the daughter of a U.S. Army colonel, and his father, Robert Ramsey Tebow II, is a pastor. While pregnant, his mother suffered a life-threatening infection with a pathogenic amoeba. Because of the drugs used to rouse her from a coma and to treat her dysentery, the fetus experienced a severe placental abruption. Doctors had expected a stillbirth and recommended an abortion to protect her life, although abortions are illegal in the Philippines, but she remained undaunted and refused having an abortion.

  • Guest - eastwind

    Yes. We need more Dave Zirin's. Someone who equates NBA players making five/six/seven figure salaries to the American working class....Oh the oppression!

  • Tebow's story is very appealing when presented to the public and in that respect he is an ideal poster child for conservative Christian and essentially the politics of Empire. Aside from the very astounding story of his birth, there is the missionary work he has been involved in. There is his underdog status. The quarterback with the unorthodox throwing style who wasn't supposed to make it on the pro level. Then there is the story of the past several weeks, with all these last minute comebacks. Without a doubt tebow seems (for now) as a upstanding person with a great deal of competitive drive and a great deal of maturity for his age in spite of his religious lunacy. In short, he can play a geat role for the rulers as his story develops. And I don't doubt that folks in the NFL, the media, and in other places will work to build his story and his emerging legend. It's a great story for the enemey and I wonder how we as communists can have an effect in the sports world that brings out athletic heroes who side with the people. I suppose part of that has to do with creating a social environment (OWS) in which athletes feel they will be protected by movements when putting out liberating ideas. It has begun to happen in music to some degree, but sports seems to be a tougher nut to crack.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    Other than the abortion issue, has Tebow expressed any political views publically? Are we just assuming he's Jerry Falwell with a football helmet?

  • Guest - laborshallrule

    It's an opening for preaching militant atheism to those who hate the Broncos. But in all seriousness, professional sports is the most patriarchal, racist, nationalist bastion of the entertainment industry. The league itself started by having a thirteen season ban of Black players and today there are hardly any black starting centers. Culture around the sport itself-while something I admittedly partake in-is based a lot of unconscious racial comparisons of the players and masculinity. You can see the latter in how quick my fellow Steeler fans are able to run in to defend Roethlisberger. Or, in the case of Penn State, how the firing of Joe Paterno was met with riots (and even the first protest I've ever seen at Penn State Behrend, ten miles from my house).

    Red Fly, he was behind a pro-choice advertisement. You can guess what it probably was about from reading the background story. He's definitely the celebrity of their movement. So much so that Rick Perry even capitalized on his name, calling himself the Tim Tebow of the race.

    If he was of a non-white faith, and was espousing that as loudly as he is now, he would surely have been met with hell. Back when he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul Rauf) declared that he was a Muslim and had refused to stand for the pledge since the American flag was a symbol of oppression. He rightly said that recognizing it would stand in conflict with his Islamic beliefs. He was met with several death threats, his friends turned their back on him and the NBA even suspended him. Being a white Christian that hates abortion to the point of wanting to detonate explosives inside a clinic makes you admirable and sweeter than sugar, but being a Muslim makes you someone that evidently hates what the league stands for.

  • Guest - laborshallrule

    *Republican race

  • Guest - harrypollitt

    Are we such pro-sports communists that we can't see that pro- sports have become one of, if not the main, religions, opiates of the masses? They should be outlawed under any rational, socialist reorganization of society. We cannot educate this element of bourgeois ideology, anymore than we can retrain the police, to be on our side. Capitalism has set up these sectors, and recruits working class youth into them, as participants and audiences, to drug us. There will be always be individuals who rebel, depending on the prevailing political forces. But the paradigm remains.

  • Guest - Travis

    Sports, like many things, are not reactionary or progressive in of themselves. It's entertainment. It's exercise. But like many things in capitalist society, it is organized and marketed in a reactionary way. No doubt. But sports in of themselves, like other forms of popular entertainment, are not intrinsically or irredeemably backward. The argument to ban sports on this faulty premise supports banning music as well.

    But what about combat sports? Despite rules to protect participants and the respect they extend to each other, the object is to beat or incapacitate one’s opponent for the viewing pleasure of others. As someone who enjoys combat sports, I find it difficult to justify it on political grounds.

  • Guest - Maz

    Outlaw sports? Why not outlaw art while we're at it? I mean, cinema and tv and novels are dominated by bourgeois ideology too right? And we wonder why people wouldn't want to live under communism? Probably because they're just hopelessly brainwashed, eh?

  • Guest - harrypollitt

    note well: I did not suggest banning sports. I said professional sports. Capitalist NBA, NFL, FIFA etc. Sports has a social aspect, a team building, a community, workplace organizing aspect etc. See, for example what all the socialist bloc countries, whatever their failings did, and I would cite Cuba as an example of what we can do. But when we see the "religious" devotion that workers have to the packers, wvu etc, i see nothing but reaction.

  • Guest - harrypollitt

    The whole subject of bourgeois ideology, which is what we are talking about here, has never been well understood. How is the working class manipulated into situations where they support political positions which oppose against our own interests? Gramsci spoke to it. Terry Eagleton, writes about it, has problems, but is very provocative. I think this is a key to our situation.

  • Guest - Red Fly


    I totally disagree with Tebow's anti-abortion position. But I'm just wondering if there's any evidence out there to suggest that the guy is a reactionary when it comes to other issues. I don't know of any. I realize that any number of real reactionaries have latched onto his story but I haven't seen anything to suggest that he supports their ideology as a whole. And what evidence is there to suggest that he wants to blow up abortion clinics? Isn't that a bit presumptuous?

    There are people who have a generally progressive view on most things who nonetheless are against abortion. I come down unambiguously on the side of a woman's right to choose, but I also recognize that it's a complex issue that good, honest and reasonable people can disagree on. Maybe that's too "liberal" a view for some around here to accept.

    I also think that, given his personal story, it's perfectly understandable why he feels the way he does.

    I kind of like Tim Tebow (even as a long time Broncos-hater :>). He seems like a genuinely nice kid. Sure, a bit saccharine, but also humble, respectful, and quick to give credit to others. I guess a lot of people think he comes off as self-righteous. I don't see that. I see a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve, and in a society steeped in values of emotional repression and public hypocrisy that causes a lot of discomfort. I reserve the right to change my mind of course. If he starts ranting about high taxes and "teh Mooslims," etc., then obviously my opinion will change.

    You're right to point out the hypocrisy with respect to the treatment of non-white religions, but Tebow doesn't have any control over that.

    I think that before we condemn people as irredeemable reactionaries we should be sure that the charge fits.

  • Guest - jfsp

    I like watching sports and I have been annoyed for years at the religous demonstrations by players, ala Zambrano for instance pointing to "heavan". I don't want right-wing religion nor left-wing religion either, nor Muslim, how about no religion nor politics. No "God Bless America" on Sundays during baseball either. I just like to watch the game.

  • Guest - Ian Anderson

    @Jfsp: In Aotearoa/NZ "keep sport separate from politics" has a reactionary resonance, because that's the slogan people rallied behind in defending apartheid-era Springbok tours.

    This is a fairly tough question I think. Professional sport is a major bastion for corporate, bourgeois nationalism, with all sorts of associated normative masculinity etc. But dismissing or decrying working class sports fandom would be a mistake. One thing I've noticed in NZ is that heaps of people fly the tino rangatiratanga flag (standing for Maori/indigenous self-determination) along with the All Blacks flag (our rugby team.) At Occupy camps in more than one city I've seen this combination of flags, not to mention vehicles and houses. Somehow I don't see corporate rugby explicitly aligning itself with tino rangatiratanga, but there are a lot of Maori and Pacific players, and fandom is not a simple thing.

    A comrade of mine wants to write regular sports columns for our paper The Spark, although with various other things coming up it hasn't happened.

  • @Red Fly

    I think Tebow has all the likeable traits you mention and as a sports fan I even appreciate the way he plays the game and the poise he is able to keep in tense moments. He is pretty amazing for someone his age.

    I also agree that he has not taken a stand politically on anything other than the Super Bowl anti-abortion ad. It should be worth noting (again) that the ad was a Focus on the Family ad, a pretty notorious right-wing organization.

    But it is also true as many have stated , that many on the right have latched onto his story and I would argue that his silence has also been a political statement of sorts. He has not rejected Rick Perry's statement or Pat Robertson's Islamophobic remarks in reponse to the SNL skit. And so the right has been able to use him ideologically for their own purposes. If he rejects the anti-gay rhetoric of Perry and the Islamophobia of Robertson he would do the people a great service by renouncing their use of his popularity publicly.

    The point in any regard is not to denounce him as a person, but to think about the political dynamic created by his entrance into the American popular discourse.

  • Guest - socca

    Zirin isn't the only guy writing on sports from the left-- check out Gabriel Kuhn's "Soccer vs. the State"

  • Guest - Andrei Kuznetsov

    The main reason I dislike him (other than he's a joke as a player) isn't so much his politics as he is obnoxious about his religion. He and Brett Favre make me grind my teeth with their religious self-righteousness.

    Tim Tebow <i>crying</i> is always fun to watch.

  • Guest - bill martin

    I just wish the players who point to the sky to thank God when they make a touchdown would raise a middle-finget salute to the sky when they don't make a touchdown. If we're going to give God the credit when, "miraculously," a baby is found in the rubble after an earthquake in Mexico City, let's also give God the "credit" for the 100,000 who died.

    On another plane, I happen to think that there can be profound insights and even truths in the world's major religions (it isn't only ignorance and superstition that keeps them going, but obviously this is a complex question), so why do "religious leaders" such as Pat Robertson put up with the cheapening of Christianity through its use to celebrate some relatively meaningless bit of entertainment on a football field? Why isn't that the question rather than the SNL parody? The answer is obvious and should be put in the face of reactionary scumbags such as Robertson--there isn't anything here that has to do with any of the profound insights of Christianity (concerning history and redemption, alienation, the possibility of a society with neither rich nor poor, etc., all of which is anathema to right-wing "Christians"), but only with right-wing politics, the politics of those who have power and wealth and a hierarchy that enforces these things and who will do anything, absolutely anything, to hang on to these things, even if this also means fashioning a form of their hallowed religion that just makes a big, stupid, sick joke out of the whole thing.

    I'm not saying any of this applies to Tim Tebow, necessarily, or to any other sincere believer who is not a member of the ruling class. But we need a way to confront these people with the reality of what their religious convictions are being used for, something other than just the idea that religion is nothing other than superstitious bullshit.

    I do agree that, in our "consumer's republic" (the title of an excellent book by Lizabeth Cohen, a good resource in understanding what postmodern capitalism is all about) professional sports, perhaps especially football (I mean the NFL, though perhaps also the other football in Europe and Latin America) is not only an opium of the masses, it is more of an opium than "religion" (whatever that is). There's a lot more to be said about this, obviously.

    Or maybe I'm just pissed off at the Bears for blowing another game.

  • Guest - stuartway

    I'm not proud of my fascination with pro sports. I know that I waste a lot of time and thought on them. But there are several things that I like.

    I like the competition, the athleticism, the strategy, the spontaneity.

    You get to see black and white people playing together, striving together toward a common goal. Sometimes you get to see women competing in a way that subverts gender roles. But you almost never see men and women playing together.

    Sports are, in some ways, wild. They are unpredictable. The outcome is not decided beforehand. This is one reason why people like them, especially in a world where everything else seems rigged (e.g. politics).

    Many professional athletes come from poverty. Many are black, and they are heroes to millions. If one or more major stars started opposing the system publicly, they could become major spokespeople for an emergent movement.

    There is so much energy put into controlling these athletes and shaping the whole environment of the game in a reactionary way partly because of that revolutionary potential.

    [By the way, what I am describing is basically the plot of THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy of books that is now being read by millions of middle schoolers and being turned into a big film. It is about a future dystopia in N. America where a totalitarian gov pits the children of the poor against each other in gladiator fights to the death for the entertainment of the rich. The protagonist, a female, wins the games in a defiant way and becomes a symbol/spokesperson of a revolutionary rebellion. I recommend this book. It is a pop culture phenomenon similar to AVATAR in its subversive potential.]

    Right now, the whole culture of the games is reactionary, but it is hard for me to conceive of a revolutionary moment in the US where athletes don't play a significant role. Even though many athletes are wealthy, sports may be the largest stage in the world for individuals who have been poor, have been victims of racism, have been oppressed by the system. It seems to me that there will have to be a moment when several athletes side with a rebellion, and that this could even be a very significant symbol of the system losing its legitimacy.

    Does this mean we should spend our weekends glued to the TV watching NFL? No. But I don't know that we should assume that pro sports will be prohibited in a revolutionary society. And I don't know that we should ignore them completely. The call for all sporting to be local and participatory seems to reflect an anarchist ideology(?).

    I am very curious as to how sports will be transformed. Different things activate peoples imaginations. For some, its how the factories will be different, some, how the neighborhoods. For some, its the new art. For me, it is how the sports will change.

  • Guest - stuartway

    I was raised as a Christian. I was taught to look for the hand of god in all sorts of phenomenon. As a child, I might have believed that god was interfering with sporting events. I may have even prayed for sporting results. I don't remember. But when I grew up, it was the stuff like that that led me to question and doubt. If god has all this power, and he controls the world, why does it look like this?? When I grew up, the people talking about God's interference in things like football just started to look like fools.

    So I guess I am supporting Bill Martin's point about needing a way of communicating with religious people about the living, breathing core of their faith. Is it grounded in a deep pain and fear and longing for a better world? Or is it about all kinds of petty stuff that noone will really care about in a couple of years?

    Tebow's ascent gives opportunities to reactionaries. But he is a real human and player. He will make fumbles (like he did last week). He might not make the playoffs. He might get injured or traded. Real life will intervene. And this is not god giving the middle finger to Tebow. God isn't playing NFL like it is Madden 12. Tebow's time in the limelight also gives us plenty of opportunities to talk about god and religion and the contradictions and the foolishness of some ideas.

    Of course, we don't have a tv show like Pat Robertson...

  • Guest - Keith

    I love pro football and don/t have any "guilty feelings" about it.

    In classical political philosophy the contradiction between excellence and equality is a ongoing subject. This was in part because because aristocracy is the "rule of the best" while equality is connected with democracy or rule of the people. The traditional critics of democracy argue that the goal of equality is incompatible with the pursuit of excellence.

    I don't think that there is a necessary contradiction between the pursuit of excellence and political and economic equality but obviously not everyone can be a pro football player because they are the best. And "best" means, in part, "better than." I like pro football because there are 32 teams with 52 men on a team which is about 1,600 players who are literally among the very best athletes in the world-- the biggest, the strongest, the fastest, and the most skilled at their specific sport. I don't think that pro sports has anything to do with the goals of communism one way or another as far as I understand them -- the end of human exploitation. But I am not exploited because another person is better at football, even if they are paid more money and get more social prestige or status. Inequality and exploitation are not the same. The above comments is all to say that I have no unity with anyone advocating the outlawing of sports professional or otherwise.

    Are there problems with the culture of professional sports? yeah, but there are problems with our culture in general too.

    The Tebow thing is interesting because writers like David Zirin started from the premise that Tebow was not a good player and did not deserve to be playing in the NFL. Zirin argued that Tebow's religion and politics were the reason he was in the league. This position has been proven non-sense. Tebow's team, the Denver Broncos, sucked bad before he became the starting quarterback. His recent play may be a fluke but probably not. it is unusual for a player who essentially sucks to win with this consistency. Talent is but the manifestation of hard work (that is a lesson that sport teaches. The best players in the league practice the hardest. Tebow seems very committed to becoming a better player. So he probably will continue to improve).

    The Christian right has been organizing pro-football players for years. At the end of games players from both teams gather together in big prayers circles. This is because the Christian right is more organized then the left and because they don't despise the sport and the players.

  • Guest - RW Harvey

    It is curious that many have to defend or decry their attachment to sports, especially professional sports. Look across this country and you will see a psycho-emotional attachment bordering on zealotry and obsession at all levels: high school, college, and certainly at the profesisonal level.

    I wonder what hole sports fills for us, both men and increasingly women. The idea that it is simply a draw towards excellence rings about as hollow as reading Playboy for the interviews and the depthful articles.

    It may be time to dig out the book "The Athlete Revolution," by Jack Scott to recall just how exploitative college and pro sports really are (high salaries notwithstanding).

    It seems that sports inspires a certan amount of voyeurism (clearly in boxing, auto racing) where viewers wait to see someone injured or killed. Sports also serves many to relive their glory days. Others are obsessed with stats and fantasy leagues. It seems that this tells us a great deal about the vapid nature of our culture and the emptiness of our lives.

    At the very minimal level sports today overall reinforces power over (not competition, which mean "to seek together"), misogyny, patriarchy, heirarchy. For sports to exist at the profesisonal level under a truly socialist world -- which is an open question at this stage -- a major ideological revamping would have to be undertaken, both within sports and throughout society as to what really underlies our need to expend great levels of attention and interest and obession on watching others.

  • Guest - People2thePower

    I'm a baseball fan, mainly, but I enjoy watching basketball, football, and boxing, too. But I also readily admit that big time sports (particularly professional and collegiate sports) serves the system as a form of spectacle. Sports is the "Bread and Circus" of our time. It provides an emotional release, a distraction, a way for millions of people to become passionately engaged in something that does not threaten the dominant elites. Indeed, the dominant elites use sports events as a stage for jingoistic displays that legitimate their rule. The Star Spangled Banner opens every event -- even high school events. (When I'm at a game, I refuse to stand or remove my hat, and I encourage others to do so.) So we have routine Air Force Flyovers (I wonder what those cost, and who pays?) and "tributes to the troops." Even the ads (particularly beer ads) during sports events are full of flag waving and yellow ribbons. Hell, post 9/11, they started playing "America the Beautiful" instead of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th inning stretch. A few more attacks and they'll have to teach us new patriotic songs, so we can sing between every inning.
    Sports as "bread and circus" explains the viscous reactions to Muhammad Ali's denunciations of U.S. racism and militarism, and the "black power" salutes by John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the '68 Olympic games. I recall John Lennon explaining that he wrote "Working Class Hero" to make the point that rock-and-roll was the "accepted" route for white kids to escape the working class in much the same way that boxing was the "accepted" route for black kids to escape the ghetto. We saw similarly hysterical reactions when "stars" like John Lennon or the Dixie Chicks used their musical fame to articulate anti-hegemonic views. How dare "they" -- the people "we" allowed to succeed -- turn use their fame to criticize the system? Art forms like music and athletics are important symbolic battlegrounds. We need to learn to use them better, and more often.

  • Guest - Michael

    Like Keith, I love the NFL and make no apologies. Growing up in Wisconsin, it was basically obligatory to like the Packers, at least once they started winning again back in the early 90s with Brett Favre. (Speaking of whom, I can't recall him being a shill for Christianity during his Green Bay years, despite the assertion by Andrei K. in comment #17.) I always roll my eyes when people ask about the "socialist" or "public" ownership of the Packers, though their existence as a de facto non-profit is clearly beneficial in terms of their ability to outspend other teams of their approximate size.

    Anyway, I think sports, like all other forms of popular culture, is reflective of the contradictions in popular consciousness at any given point in time. I take this idea from CLR James, and others have applied it to hip-hop, to punk rock, and to traveling blockbuster art exhibits. Sports is similar. So, yes, there is a morbid fascination with hypermasculine violence in hockey and football, alongside an inchoate awareness of the class and race confusions of pro sports, and a generally very open-minded approach to various demographic or identity questions. (Including queerness, as evidenced by Michael Strahan's public support of gay marriage in New York earlier this year.)

    Noam Chomsky, I think in the movie Manufacturing Consent, marvels at the ways in which callers to sports talk radio programs have no qualms second guessing the athletes and their coaches, believing themselves to be the equals of the professionals in terms of decision making. Chomsky uses this to suggest how far we as a society have to go in terms of people feeling the same way about politics, which is a valid point as far as it goes. But since Chomsky cares nothing for sports, he misses the equally important point that professional sports does have an inclusive and empowering aspect to it, alongside its spectacular and patriarchal elements.

    Still, I have to disagree with Keith about Tebow's emergence in the NFL. It really does have to do with the appeal of evangelical Christianity, at least to the extent that he took the starters job from Kyle Orton because of the constant clamor from the religious segment of the Broncos fan base. His rise is really just one of countless examples of the accidents-of-history motif that plays a major role in all popular culture. Why do we all know about Tebow, and not about some third-stringer for another team who is possibly just as gifted athletically, etc.? Sometimes it really has little to do with skill, although if Tebow actually keeps his job, that will have to do with actual excellence. (And hard work. as Keith suggests.)

    Anyhow, after the revolution, so to speak, there will be no "professional" sports because there won't be "professional" anything in a communist society, but there will almost certainly be spectator sports because they are entertaining for huge numbers of people, and they can be conducted in a variety of ways that are compatible with a liberatory society. Probably the quality of play will diminish because fewer athletes will be so single-minded in their focus on training and practice. But this is a small price to pay for the prospect of having top quality team sports in a free society.

  • Guest - Miles Ahead

    As the Chinese revolutionaries, under Mao, emphasized:

    “Friendship first, competition second.”

    Maybe that should be progressive and revolutionary people’s mantra when it comes to sports.

    If you go to any Little League or middle school games, you can see a tug of war –a fundamental spirit of sportsmanship, team-work and effort, etc. being imbued; and on the other side of the bleachers, there’s usually that Bad News Bears parent (or coach), who is focused on their individual daughter or son, to do better than anyone else, and promote individualism even in a team sport like B-ball or baseball.

    In pre-Colombian societies (civilizations that Engels thought quite highly of), and amid the “ruins” there is always a grassy field and structure – “ballcourts”--devoted to the then sports—like Xcaret, Pok-a-Tok, etc.—more like a precursor to soccer (fútbol). And while it is thought that say in El Tajin the ballcourt served more recreational purposes, this ballcourt is not without its religious (and science then understood) temples, religious under/overtones with points of observation. While playing ancient Mayan games, the site was thought to be an allegory on another level, to trace the movement of celestial bodies.

    But depending on the tribe or ancient civilization (Mayan, Olmec, Toltec, Mixtec, Zapotec, etc.), these games were more often played by and accessible to the elite, and could also be what we would think of as brutal—sometimes resulting in human sacrifice. And also often times, these games were a way to “resolve” (or diffuse) conflict without actually going to war.

    To state the obvious, professional and collegiate sports have become an over the top commodity (not that dissimilar to the realm of art but even more so). But I think that sports in general is also a microcosm of the society at large and its system. Tebow represents one ideology to contend with…the Christian Right and fundamentalists in particular.

    But say, racism, anti-semiticism, homophobia, and gender bias in sports, (speaking about the U.S.) has existed for eons. There was of course Jackie Robinson, the “Negro” leagues, Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Greg Louganis, Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, etc. And only a few decades ago, Patrick Ewing (even with being voted into the Hall of Fame), a revered player, was slam dunked on the court by racist epithets coming from some racist pigs/fans, who not ten minutes before were rooting for Ewing and The Knicks.

    But because of the militant and righteous struggles and movements that have changed the political landscape, both in small and larger ways, when Kobe makes an outlandish homophobic slur on the court, he’s the one taken to task and called out before millions. What continues to happen in the locker room might be another story…

    BTW—I saw the SNL parody/satire and loved it…at the time, couldn’t quite figure out how they got away with it. But to be counter-attacked by Pat Robertson, his ilk, and the enemy, IMO is a good thing.

  • Guest - Miles Ahead

    @Michael, who said:

    <blockquote>Anyhow, after the revolution, so to speak, there will be no “professional” sports because there won’t be “professional” anything in a communist society, but there will almost certainly be spectator sports because they are entertaining for huge numbers of people, and they can be conducted in a variety of ways that are compatible with a liberatory society. Probably the quality of play will diminish because fewer athletes will be so single-minded in their focus on training and practice. But this is a small price to pay for the prospect of having top quality team sports in a free society. </blockquote>

    Maybe I am reading into what Michael said, but a few things occurred to me that maybe he or someone else can clarify.

    First of all, doesn’t the elimination of professional sports (or “professional anything”) after revolution and in communist society assume that every society will be on the same page? Is it more likely that one society will perhaps be communist (or socialist), but other existing societies not, and how does that affect the one who has gone through a more thoroughgoing revolution, or vice versa—how does the socialist or communist society impact on the others?

    In a more <i>global </i>sense, I think that with an elimination of material incentives for professional anything, including sports, the tendency will not be so much be for kazillions of $$’s, (or huge profit) but as part of a global scene, there might be a continued (or perhaps heightened) slant toward nationalism. Besides the USSR, under current circumstances, we can certainly see overt and frantic nationalism (and false patriotism) rearing its ugly head in the Olympics, but nationalism exists in professional or semi-professional sports as well, such as boxing, soccer or track.

    And to say that “probably the quality of play will diminish [under communism] because fewer athletes will so single-minded in their focus on training and practice” makes me wonder—is this not a similar argument that conservatives and reactionaries use when dismissing socialized medicine or universal health care? And as part of that argument, that socialized med (or sports under a different system) would only lead to mediocrity, lackluster, disinterest or failure.

    Instead of less training, practice, knowledge, and “professionalism,” without the scourge of elitism, under socialism and communism, the various fields (including sports) promise to be open to many more people who can make a more significant contribution to the society as a whole while honing their skills. “Red and expert” comes to mind.

    Sports, certainly as we know it is highly political (and ideological), and am sorry I left off one of the most obvious, infamous and blatant examples in my last comment—Jack Johnson vs. “The Great White Hope.”

  • Guest - sophielux

    I agree with H.D. Harvey that the “psycho-emotional attachment” to most organized sports should concern us. But I wonder if classical Marxism offers sufficient conceptual cum empirical resources to “fill the hole” sports fills for many of us let alone explain the phenomena?

    It seems to me any Marxist renewal involves appropriating a clinically based socio-biological theory of human development. What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for child (and adult) psyco-social- physical development? How might we provide such care giving in an emancipated communal society?

    Not to overdraw the case, but the evidential and theoretical resources available withinrecent versions of “Attachment Theory” seems made for Marxism.

    What is Attachment Theory? The idea that among the most important developmental needs of humans are those for attunement and secure attachment. Strong versions of the theory suggest that without attunement and robust attachment relations the psyco-emotional-physiological structures and processes required for human flourishing (read Marxist emancipation?) will fail to develop.

    How does the purported causal interaction between children and care givers work?? Why can’t humans flourish without meeting these needs?

    In short: capacities for providing adequate care-giving involve both an occurant or real time and a structurally pre- determined dimension. As it turns out children possess something like internal truth detecting mechanisms. They sense anxiety, hunger, depression, exhaustion and historic developmental deprivation-of care givers.

    How do children respond to unfulfilled care givers?

    Children literally a)detect and b) internally echo some significant version of caregiver the deprivation. How? By excreting such “feel bad” neural transmitters and hormonal correlates as cortisol and/or adrenaline. Children require, more “feel good” neural transmitters and hormones e.g., serotonin and dopamine, then those making them feel anxious or “ bad” e.g., cortisol and adrenaline.

    The “feel good” excretions form a sort of internal pathway or track for further human development. For example, feel good neral-transmitters produced as babies relax in the arms of relaxed, fulfilled care givers form socio-biological pathways. These “tracks” serve as pre-conditions for additional physiological architecture like the sprouting of neuronal pathways, optimal synaptic distances and so on –the “train” if you will, of human cognition, affect and sociality.

    This delicate psycho-social dance or better yet, dialectic between echoing children and caregivers literally hardwire the brain, program the body, immune, endocrine, cognitive systems and do on. Emotional- cognitive hard and software or dispositions are formed here. Capacities to self-sooth, concentrate, experience happiness, fight disease even moderate substances and other behaviors-all emerge, at least to some significant degree, in the dialectic between the ontology of care giving and the onto-epistemology of child development.

    Moreover, Attachment theory also implies the reduction of parental or caregiver shame. Turns out that unless both the occurant and developmental needs of caregivers are met, insufficient “feel good” chemicals occur within the child and thus, well developed systemic tracks and trains fail too.

    Apparently, children’s internal “truth detector” pick up care givers’ HISTORIC developmental and any occurant deprivation. “Free will”, e.g. trying hard to relax, focus on baby, being “less selfish” and so on will not sooth baby in light of this built in “truth” detector.

    In short, baby becomes stressed and developmentally deprived if caregivers are sufficiently stressed and/or developmentally deprived. Deprived children experience depression, anxiety, learning disabilities and addictions as adults-even in otherwise abundant, (economically and socially egalitarian?) environments.

    What then, might Attachment theory have to do with the “psycho-emotional attachment” observed in organized sports? Under capitalism, children with unmet attachment needs turn into economically exploited, alienated and attachment seeking “adults”.
    The enflamed “us and them” antagonisms we see in organized sports-including such violence prone hierarchal “sports” as climbing corporate and military ladders, exploit unmet economic AND attachment needs. They do so by providing cheap substitutes for the real thing. Without, if you will, sufficient “good feelings” , neural transmitters, hormones and the like for positive developmental change- let alone flourishing.

    The good news? Although satisfying our attachment needs is more difficult as adults, it can be done. Turns out brains, endocrine and other biological and cognitive systems are malleable. But, unmet needs for attachment must be recognized and addressed in addition to the deprivation stemming from subsistence wages, false consciousness, alienation and other more traditional Marxist worries. Given this, the non-exploitative, economic and social relationships under an enlightened communalism may develop the mutually nurturing communities and health care systems required for emancipated, abundant-well attached - care givers. Such enlightened communalists have much to offer –and enjoy. Flourishing for future generations of children and ourselves. Without such consciousness? Yes, the light at the end of the tunnel- may be a runaway train.

    (I recommend setting aside an hour or so for the attached video- link. A most wonderful explication of Attachment theory, including recent clinical findings. See Dr. Gabor Mate’s talk on YouTube entitled : “Brain Development and Addiction” )

  • Guest - jp

    i have seen other videos with this guy - i will watch this when i get the chance.
    can you please provide some citations for your assertions re: effect of caregiver on child? thanks.

  • Guest - RW Harvey

    Attachment Theorists (a bare beginning):

    A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development, by John Bowlby

    Theories of Attachment: An Introduction to Bowlby, Ainsworth, Gerber, Brazelton, Kennell, and Klaus, by Carol Garhart Mooney

    Archetype, Attachment, Analysis: Jungian Psychology and the Emergent Mind, by Jean Knox

    Attachment Theory and Psychoanalysis, by Peter Fonagy

    The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment And the Developing Social Brain, by Louis Cozolino

  • Guest - jp


  • Guest - sophielux

    Hi JP:

    Re-additional references for Attachment theory:

    The Gabor Mate lecture I attached to my comments above unpacks, in much better detail than do I, the developemental effects of caregivers on children-including citations of recent clinical rearch .

    I also recomend the following articles/interview (see Gabor Mate's website for copies: )
    1.The Globe and Mail, January 2007
    Addictions always originate in unhappiness, even if hidden. By Gabor Mate
    2 Gabor Mate in : Yes Magazine, June 10 2011
    3. Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder and the Destruction of American Childhood
    Video Interview: Democracy Now

    If you want more than the articles/interviews above, Gabor Mate's books include references for most of the points I tried to make, (without the over simplifications and generalizations!) the Attachment theory, supporting studies and other clinical data (including fascinating primate studies and the neral-biological-social effects of insufficinet attachment) can be found here:

    1) Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder (in the U.S.: Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It.)
    **See especially Chaper Three -Five on neral-biology (in the Canadian version)

    Also good is Mate's latest book "Hungry Ghosts", According to Mate, " Dynamic in human existence: the attachment instinct. What is attachment? Attachment is the drive for physical and emotional closeness with other people....Throughout life the attachment drive impels us to seek relationship and companionship, maintains family connections and helps build community. By triggering the chemistry of love and connection, the locking of endorphins on the opiate receptor enables us to be the social creatures we are". (P203)

    In 'Hungry Ghosts' Mate focuses on the role insufficient attachment plays in the lives of former patients -most of whom live in Canada's poorest demographic, Vanouver B.C.'s downtown Eastside.

    See too the Psychologist Allan Schore on "proximal seperation" , (the negative effects of 'meer' emotionally unavailable caregivers), in 'Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development'.

    Psychologist Gordon Neufeld on "pseudo-attachment" like that among teen gang menbers and other cheap imitations of the real thing (like the relationships among sports zealots?!).
    Neufeld's website:
    Book review: (with Gabor Mate)
    "Why parents matter most.(Hold On to Your Kids)Book Review:
    Chicago Tribune. June 20, 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-13.[dead link]
    "Keeping parents ascendant over peers". The Washington Times. September 19, 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-13.

    For still more on the primacy of the environment in brain development (particularly in the first three years of life) try these more clinical publications:

    1Affective Neuroscience by Jaak Panksepp;
    2 The Developing Mind: Toward a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience by Daniel Siegel,
    3.Human Behavior and the Developing Brain edited by Geraldine Fischer and Kurt W. Dawson

    Attachment between care givers and children is a requirement for healthy neurobiology-and hence a basic human need. According to Siegel, (Child psychiatrist founder of UCLA’s Center for Culture, Brain and Development), .“Human connections create neuronal connections,”

    No wonder we are doomed under capitalisim with it's "connections" of exploitation.

    Hope the refferences do more than suggest the importance of creating abundant caregiver/networks/communities for any enlightened socialism.
    The additional references so gracefully provided by RW, (thank you again RW!) should help us be scholars in no time.

  • Guest - Ghan Buri Ghan

    It's more fun for communist sports fans to speculate as to how sports will be played under communism, or what role they played in primitive communist societies that were brutlally vanquished by euro-capitalist imperialism. (A euro-capitalist imperialism that has always upheld competition and social-darwinist individual "excellence" as ruling ideologies) It's less fun to look at the reality of sports under capitalism. Thousands of college athletes sweating and injuring themselves for no pay. Public university budgets getting pilfered and monopolized by athletic departments. A rampant culture of sexual abuse. Working people literally hating each other because they root for rival sports teams. Etc.

  • Guest - Red Fly

    @ Keith

    I appreciate your unapologetic love for sports. I too feel that there's no necessary contradiction between athletic competition and excellence and political and economic equality. In fact, in the revolutionary society that I imagine, sports will be an important tool for sublimating innate competitive desires in a socially responsible direction.

    But I do want to question you a little bit on this:

    <blockquote>I don’t think that pro sports has anything to do with the goals of communism one way or another as far as I understand them — the end of human exploitation. But I am not exploited because another person is better at football, even if they are paid more money and get more social prestige or status. Inequality and exploitation are not the same. The above comments is all to say that I have no unity with anyone advocating the outlawing of sports professional or otherwise.</blockquote>

    Are you saying that under your vision of communism economic inequality we be ok so long as there is no exploitation (i.e. no private extraction and appropriation of the economic surplus?) That would surprise me because I've always understood communism to not only be about ending exploitation but also about ending all forms of human oppression by advancing towards a very strict economic and political egalitarianism.

  • Guest - jp

    Sophielux, thanks for your response. i remember now seeing Mate on a segment of Democracynow a year or more back.

    The linking of scientifically pursued psychology to the historical-materialist study of humans is, i think, greatly important. we need to know how the human organism works in total to fully understand its interaction with the rest of existence. for example, is their a naturally occurring percentage of authoritarian personalities? (I've got a link for this but can't locate it.)

    I'd also like to hear RW's take on Freud, if he's willing. Freud is widely considered non-scientific, but he's worth re-considering. (Early W. Reich, attempting to synthesize Marx and Freud, is good too.) Personally, I think Jung's concept of personality type, suggested by hindu castes, has validity but it tends to get laughed out of the room.

  • Guest - saoirse

  • Guest - Nat W

    Thanks for posting Saoirse. Watch the video too. Cordell Stewart kills it with his analysis. And I think revolutionaries should care about what they're talking about because millions of the most oppressed do. This is what my friends and I used to get passionate about when I was a teenager and in retrospect it was part of the process of my radicalization as an individual.

  • Guest - RW Harvey

    What I appreciate about Freud is his understanding of the role of human desire (sexual in his terms), and the complex responses (neurotic to psychotic, etc.) when desire is realized, thwarted, or ignored. This is attachemnt theory stripped down.

    I also read his Eros v. Death (Thanatos was never used in is writings) as the very same oscillations that occur in attachment theory -- Eros binds, Death separates, and both are needed. Of course, Freud sees the binding power of Eros but fears that Death (our drive towards destruction of self and other) will win out (see conclusion of "Civilization and its Discontents").

    Regarding the death instinct (one of his most outlandish theories and one based on analysing battlefield shock amongst WW1 veterans), Freud's contribution here, as I read him, is that trauma severs attachment and initiates a sense of death, which many then make literal by suicide, dissociation, depresison, etc One way to combat the salience of death is to project destruction and death upon the other via wars, racial and gender oppression, any way to increase life at the expense of raining death on someone else.

    If you are interested in pursuing these ideas you might try "The Denial of Death," by Ernest Becker (a Pulitizer winner) or "In the Wake of 9/11: The Psychlogy of Terror," by Pysccynski, Solomon, and Greenberg -- their application of Becker's theories under the rubric of Terror Management Theory.

    As far as the claim that he wasn't scientific, we must reexamine this in light of the paradigm of bourgeois science -- what is invisible or unmeasurable is not science. You can hardly read one of Freud's texts (whether you agree or not) and not come away with a sense of scientific rigor, investigation, self-criticism, and admittance when he has reached the limits of his knowledge.

    There's simply a great deal of rich material in Freud, especially in his later works (1920 until his death in 1939).

  • Guest - jp

    thanks, RW, for your substantive response.

  • Guest - jp

    per a previous comment of mine on authoritarian personalities, see this book free online:

    audio interview with author at:

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