American sports' aesthetic peaks

Fascinating cultural anthropology perspective on American pro and college sports’ eras from Bourgeois Surrender blog, excerpt below. If anyone has any good leads on particular NFL Films and other archival/ethnographic sports films, pass em on in the Comments section…

Pro Football’s aesthetic peak spanned roughly the era of the 14-game schedule, 1961-1977. I might even restrict it to the 60s, before the AFL-NFL merger, because I like smaller, exclusive leagues, and the 70s saw the debut of a lot of new and ugly stadiums, but there was also a lot of interesting stuff going on in the early-mid 70s–the George Allen Redskins, the colorful Raiders teams, the great Miami teams, the great early Steelers teams, the very good Minnesota teams back when that franchise played outdoors in what wouldn’t be an acceptable stadium for a Division II college team today. The outstanding work of the NFL Films company in this era, when the corporate arm of the league as well as the coaches and players took themselves considerably less seriously than they do today, reveals all kinds of fascinating nuggets of detail about both football and everyday life in the 1960s and 70s that are astounding to see, or in some cases be reminded of, now. Everything was comparatively so small-time, or perhaps I would better say, on a reasonably human scale. The stadiums, the media coverage, the money, the players’ bodies, the locker room amenities, are all phenomena well within the realm of ordinary experience. The crowd at a modern game is so individually insignificant and stifled, overwhelmed by the spectacles of technology, money and modern security, as to be little better than ants. In most of the stadiums (stadia?) of the 60s they tended to be closer to the field, in more intimate communion both with the players and other people around them, less distracted by other demands on their attention; the filmed crowd shots of the era reveal livelier and more engaged expressions (as well as better clothes) than fans have nowadays, who if they are acting in an energized manner are probably responding to television or some other media provocation than anything they can see with their eyes. MORE

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

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