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Holly Swyers

on 18 April 2014

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Where it all began...
Shea Stadium, 1997,Cubs start 0-14.
Holly Swyers, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Lake Forest College
Eastern Illinois University, 4/18/14

It's currently here, in this headline from Tuesday, April 15, 2014
It includes summer days in the sun
And opening days in the snow
It includes incredible highs
And major milestones
Rain delays
And the ends of eras
Moments of absurdity
And an occasional moment of unintentional humor
Collective Effervescence
And other stories of belonging among Cubs fans
But it is also about "third places" (Oldenburg, 1989)
And celebrating one's elders
It's about a wedding at Disney World
And road trips to Kane County (and Pittsburg, and San Francisco, and Mesa, and Puerto Rico)
It's about celebrating life's triumphs
And times of mourning
How does a group of people who never met before they showed up at a ballpark one day end up being a community?
“The very act of congregating is a very powerful stimulant” (Durkheim 1995[1912]: 217).
“The stimulating action of society is not felt in exceptional circumstances alone. There is virtually no instant of our lives in which a certain rush of energy fails to come to us from outside ourselves. ... Thus is produced what amounts to a perpetual uplift of our moral being” (ibid.: 213).

Us vs Them
“Even the fans who are here who don't know what's going on are part of the community. They give us something to talk about. They give us a way to know who we are and something to compare ourselves to. We gather together so we're not surrounded by idiots.”
-Jeff from Centerfield, 2005
“Man is a creature whose existence is based on difference” (Simmel 1971[1903]: 325)
“The differentiation drive receives satisfaction from the contrast of one's particular personality with one's fellow members, but this plus corresponds to a minus in the satisfaction that the same person, as a purely social being, derives from oneness with his fellows” (ibid. 1971[1908]: 259)
“By definition, the boundary marks the beginning and end of a community. ... Boundaries are marked because communities interact in some way with entities from which they are, or wish to be, distinguished” (Cohen 1985: 12)

Baseball Gods
Social Space
Five more outs
“...magic and religion are not merely a doctrine or philosophy, not merely an intellectual body of opinion, but a special mode of behavior, a pragmatic attitude built up of reason, feeling and will alike. It is a mode of action as well as a system of belief, and a sociological phenomenon as well as a personal experience” (Malinowski 1954: 24).
“In general, American team-sport rituals aim at the creation and maintenance of the ideals of community in the midst of the fragmenting forces of urban life” (Robertson 1980: 252-53)

Works Cited
Cohen, Anthony P. 1985.
The Symbolic Construction of Community
. New York: Routledge.

Devoe, Ken. 2000 "View from Connecticut: The New Rules"
Bleacher Banter
10:2 (April).

Durkheim, Emile. 1995.
The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
. Trans. by Karen Fields. New York: The Free Press.

Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1954.
Magic, Science and Religion
. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Oldenburg, Ray. 1989.
The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community
. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House.

Simmel, Georg. 1971.
On Individuality and Social Forms
. Ed. by Donald N. Levine. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Community is a word which describes a set of long term social relations that are self-consciously and regularly maintained by all participants in the relationship. Those relations are predicated on an (often inchoate) sense of something shared.

Members of a community act within a prescribed (usually implicit) set of practices and discourses which index their membership. Community acts to establish a person in a comprehensible social role through which s/he can choose to interact with a larger, more diverse social milieu.

That social role includes a set of moral presuppositions about the way people should operate within the world. It involves trust in the face of situations that entail risk, and a basis for self-understanding.

Thank you to Dr. Don Holly for the invitation!
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