Narrating Tragedy: From Kennedy to Katrina, From Sports to National Identities
Struna, Nancy L.
MetadataShow full item record
On September 11, 2001, Major League Baseball commissioner Allan 'Bud' Selig postponed the baseball season to offer proper respect to that day's terror victims. On September 16, 2001, when the major league season resumed, sports columnists across the nation-state referred to the New York Yankees as 'America's team.' When the Yankees made their run to the World Series, many columnists argued they 'healed the wounds of the nation.' Likewise, as water settled in the French Quarter after Hurricane Katrina, columnists suggested the New Orleans Saints were 'capable of healing the nation' and referred to them as 'America's team.' When the Saints returned to the Superdome in 2006, many columnists suggested the region and nation were both healed. This dissertation uses discourse analysis to reveal the constructions of and contestations for dominant versions of national identity and memory in which sports columnists engaged in the context of tragedies like the John F. Kennedy assassination, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. In examining sports columnists' work over five decades, I offer a historical overview of sports columns and their relationship to dominant discourses of race and national identity. In the process, I contend that the voices comprising mainstream sports columnists through the 1960s generally constructed a mythological national identity that privileged whiteness. By the late 1990s, however, the voices comprising mainstream sports columnists included both those who constructed and confronted white hegemony. Interestingly, some of those columnists supporting whiteness were minorities; and some of those confronting whiteness were themselves white. Hence, I argue that whiteness is a standpoint, not a condition of skin color. Likewise, I contend that mainstream sports columnists confronting whiteness work within a system often identified as producing hegemony in order to dismantle it, and potentially exert a great amount of cultural power.