Popular Culture and the Rituals of American Football

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In his article, "Popular Culture and the Rituals of American Football," Mark Axelrod reflects on meanings of cultural practice in American popular culture. Before globalization -- driven by economics -- became a fact of life with profound implications, there were myths and rituals that provided a kind of insulation from the mysteries of life. These practices were ritualized by "primitive" men and women who, seemingly, did not understand the universe as well as we moderns do. But in fact one only needs to witness throngs of Baltimoreans rushing after a caravan of cars attempting to kiss the Vince Lombardi Trophy as if it were a passing Torah and genuflecting to their NFL Ravens to realize that very little has changed since the days of pine and mosses. In American scholarship, one of the most fascinating areas of myth and ritual, and one of the least explored, is that dealing with American football. Drawing on the thought of Arnold van Gennep, C.G. Jung, and Mircea Eliade among others, Axelrod raises the ritual of the sport from the baseness of physical contact and violence to the level of cultural practice, replete with all the sacred mysteries of any other ritual, past or present.


This article was originally published in CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, volume 3, issue 1, in 2001. DOI: 10.7771/1481-4374.1100

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Purdue University Press