Friday, December 31, 2010

Research Paper on Sports

Research Paper on Sports

Sporting events are an ever-growing hobby or form of entertainment. Millions and millions of people around the world watch some sporting event in a weeks time. With these sports you get a bunch of hard working athletes, but no sport would be the same without the game time announcers. These people are the speakers, the ones who vocalize and analyze the game. These announcers can vary entirely or slightly from sport to sport. We chose four of the main sports in the United States today and analyzed how the announcers relate to their audience, their general race and age, and the characteristics of the language and emotions that take place during a game.

We chose a diverse set of sports to cover all ends of the spectrum, including golf, baseball, football, and basketball. Our main focus is on the professional level of sports, but it could highly pertain to other levels of sports also.

It is quite evident from the actions and language of the announcers that they are focusing on a certain audience. They definitely make an effort to make themselves attractive to the target audience of their specific sport. As you move from sport to sport the fans can change quite dramatically.

Golf attracts a very non-diverse audience. Golf has received the reputation of being an upper to middle class, white, male-centered sport. It is quite clear that golf focuses on this type of audience not only when observing the actual sport, but when watching commercials and seeing whom the sponsors are of this sport. Most commercials are centered on white middle class families and involve a lot of ritzy material objects, especially cars, for which commercials include Porsche, BMW “the ultimate driving machine”, Cadillac, and Bergstrum-Hummer of Madison.

These are cars commonly associated with upper-class society. A lot of the announcements are focused on males, including golfing commercials for Titleist Golf Balls, and Chivas liquor, which show all males and no females. Because of the slower pace of the sport, you tend to get these middle to upper aged men. This is why the announcers speak in a way that the audience can relate to, usually having low slang content in their vocabulary and low enthusiasm when speaking during the game.


Although baseball fans come from every walk of life, the fans who attend the games and follow their teams are usually middle-aged males. This is shown through the use of a more traditional ‘lingo.’ Unlike basketball, where phrases can become dated (i.e. “he put the nail in the coffin”) and can change from time to time, as would be expected with a younger crowd, baseball lingo has stayed basically the same. When listening to a game one rarely hears a term that is the equivalent to the basketball “on fire.” The closest thing to a baseball ‘lingo’ is when announcers use the position numbers of players rather than their names or jersey numbers. For example if an announcer says “four, six, two double play” he means that the second baseman threw the ball to the shortstop that made an out, and then threw the ball to the first baseman that also made an out. This use of position numbers is more of a part of the vocabulary of baseball rather than a trendy phrase like those used in more fast-paced sports such as football or basketball. The slow relaxed pace of baseball probably draws the older crowd and discourages younger ages that crave action and excitement. This can be seen in the way that baseball uses a more traditional, stable vocabulary as opposed to the trendy phrases of sports that have more action.

In most sports, it is quite obvious to whom the announcers are speaking to. It seems that in football, the audience is a wide variety of people. In the stands, you normally see a mixture of white and black people, generally men, which are in their thirties or forties. The announcers use this information to curve the way that they speak to the audience. They use regular terms that both white and black people would commonly use, and do not seem to favor either race or dialect. They also make sure to speak so that people of all intellectual levels would understand.

Although people of higher class are watching as well, the announcers seem to talk so as to include anyone of any class. By doing this, they use a syntax of quick phrases which consist of everyday vocabulary. One aspect that did stick out was the way the dialect was directed more to men. The announcers are all men, the athletes are all men, and the majority of the crowd was made up of males. Knowing this information, the announcers tend to talk of male oriented subjects and the dialect is that of an average white, middle class man.

Like football, a basketball audience can vary in age and race quite heavily. Because of the high energy and action, the target audience is mostly young adults.

Basketball is a high-energy sport. The audience often is highly energetic, along with the players who have to be constantly moving and working hard. There is rarely any downtime, so the announcers have to maintain high energy themselves. They have to be ready for anything and talking constantly. The target audience is also focused on young adults because of the high content of modern basketball lingo spoken and the jokes that are cracked. There is often not time for jokes during the game, but one can get a better idea of their humor during timeouts and halftime. If one were to watch a basketball game, they would find all types of people, anywhere from 5 years old to 80 years old and any type of skin color. There would possibly be more high school and college students if the tickets were more affordable. That is probably another reason why one tends to see an audience old enough to have established a descent career.

Although the announcers do tend to focus on a specific target audience, this doesn’t say much about the actual race and age of the announcers themselves. There are trends that are usually followed when observing the announcers of these varying sports. Sometimes the announcers will match the athletes and audience such as matching characteristics in age and race. Whatever the relationship is between the announcers, the players and the audience, there tends to be announcers of similar character in a given sport from year to year.

When it comes to golf, both age and race are very similar among the announcers and spectators, along with many of the actual golfers. The spectators are mainly made up of white middle-aged fans, much like the announcers who are mostly older white males also; some of who are retired golfers. A majority of the players also tend to be white and middle-aged; however, the diversity of golf is increasing as the years go by. It seems there is a common dialect between all people involved in the sport, which could be the result of a similar class and physical environment. Interviewers are primarily white and also speak the standardized GE. The overall tone is very quiet and relaxed; the background music is soothing as opposed to loud, and on-lookers are quiet until a hole is made when they cheer loudly and then resume silence. Overall, the announcers, players, interviewers, and spectators are quite similar in age, race, class, and dialect.

Although baseball is moderately diverse, whites seem to dominate athlete and fan populations. Announcers also follow this pattern with the majority being older white males. This may be because of the relaxed, slow paced nature of the sport, which in turn causes a relaxed, laid-back announcement of the game. Perhaps if baseball were as action-packed as basketball the announcers would be composed of a younger population. The short bursts of entertainment in baseball are few and far between, so unlike basketball there are often gaps where nothing is going on during the break between innings. Announcers use this time to talk casually about current issues or historical events.

Football is a tough sport to distinguish the differences between the announcers. The announcers talk in almost a neutral dialect. It was quite difficult to determine if the announcer was black or white because both used a common set of vocabulary and kept their conversation to the action of the game. The majority of announcers were older men who were white, but there were also some black announcers. It seemed to depend on the location of the game. Their dialect seemed to most resemble that of a middle class man, using smaller, direct words to get straight to the point. This seems to match the audience, and it would be most beneficial for the managers in charge to hire announcers that the audience could relate to. The athletes are also matched to the announcers. Although the announcers are generally older than the athletes, they are made up of a mixture of white men and black men, and have the same type of background since the announcers are generally retired football players.

Race can be diverse in basketball, but the percentages of certain races definitely outnumber others. Basketball is a predominantly African American sport. Caucasian players, whether from the United States or some other country, are the second most populated race in the sport. There are other races, including Chinese that take part in basketball. Since basketball is mostly black and white, this could be a very probable reason why the audience is mostly black and white also. As for the announcers, they tend to follow the trend of basketball players because most of the time you find black and white announcers. A majority of the announcers I would say are middle aged African Americans. This is so because many of the announcers are retired basketball players. You do find older white announcers, who themselves are usually retired basketball players. Men are not the only people who announce the basketball games; women also take part in this career. However, it is a lot lower percentage. One thing that is very common between all announcers, no matter their gender, age, or race, is that they all have a lot of previous basketball experience, both playing and watching.

When one distinguishes the actual language used by the announcers and the emotions put into the game, they really can start to see the characteristics of the announcers and the sport come through. Among the four different sports, there are different words and speech types that are used directly to relate to a specific sport. The emotions of the announcers vary greatly also, depending on how high energy the sport actually is.

Since the ambience of golf tends to be more reserved than other sports, it’s obvious that the tone and dialogue of the commentators match this mood. They speak in general English (GE), and in a restricted manner, assuming that the audience knows what they are talking about. To outsiders, such terms as “money list” are very confusing. Overall, there are no distinctions in language phonetics that can be made from commentator to a player or even commercials for that matter. The lexicon and language continue to be the same throughout the sport. The only miniscule difference is between the regional variation of players and the sportscasters from which we can hear differences in Southern accents vs. Midwest or West coast dialect. This lack of variation could be the result of little cultural diversity. While some may misinterpret this as a hint at the education of the current and retired golfers since many, including Tiger Woods, attended Harvard and other prestigious, higher education institutions. On the other hand, some never even went to college and therefore we can assume that given their environment, most of the morphology was learned, as is the case for Vijay Sigher, who is a Fijian of Indian descent. At this point, Golf is becoming more and more diverse, though the announcers have yet to catch up and match this variance.

The language of baseball more closely resembles golf as opposed to football or basketball. This is because of two major reasons, enthusiasm and vocabulary. Baseball announcer’s voices tend to be more monotone than football or basketball announcers’, most likely because of the relaxed game pace. Big events happen only a few times a game, and when they do the excitement of the announcer usually is still less than that of a basketball announcer. Most of the time a baseball announcer will get mildly excited, and raise his voice for a short period of time. The baseball announcer also has more of a “birds eye view” of the field, whereas in football and basketball the announcer is right in the action. This allows football and basketball announcers to have a more energetic delivery than their counterparts in the baseball world. The second difference is the vocabulary used. The vocabulary of baseball requires a small amount of background knowledge of the game to fully understand the announcer. There are a few short-hand terms that announcers will use when explaining situations in the game, or giving background information. For example, when explaining situations in the game an announcer will use position numbers (as explained above), and when giving background information, an announcer may explain that a pitcher has an ERA of .XXX or a batter has a batting average of .XXX. To gain a complete understanding of the announcer’s message one would have to know what ERA, batting average, and position numbers are. Like golf, baseball uses a more third person objective view rather than a view that captures the excitement of the game. Baseball uses a more standard vocabulary, rather than the ever-changing phrases used in non-stop-action sports that capture a more youthful audience.

In football, the dialect of the announcers fits the audience. The announcers do not use “ritzy” dialects or speak as if they are in a higher class than the people they are talking too. They are very enthusiastic and use the energy of the crowd, and the hustle of the players to hype up the audience who is watching the game on television or listening to them on the radio. One will normally hear an announcer yell, “Are you ready for some football?!” before a game to hype up the crowd. Then during the game they will yell “First down! He could go all the way!” The announcers all seem to have deep, manly voices, which depict the men on the field. Throughout the nation, it seems that all of the announcers are the same. In some areas it is more likely to find a black announcer or a white announcer, but either way one can see that the typical dialect of a football announcer does not change even when the location does.

The announcers in basketball have a similar distinct speech. Whether African American English or General English is being spoken, they still have the basketball announcer qualities. First of all, they all speak quite clear. They never mumble or talk quietly. Their voices are never monotone, but full of emotion. During the games, they are extremely into the game and one can tell if something good or bad just happened by the fluctuation of their voice tone. If something amazing happens or if it is a close game, their voices will rise and their tone gives way to a feeling of excitement. You will often hear phrases like “I can’t believe it!” It is very evident they know the sport like the back of their hand. They definitely use elaborated speech because they are speaking to a wide audience and can’t make any assumptions to what the audience knows or not. There are also certain words that are spoken when talking about basketball that are frequently used by the announcers.

This can be thought of as basketball “lingo”. For example, if a player attempts a shot and is blocked by his/her defender you may here, “Not in his house!” Another example of basketball lingo is when a player is consistently making shot after shot in which it is said that, “He is on fire!” In addition to this “lingo” that places basketball announcers apart from announcers of other sports; their emotions play a large part in their speech. It is interesting that basketball fans often have a favorite announcer or one that they get annoyed by. An announcer’s personality will come out in their announcing abilities, which will often cause for some people to like one announcer and not the next. Components of a basketball game are the athletes, coaching staff, audience, and the announcers. So obviously they are an important component of the basketball season.

Sports announcers are a huge part of the character of sports entertainment. As you can tell, depending on the sport, the announcers can be quite similar or different.

For example, the style of basketball and football announcers is very much alike, whereas golf and basketball announcers vary greatly in their style. When it comes to target audiences, basketball and football have a wide range of spectators compared to baseball and golf, which have a much less diverse audience. The diversity of the audience and athletes is generally reflected in the announcers. The announcer’s emotions are more highly expressed and their tone more often fluctuates as you move up the spectrum from golf to baseball to football to basketball. Each and every sports, whether any of the four previously discussed or any other existing sport, has its own components making up a unique character belonging to that specific athletic event.

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