---- by Gary Genosko
  Baudrillard thought about sport in terms of failure. In For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1981 [1972]), value and symbolic ambivalence are mutually exclusive domains; in the latter desire is not satisfied through phantasmatic completion, and this entails that desire may ride failure to an ignominious counter-victory. Baudrillard found in the failure to react positively to an inducement like winning a race the principle of a radical counter-economy of needs. Citing Tony Richardson's 1962 film version of Alan Sillitoe's story The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959), in which a Borstal Boy throws a foot race to disgrace the reform school that exploits his talent, Baudrillard finds a truth preserved through losing against the competitive system of rewards. It is not only deliberate loss that interests Baudrillard, as he is equally attracted by athletes who cannot stop themselves from blowing it since this, too, foils exchange value.
  During his travels throughout the United States while writing America (1988b [1986]), Baudrillard became fascinated by a wide-range of popular sporting activities: break dancing, marathon running, skateboarding, jogging, body-building and windsurfing. Many of these shared the attribute of self-reference ('blank solitude') towards death, often by seeking suicide ('sacrificial exhaustion') through extreme asceticism. The 'easy wear' of popular athletic costuming signified anorexia in fatigue and self-annihilation.
  The prospect of the Los Angeles Olympic Games ('100 percent advertising event') on the horizon in 1984 stirred Baudrillard to mockingly redate it to 1989 as the Revolutionary Olympics that would celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution since everything that disappears in Europe resurfaces in California. Baudrillard also mocked the notion of a parallel Special Olympics, not for the paralympians, but for the 'sexually disabled' (CM4, 34). He found the 'gazes put out of play' (disjuncture between live performance and screen) in the television spectacle of the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics an update of the 'play of gazes' in Las Meninas (CM3, 48).
  Baudrillard's most sustained sports writing concerned Formula One motor racing in 'The Racing Driver and his Double' (SC). Driver and machine are joined in a Möbius strip sitting atop a pyramid of investment and human capital: the single car and driver whose exploits are broadcast from the summit to millions of racing fans. The driver's double is his car, a projectile; the driver 'teleconducts' it on a 'screen of speed' and this for Baudrillard takes all the pleasure out of driving and reduces victory to an 'operational passion'. Yet he also sees calmness in the high speeds and discovers symbolic stakes in the 'passion for accidents and death' whose randomness grips everyone involved in the sport.
  The Formula One driver is a doubly mythic figure: a machinic element ('living prosthesis') integrated into a closed control circuit and a 'symbolic operator' risking death. In short, Formula One is a world of monsters whose disappearance in technical perfection concerns us because it would ruin competition and whose survival is equally worrying because they might pollute the everyday world of driving.
  For Baudrillard, sporting violence is a diversion into the imaginary (CM4). Football interested him only as transpolitics. Hence Baudrillard's sustained reflection on the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985 in The Transparency of Evil (1993b [1990a]). The consequences of football hooliganism in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries, and a European Cup match played before an empty stadium (Madrid in 1987) but televised, are evidence of an inversion of roles in which spectators take the initiative, displaying 'participatory hypersociality', because events have been emptied of meaning and surpassed by more dramatic acts of terror.
   § America
   § transpolitics

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.


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