Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Homage to Sam

Since this is our last blog, how could I not pay homage to our professor by mentioning his own in-depth ethnographical work, Pinning Down Fan Involvement: An Examination of the Multiple Modes of Engagement for Professional Wrestling Fans. You fill the exact niche in the void of scholarly work of fan involvement, that is to say, looking at fan engagement through the eyes of the fans. 

I have not seen a body of work like this previously. You were able to identify five ways in which fans interact with pro wrestling, as spectators, critics, performers, community members, and theorists. To my knowledge, no one has ever done this before. Your work brings a unique clarity of the “fan culture/group,” thereby labeling five subgroups. I enjoyed the demographic breakdown you presented also, such as the amount of factory workers, skilled or retail, students, housewives, etc.

What I found really interesting (and humorous by way of actual fan responses) was your observations and conclusions of the five types: Fans as Spectators—your basic passive fan who comes to the show to be surprised. Fans as critics—fans who need a little more than the spectator fan, wants a performance to be executed well and focuses on the artistry of the performance. Fans as Performers—a more active and vocal process of engagement with the wrestlers, a vital part in wrestling culture. Fans as Community—fans who come for the social interaction with other fans as they have gathered at events over a period of time. While this type of fan still exists, I believe the “Community Fan” was far more in existence pre-McMahon, when wrestling was still not only regional, but local. This local level provided the true Community Fan in abundance. I loved your phenomenon of “fan of fans,” that particular sub, sub group where fans would come to watch how other active fans would behave as things unfolded. This group reminds me of Hatpin Mary and her fan following in the old days. Fans as Theorists—fans who explain why they or other fans engage the way they do, mainly by social or psychological reasons. Of course, this is for the benefit of those who do not know it is fake.

All in all, this is really a great piece of work, and *really* explains the fan base as it should heretofore have been explored, through the fans themselves.

1 comment:

Sam Ford said...

Appreciate the reflections, Gary. As I mentioned, this is a vestige of my undergraduate work...and was originally written very much like an undergraduate "research paper" should be. Life has been going a mile a minute since, and I've neglected getting back to this to really focus in on those "5 modes of engagement" that I think could make a useful contribution to others' work. As I said, the academic writing world is certainly faker than wrestling. :) But glad you found the piece helpful. And looking forward to our precious final few sessions together as we wrap up a semester's looking at pro wrestling.