- Discipline and Indulgence: College Football, Media, and the American Way of Life during the Cold War by Jeffrey Montez De Oca
In the introduction to Discipline and Indulgence, Jeffrey Montez De Oca shares childhood memories of attending college football games in Berkeley, California, with his father, and reflects on the nationalism evident in post-9/11 American sport culture. He effectively uses these points of entry to bring the reader into his analysis of masculinity, militarization, and college football during the Cold War period. He positions sport culture as “part of the interlocking institutional nexus of Cold War militarism” (p.5) and focuses on college football and its representation in sport media at a time when U.S. militarism was on the rise and football, though not the national pastime, had become the dominant spectator sport in the United States. As Montez De Oca acknowledges, college football had long been considered a masculine symbol of the nation. In this book, he also argues that throughout the twentieth century, political and social leaders “built institutional linkages between college football and the military and the media” (p.13)—linkages that became significantly stronger national signifiers in the wake of World War II.
Montez De Oca discusses college football as a national symbol and cultural force in chapter two and introduces the concept of “fortified masculinity”— a socially constructed version of masculine citizenship intended to serve the state’s Cold War needs for “disciplined, patriotic workers, warriors, and consumers” (p.20). He argues that football and physical education were instrumental in constructing fortified masculinity and that the media was responsible for spreading signifying imagery nationally in the mid twentieth century. The muscle gap and attendant Cold War concerns are the focus of chapter three. Montez De Oca cites the rabid consumerism of postwar America as a social problem with geopolitical implications and details how physical education and fitness were employed to contain the deleterious effects of consumer society on American youth. He provides illustrative examples of institutional policies, such as governmental regulations for physical education, which were seen as important interventions in the “body race” with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The following two chapters are concerned with sport media and the NCAA’s attempts to maintain monopolistic control over the presentation of college football broadcasts. Montez De Oca argues that most fans participated in the national sports culture through the commercial medium of television and that broadcast narratives framed college football games as patriotic pageantry. For its part, the NCAA played off of masculine discourse and Cold War rhetoric as a way to protect its commercial interests in football. In chapter six, Montez De Oca shifts his analysis to print media, with a consideration of Sports Illustrated’s coverage of college football during its first year of publication (1954). He examines a small but representative sample of three articles, including text and accompanying images, charts, and maps, to support his argument that although SI’s coverage [End Page 140] was not directly linked to Cold War geopolitics, it did reinforce a sense of nationalistic, masculine citizenship for its consumers.
Montez De Oca concludes the book by invoking anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s notion of “deep play” as a means of summarizing the cultural reach of football in the United States during the early Cold War years before shifting into reviews of other historians’ work on sport in the following sections. I was hoping for a more coherent synthesis of his own arguments as well as an expanded consideration of sport’s cultural place in later Cold War years and the early twenty-first century, as his brief discussion of U.S. interventions in Vietnam and the Global South, and contrasts between the Carter and Reagan administrations was quite compelling. Overall, Discipline and Indulgence is an informative and thought-provoking addition to the literature on sport, media, gender, and nationalism...