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Sport as a Communication Medium

Sport is one of the most popular elements of modern culture gathered and united millions of people worldwide. Soccer, the favorite spectator sport, is a consuming pastime for adults and teens alike who experience vicarious thrills by following the careers of their favorite players. Sport can be seen as a socialization medium that unites people from different backgrounds and cultures. To be cooperative, a person must expand their understanding of how others get on in life. Strategies for adaptation are cooperative in that they are conjointly produced and ideally should help make the incommensurate resources of different cultures comparable (Birrell, 1981). Effective intergroup communication requires cognitive, affective, and behavioral communication by one or both encounters. Through the process of socialization, a person participates in a social system to behave in an inclusive moral manner and to try to communicate effectively with members of other groups, adapting our behavior when necessary. Even though individuals may be mindful and motivated to communicate effectively, institutional support is necessary to improve intergroup relations in society (Gergen 1999).

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This communication process is considered strategic. Specifically, this would involve the deliberate or managed use of nonverbal behavior to control interaction. There are two ways in which interaction regulation may be strategic. First, an individual can manipulate the physical or arrangement features (e.g., distance and orientation in seating) to facilitate or inhibit interaction. In general, it might be expected that an individual would typically exercise such options only in primary or secondary territories, for example, a sports club (Littlejohn and Foss 2007). Thus, individuals can manipulate the physical environment to control the access others have to them. This might be viewed as a form of privacy regulation. On a broader scale, the choice of secluded versus open homes or offices or even the choice of occupation can determine the habitual level of contact we have with others. Of course, one’s ability to implement such preferences may be dependent on money and status. It is typically the case, for obvious reasons, that high-status wealthy people are more likely to structure their environments to limit unwanted contacts from others. Knowledge refers to awareness and understanding of what needs to be done to communicate effectively and adapt our behavior (Miller, 2004). Two aspects of knowledge are critical to adapting behavior to communicate effectively: understanding that others’ interpretations are different from ours and knowledge of similarities and differences between people. The commercialization of sport helps people to overcome these barriers and find similar topics for conversations. Recours et al. (2004) call this process sociability which means that “members of a social world [are] linked by shared perspectives, a language, and activities which are their own, shared communication network, and bonds that go beyond a desire to compete” (p. 1). Shared experienced involve our judgments of social stimuli. If we do not distinguish among these three cognitive processes, we will likely skip the descriptive process and jump immediately to either interpretation or evaluation when communicating with strangers. This leads to misattributions of meaning and, therefore, to ineffective communication. If we mindfully distinguish among the three processes, on the other hand, we can search for alternative interpretations that are used by strangers, thereby increasing our effectiveness (Severin and Tankard 2000). “Emphasizing the ritual power of sport draws attention to an explanation of sport which takes into account both the personal gratification obtained by the individual through sports involvement and the social needs of the community” (Birrell 1981, p. 355).

Sport and soccer, in particular, attract millions of fans around the world because people need to have social bonds with others as one of the major factors motivating our behavior. People need to balance their closeness and distance to others. Littlejohn and Foss go on to suggest that attunement, “mutual understanding that is not only mental but also emotional” (p. 8), is necessary for a social bond to exist. Littlejohn & Foss believes that pride and shame are the primary emotions that influence our social bonds with others. Pride is the sign of an intact social bond; shame is a sign of a threatened social bond. To be effective and adapt our behavior when communicating with strangers, we must consciously work toward attunement in our social bonds with them. Attunement does not imply that our social bonds are highly intimate but rather that they involve mutual understanding. Humans are endowed with innate logical structures, but cultures create unique meanings out of this innate knowledge (West and Turner 2006). When managing impressions, negotiating conversations, comforting others, gaining compliance, expressing affinity, adapting to another culture, responding to others, resolving conflict, and seeking additional information from others, people must consider what types, how much, and in what order information is communicated. An important consideration in this information-transmittal process is whether to send information that is entirely honest or to modify it in some way that departs from the truth as the source knows it. The desire to join this culture is explained by the social need for information exchange. That is, the information presented in a message and its intended meaning are assumed to be truthful. In actual practice, though, communicators frequently decide that honesty is not the best strategy. Instead, they conclude that some measure of dishonesty will best achieve their desired communication outcomes (West and Turner 2006).

In sum, soccer and sport became a new medium of communication and shared interests for millions of people worldwide. Attunement does not imply that our social bonds are highly intimate but rather that they involve mutual understanding.


  1. Birrell, S. (1981). Sport as Ritual: Interpretations from Durkheim to Goffman. Social Forces 60 (2), pp. 354-376.
  2. Gergen K. (1999). An Invitation to Social Construction. Sage Publications Ltd; 1 edition.
  3. Littlejohn, S.W., Foss, K. A. (2007). Theories of Human Communication. Wadsworth Publishing; 9 edition.
  4. Miller, K. (2004). Communication Theories: Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 2 edition.
  5. Recours, R. A., Souville, M., Griffet, J. (2004). Expressed Motives for Informal and Club/association-Based Sports Participation. Journal of Leisure Research, 36 (1), p. 1-5.
  6. Severin, W. J., Tankard, J. W. (2000). Communication Theories: Origins, Methods and Uses in the Mass Media. Allyn & Bacon; 5 edition.
  7. West, R. L., Turner, L. H. (2006). Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 3 edition.

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