Sport as a social marker

Sport as a social marker

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Title: Living room football.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 45 - Width 56

Technique and other indications: Chromolithograph.Illustration on a game box cover.Léon Saussine Éditeur, Paris

Storage place: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 04-509794 / 990.39.14D

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: March 2007

Historical context

From its beginnings, sport has been a social marker

Rugby is wrongly considered in France as an avatar of the soule. In the Middle Ages and modern centuries, this game, mainly played in Brittany and Normandy, saw the clash of two village teams around a ball of fabric or a ball called "soule" or "choule" that it was a question of carrying in an agreed place or beyond a line notwithstanding the adversaries. England, a pioneer in this economic development, was the first to experience social changes and associated lifestyles.

For the male offspring of the English elites, the public schools offered an innovative education where sport had its place. In France, the game of rugby spread from the last two decades of the XIXe century and initially concerned elites often marked by Anglophilia, in the - very socially restricted - high school framework.

This era was also characterized by the emergence of a new social category, the "middle class". It is therefore easier to understand that a "lounge football" match illustrates the box of this game intended for white collar children. The title attests to the English origin.

Image Analysis

An ideal representation of a combat sport

Léon Saussine’s company was the main creator and supplier of French games between the Second Empire and 1940. The hundreds of board and parlor games (drawing-room) that it produced fall into various genres such as assault games and position games. It is to this last category that this one belongs.

The illustration in this box shows twelve young players in the middle of a match on a poorly defined grassy field. The poles of one of the camps are visible in the background. In the foreground, four of the team in red striped polo shirts oppose the advance of their opponents. The two center players try to tackle, that is to say knock down the ball carrier. The other two stand ready to intervene. The team wearing the blue striped polo shirts is on the attack. His goal is to carry the ball beyond the opponent's line to score a try. A player is on the ground. He was tackled but was able to pass the ball back as the rule requires. The owner of the ball, in turn tackled, prepares to throw it at his close partner, while four other players are in more distant support positions. The second to last calls the ball. The last one stands under the posts. The attitudes are consistent with the reality of the game, but the expressionless faces reflect the ideal nature of this representation.

Obviously, the illustrator knew his subject. The attitudes he sketched prove it. The ball carrier “puts his arms around” and cares about support. He looks to the left. The tackler facing him has his head engaged on the inside of the attacker's run, he has a flat back, his arms tightly wrapped around the attacker, and his legs are flexed in order to knock down the opponent during of the extension.

In the background grows the idealized landscape of a dream countryside characterized by the green freshness of the foliage. A half-timbered house, a synthesis of Switzerland, Alsace and Normandy, stands on the left.

Interpretation

A still undifferentiated game. The establishment of the leisure society

There is a contradiction in this representation. These young players obviously behave like rugby players. Their attitudes cannot deceive. Yet the illustrator called the scene "football". It is in fact a testament to the lack of differentiation that characterized the initial period of the development of ball games. This lack of differentiation is due to their common origin, their genesis within public schools British. It was not until 1863 that the supporters of what was to become football on the one hand, and rugby on the other, saw the incompatibility of their differences and founded two sports, the association football and the rugby-football. This last name undoubtedly explains the error of title made by the company Saussine on this game box and allows to locate its manufacture in the first years of the XXe century.
Beyond the game it shows, called for unquestionable success, this illustration is emblematic of the evolution of French society and, through it, of Western societies at the turn of the 19th century.e and XXe centuries by its very theme. If the ball games form an important part of modern sport, they are also revealing of the establishment of the leisure society in which new social classes will take their place, the middle classes emerging between bourgeoisie and proletariat. Initially sport was the preserve of a small community. It was the elite's hobby of good life and it had its place in the mundane calendar. At the start of the century, it spread to the middle classes while remaining for a long time far removed from the concerns of the working classes.

This representation is also a testimony to the prodroms of the consumer society. With the increase in their purchasing power, the middle classes are the preferred market for manufacturers like the Saussine company. The latter, which considers the European market (title of the game translated into Spanish), exploits illustrative themes such as the military, the farm, characters from tales and legends, and incidentally sports images. These representations bear witness to worlds familiar to this new social category. For the ever-increasing number of "white-collar workers", it is necessary to escape the models of the working-class world. There is no question for them to resemble "blue collar", characterized by manual labor. This desire for distinction is also expressed in the games we play.

  • cubism
  • sport
  • Third Republic
  • working class

Bibliography

Roger CAILLOIS (dir.), Jeux et sports, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "La Pléiade", 1967. Jean DURRY, Ronald HUBSCHER and Bernard JEU, L'Histoire en mouvement. Sport in French society (19th-20th century), Paris, Armand Colin, 1992. Jean LACOUTURE, Voyous et gentlemen.Une history of rugby, Paris, Gallimard, coll. “Découvertes”, 1993. Raymond THOMAS, Histoire du sport, Paris, P.U.F., 1991.

To cite this article

Bernard COLOMB, "Sport as a social marker"


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