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cultural continuity


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The transmission of the meanings and values characteristic of a culture, down through time and generations. Individuals make sense of their lives in relation to supra-individual contexts and situations in which shared experiences and characteristics—a language, a history, a tradition, a country—are recognizable, familiar, and accessible. Sport has provided one such experience, and the social and cultural history of sport (in Britain at least, according to Richard Holt's Sport and the British: A Modern History, 1989) confirms the subtle balance between continuity and change in the making and remaking of sporting culture(s). Sports may also lean towards continuity in that too much change threatens the identifiable base and framework of the sport itself. Pressures towards change, though, can affect the tempo and length of an encounter, or the style and flow of a match: Rugby League's rule changes in the early 21st century made for a more fluid style of play; the tie-break in tennis reduced the potential length of a match; limited-overs cricket introduced a new style of excitement into the game, attracting new audiences. Change can be too sudden though, and proposals to make the goal bigger in football (to stimulate higher scores) and play the match in four quarters (to allow more advertising on television coverage) before the US 1994 men's soccer World Cup Finals were, thankfully, not accepted by the football authorities. Nevertheless, such debates can generate evaluative review, and certainly affected the change in the soccer offside law that was designed to favour creative attacking players. Wholesale change to a sport would make it not just unfamiliar, and possibly unrecognizable, to its established fan base, but would also render inter-generational debates difficult, and undermine the historical traditions that fuel so much sporting gossip and discourse. Sport elites are often conservative, even reactionary, in defence of a sport's traditions. But sport cultures themselves are inherently culturally conservative, contributing in important ways to forms of cultural continuity that serve to hold societies together. See also cultural change.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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