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PWR 1CW: Sporting Rhetoric

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Money is power, and sports is big money. In 2020, despite Covid’s protracted restrictions on the sports industry that left many mourning cancellations of college football and the postponing of 2020 Tokyo Olympics, global sports market revenues nonetheless reached an all-time high of $388 billion US dollars (Intrado). By these numbers, sport is clearly a powerful industry that has diverse if controversial implications for regional, national, and global culture and identity: Be it Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee in support of BLM, the United Nations’ use of sport as a development and gender equity tool, or current legislative debates around trans athletes’ rights or football player’s mental health and CTE, sport is growing economies, driving policy, and changing society faster than we can keep pace. Scholars like Noam Chomsky have critiqued sport as the "opiate of the masses”; yet, in spite, or, perhaps, because of sports mass appeal, we often fail to critically engage sport as one of the central political spheres of our time.

This PWR1 course provides space and invitation to do so. Sporting Rhetoric provides a foundation in rhetorical theory and argument-based writing through the cultural lens of sport and its social impacts in the 21st century.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) Students analyze rhetorical strategies used in a sports text to advance claims about the function of the text in relation to social impact and values.  For example, you might analyze the arguments and rhetorical strategies used in sports journalism pieces, sports commercials and advertisements, athletes' social media campaigns, or sport films and documentaries: you could analyze Nike’s Girl Effect social media campaign ads, such as “The Clock is Ticking” (1999); or you might discuss strategies used by Frontline’s documentary on CTE, League of Denial, or a recent ESPN 30 for 30 documentary of interest. You could also analyze op-eds or policy proposals for sport legislation like Title IX or Pay for Play.

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) Students propose a topic in sport to research and compose a literature review on key topical sources and media, synthesize and comparing and contrasting major arguments and evidence surrounding their topic  For example, students who analyzed a Nike Girl Effect ad for the RA could here review the literature concerning sport and gender development. If you analyzed Frontline's League of Denial, you could review the broader CTE medical literature, reading Dr. Omalu's original papers and their (mis)representation in national and scientific press. Or you might analyze the literature and arguments around Pay for Play by various stakeholders: athletes, NCAA, lawyers, scholars.

Research-based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) Building from the TIC, this culminating assignment asks students to combine analysis, argument, and research skills in order to construct an original persuasive argument on their topic of choice and its rhetorical and social import. For example, if you reviewed sport and gender development literature in your TIC, for your RBA you would advance an argument about how the rhetoric of sport and gender development works and to whom’s benefit. What major tropes, values, and strategies does it use to advance it cause, for example? If you reviewed CTE literature for your TIC, you could here advance an argument about the various rhetorical strategies at play in the CTE debate and perhaps argue for the efficacy or value of certain strategies over others in the interest of safety, sport reform, etc.