Under the Influence

Not what you think.

Today in my core seminar we were discussing texts that influenced our perspectives on our subject whether they were geographical or not. That left me a lot to think about, as I have read quite a few book in my subject area, but a number just outside it that have influenced me too.

If I were to trace the origins of my project back to its source I think I’d have to give the credit to Nick Hornby. In “Fever Pitch”, he explained his love of his team in a way that I understood from my own childhood obsession with the Calgary Flames. It helped that we shared the same Premiership team, but it put the idea of being a fan and that it meant more than being a fan into my head. I wanted to understand why the game over there meant so much more than sport over here.

I turned to Franklin Foer next. His soccer started to explain the world to me, but it was clear that he had also been influenced by another that came before him, Simon Kuper. I’ve read “Soccer Against the Enemy”, “Soccernomics”, and “Soccer Men”. In all his books I’ve felt that understanding the sport and the passions it stirs in its fans is a legitimate line of research. For the history of the game I turned to David Goldblatt’s “The Ball is Round” which is simply the most comprehensive history available.

Outside of texts, I’ve played enough Football Manager (computer game) to drive my wife nuts with me watching small dots chase each other around on the screen. She can’t understand why I’d find a game where I don’t actually play the match so enthralling, but apparently she’s not alone with it being cited in 35 divorce cases.

Then there is my wife herself. She’s obviously a huge influence on my research. The poor woman has had to put up with endless one sided conversations about the importance of certain acts of fandom from around the world. She also had to suffer through becoming a Saturday morning widow (although she has come to appreciate her new found solitude), and watching her oldest son succumb to the same soccer affliction that his father has. But beyond her suffering, I’ve watched her do her own research for years, read over drafts and seen her go through the ups and downs of the research process; it has stirred me into following my own interests and she’s always supported me since I decided to do this.


SSHRCing My Responsibility

Down to work.

First weeks are over, classes are running, BBQ is past; it’s time to settle into my first semester. That means planning for next year! Thursday will be a writing circle for all students planning to apply for the major funding grants available from the government, in my case it’s SSHRC (physical geog goes for NSERC) and OGS. Now the actual deadline for these proposals isn’t until late October, but by then I’ll be buried in papers in addition to this, so I need to get moving now.

On the upside, I re-read my full proposal for my application to get into the grad program and it is at least a start for what I could use for my application. Although I’ve recently had some new ideas for where my project might go (patience – I’m doing a slow reveal) the original still works for the basis of a project.

The current proposal is looking at how the local communities around soccer(football) stadia are affected by the gentrification of those stadia. Since the 1990s almost every single stadium in England has been renovated or replaced to comply with safety regulations brought in following the Hillsborough disaster. So with that amount of change over that short a period, I’d like to look at how that has changed not just the socio-economic character of the neighbourhoods, but also how it has affected the club’s relations to it’s neighbours. For instance, does Nick Hornby have to walk farther to get to Emirates Stadium, and how does he feel after all those years at Highbury? My gut is that there is probably some resentment amongst the locals for having to put up with all the construction and then finding out your neighbour jacked up the price of tickets to finance the build (or buyout by debt-ridden Americans – looking at you Glazer). I should know, I currently live next to a construction site where they did a little change in the plans once they broke ground…, but I digress.

One of the things I’ll have to figure out (besides being able to afford a research trip to England) is how to collect the info I’ll need for my thesis. I’m thinking that the socio-economic shouldn’t be too hard to come by, but tapping into the neighbourhood’s emotions will require leg work and interviews. So what will I need to ask, who will I need to ask, and how am I going to be able to do it, these are what I’m going to have to puzzle over before the writing circle.

My other concern is that my proposal engaged with literature, just not the sort of literature that gets valued by scientists. Now this is no slight on Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch is one of my favorite soccer reads, but the people that will be reading my proposal need more than Hornby, Franklin Foer, Simon Kuper, and David Goldblatt, they’ll need the geographers. Now maybe in a decade some grad student will come along with a similar idea and he’ll have Evans to go to as well, but that means I gotta get my butt in gear for the sake of future scholars.