Last week I had a meeting with my committee to sit down and sort out what I was going to do and how. The purpose was to narrow down what I was going to investigate and start thinking about research questions. After about 5 minutes it was clear that my project was getting bigger, not smaller. On the upside, I think I’ve found that I could keep writing on this for the rest of my life, the downside is that I was left with almost more options than when I started. So we finally left it at me needing to get a proposal together for next week that will give me a focus, a question, and hopefully a way of answering the question.
How to do this has been gnawing at me all week, what to do is just as bad. I admit part of my difficulty is that I had temporarily lost my sounding board – my wife. She puts up with all my babbling about soccer, so is actually a good judge of whether I’m on the right track or not. She also understands academic angst. Sure enough, she got home from a conference and before we’d even had a chance to talk my mind was already working out a bit of an idea.
So today, I sat down to read an article from a journal that I think is pretty relevant to my research: Soccer & Society. (My secret goal is to get published in it) I was reading an article about interpreting fan rivalries and it basically provided an overview of what had been done and what needed to be done, and how to do it. There I was sitting in my office reading away, and my thesis was staring out at me from the paper! All I was missing was the chorus and the light from above as I read it. I’ll paraphrase it a bit here, but basically: “Somebody should really look at how fan rivalries contest space and defend territory by looking at the frequency of the conflicts and the historical roots of the rivalry – that would be some interesting research.” Admittedly, I need to work on my academic-ese, but that is one of the questions that I was discussing with my committee and then there it was sitting in a journal for me. Ta-Dah!
The biggest question I’m left with now is where? My committee and I agreed that England is probably best just to remove the language barrier consideration (and there are some top-notch rivalries there), but now that puts a different constraint on my fieldwork. If I’m going to look at fan rivalries, I’ve got to got to some games, preferably some good rivalries, and it has to happen this summer. Hmmm. Season ends in May (which also makes the rivalries most critical at that time of year with all the promotion/relegation battles), so working backwards, I have to go through ethics review by no later than mid-March, meaning I have my proposal late Feb., meaning I’ve got to have the basics and a good question now. I’m leaning right now toward Preston North End and Blackburn, but I don’t think they will be playing each other this year, my only hope is that one of those sides is facing promotion/relegation while I’m over there. I think what is ultimately going to determine my choice is a good look at the fixture lists for May. Premiership would be great, but expensive and big. Championship could be interesting with less of a global element, and I’d even consider League 1 or 2 if the right combination of teams and fixtures came along. So my job tomorrow is to plot out all the games in the top four flights of English soccer during the month of May (playoffs excluded for the moment, but that may factor in later depending on how things pan out).
An idea and now the beginnings of a plan.