The Erotic Gaze in the NFL Draft: Blog Entry

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During the first semester of my senior year, I took a class called "Drama in the Media" and we had an entire section dedicated to the erotic male gaze in sports broadcasting. Specifically we discussed the male camaraderie surrounding the practice of the erotic male gaze. There's a cultural acceptability surrounding the practice of analyzing, discussing, obsessing over, and admiring male strength. Even back in the days of the gladiators there was a certain respect for respecting a man's physique, even if it was in an objectifying sexualizing manner. I've heard it a million times when my guy friends are watching some sporting event: "I mean, no homo, but that guy is built." Oates discusses the media's completely irrelevant comments about things entirely unrelated to a player's athletic ability, but I would argue that these comments, like the ones my friends make, are somewhat related to athletic ability because physical fitness is part of these athlete's job description.

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I am posting my blog and DQ here since I can't get a new post to work.

I took issue with mostly everything in Oates' article, but I will just focus on the homoeroticisim of physical descriptions and the positioning of blacks as objects of desire under the control of white men. First, physical descriptions such as “has a muscular body with a tight waist” are supplementary to measurements such as 40 yard dash times or number of bench press repetitions at a particular weight. Things that can't be quantified as easily such as muscular tone are better transcribed in descriptive words. As one general manager said, for the millions of dollars invested in draft prospects every year by each team, as much and as many types of information about each player is desired. One such test that is debated frequently is the “Wonderlic” test, which is supposed to measure intelligence. However, one is left wondering how math or grammar quick response questions relate to the ability of an offensive lineman to prevent a 350 pound defensive lineman from getting to the quarterback. There is an overabundance of information on every prospect. The lack of an obvious correlation of a distributed piece of information about a player to his potential NFL ability is not unique to physical descriptions. Secondly, the physical descriptions serve as reassurance to fans of teams who may be considering a certain player. The example of 250 pound running back T.J. Duckett is perfect. 250 pounds is well above average for running backs and casual fans browsing the numbers might be alarmed. “I don't want my team to draft a fat running back, he'll be too slow!” No worries, says analyst Mel Kiper's description “he carries just six percent body fat, leaving the rest of him solid as a rock.” This isn't homoeroticism, it is simply further analysis of the player's potential and skill set.
Lastly, I will not argue against the “meat market” analogy of parading players around for teams to gawk at. Rather, I think the positioning of players this way has nothing to do with their race. The Oates article was published early in 2007. In the 6 ½ years since then, the number of black men in coaching and general manager positions has steadily increased. The media coverage of the NFL draft has also continued to grow. The cattle-prodding nature of the draft has not changed. With millionaire coaches and general managers working for billionaire owners drafting soon-to-be millionaire players, the amount the money involved in the NFL draft is staggering. The average career of an NFL player is four years. With a such a short career and virtually no say in which team picks them, the players are at the mercy of the system. They do as they're told, subjecting themselves to every request from every team. If they refuse, they could be labeled as a problem and suddenly find themselves not getting drafted at all and miss out on millions of dollars. The “meat market” nature of the draft is due to the financial implications and the leverage the teams have over the players, not the desire of white men to place black men as objects of desire.

DQ: The other professional sports league draft that attracts major attention is the NBA (basketball) draft. Are there similarities to be found between the NFL and the NBA drafts and the perceptive homoeroticism?

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This page contains a single entry by drube010 published on December 8, 2013 7:53 PM.

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