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The I in TeamSports Fandom and the Reproduction of Identity$
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Erin C. Tarver

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226469935

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226470276.001.0001

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Putting the “We” in “We’re Number One”: Mascots, Team, and Community Identity

Putting the “We” in “We’re Number One”: Mascots, Team, and Community Identity

(p.56) 3 Putting the “We” in “We’re Number One”: Mascots, Team, and Community Identity
The I in Team

Erin C. Tarver

University of Chicago Press

Partisan sports fans use their fandom to cultivate and reproduce their own identities as members of a larger, socially significant community—as an “I” who is part of a specific “we.” Yet, the “we” of sports fandom does not precede the practices of fandom. This chapter investigates the production of this “we” through one of the more prominent symbolic practices of sports fandom: the institution of mascots. Drawing on John Searle’s account of institutional facts, this chapter claims that mascots are better understood as contributing to the constitution of teams and the communities they represent than merely symbolizing them. By closely analyzing the Native American mascot controversy and the symbolic function of mascots more generally, this chapter shows that the usage of Native Americans as mascots by non-Native communities depends upon the concomitant instrumentalization and exclusion of non-Native persons by the “we” of the sports fan community. This theoretical conceptualization of mascots is important both because it shows the role of symbolic fan practices in social ontology, and because it offers a salient example of how white communities are produced via sports fan practices that explicitly racialize and subordinate nonwhite groups.

Keywords:   Mascots, Native American, sports teams, John Searle, history of mascots, Stephen Mumford, social facts, institutional facts, numerical identity, persistence

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