John Michael McCluskey deposited “Rough! Tough! Real Stuff!”: Music, Militarism, and Masculinity in American College Football in the group Music and Sound on Humanities Commons 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Robert Kennedy proclaimed, “Except for war, there is nothing in American life which trains a boy better for life than football.” While the sport’s governing bodies are presently distancing themselves from violent connections—altering rules in order to make the game safer for players—football culture remains firmly connected with militarism. This article explores the role of music in communicating a martial brand of masculinity through two lenses of critical critique from communication theory. One, Sue Curry Jansen’s concept “warspeak” describes the use of military language in sporting contexts, and this essay extends this concept to “warsound.” Two, Paul Smith’s theory of the progression of the masculine form in Clint Eastwood’s films. These theories elucidate what Charles Garrett referred to as the “masculinist, militarist tropes that permeate sports music” in the specific context of college football. This article posits that the stadium soundscape of present-day college football reinforces a militarized, violent masculinity by examining historic and cinematic associations with musical selections encountered in modern college football stadiums. This paper is bolstered by the ethnographic study of sixteen football game sites collected across the United States in 2013, including schools representing the nation’s five largest athletic conferences. These case studies demonstrate the ubiquitous association between militarism and masculinity in college football culture nationwide. These case studies are also supported by interviews with musical agents at each institution, such as band directors and audio/video technicians, who provide insight into the rationale behind college football’s soundscape.