[images via strange harvest]
In a fascinating revisiting of his Folk history of football, Strange Harvest describes the 15th century game as a picturesque divertissement played across villages and into the surrounding landscapes, with loosely defined “players” essentially turning their environment into a gamefield.
The whole landscape became transformed into game-space. Houses, agriculture, sites of worship lost their everyday meaning and became an abstract terrain whose qualities impact the possibilities of game play.
With this idea freshly imprinted on my brain, it was through fresh eyes that I recently saw a commercial for a new Gatorade product.
In the commercial, as New York Yankees shortstop, Derek Jeter, walks through NYC, a baseball field grows around him, covering the city like some sort of beautiful athletic infection. As grass grows and lines are painted throughout New York, the result is a near infinite “game space” with somewhat puzzling mercurial boundaries.
Whereas the Strange Harvest article points to the strict contrast between the “landscape of folk football” — ie a village or town — and the streamlined modern athletic field (or pitch, as it were) as an abstraction of that landscape, the gatorade commercial opts for a unification of the two — a direct overlay of modern sport and urban landscape — in order to pitch (or advertise, as it were) their new “off-field hydrator.”
The transformation of urban landmarks into the abstract terrain of a life-field is indeed a clever advertising ploy for a non-sport athletic drink. The New York is reorganized as a playing field, defined here by the presence of the athlete, who in turn is redefined as the modern urbanite. Regressing the concept of “sport” from the “essentialized urbanism” of football back into a loosely defined environment, the modern city becomes a place where everyone is a potential player.