A Skate Park in the Pentagon’s Likeness: Militarism, Hegemony, and Skateboarding on the Web

By Lawrence Nichols.

Published by The Sport Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The alternative sport of skateboarding has its roots in southern California, but since the 1960s it has spread across the U.S. The act of skateboarding carries certain connotations, namely that it is creative, individual, underground and rebellious; it also shirks the rules and routines of traditional sport. The popular skate website theberrics.com reflects a different set of values, however. Since 2007, the site has espoused a dominant ideology that calls for skateboarding to be competitive and organized like the rest of sport culture.

The website is composed of vignettes that feature skateboarders performing tricks or besting each other in a segment known as "Battle at the Berrics." Instead of reflecting a bottom-up understanding of skateboarding, which is nonconformist, the owners decided to play up elements seen more commonly in contests like the X-Games. While these values are imposed, the website also allows fans around the world to submit text messages and videos of themselves skating. Because these messages sometimes clash with the rule-laden interpretation of skateboarding, theberrics.com represents a space of negotiation between two interests.

I argue that the Berrics represents a dominant force, and I use textual analysis to explain how its militarist messages conflict with a grassroots understanding of skateboarding.

Keywords: Alternative Sports, Skateboarding, Website, Skateboard Culture, Cultural Studies, Hegemony Theory, Dominant Ideology

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.17-28. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 745.489KB).

Lawrence Nichols

Teaching Assistant, Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

I am a graduate student and teaching assistant who works in media studies, and I have taught an introductory writing section for three semesters. It is usually undergrad students’ first experience with journalism. In my own work, I am primarily focused on Gramscian hegemony theory and its wide applications. Of particular interest is the concept of a dominant ideology imposed by a power-bloc and its clash with bottom-up understandings of reality. I have used graduate school as an opportunity to apply qualitative analysis to an array of topics that deserve academic attention. Among other things, I have finished research papers on censorship in the media and how journalists treat labor unions. In addition to honing my skills as a researcher, I am also a lifelong devotee of the alternative sport of skateboarding. Though I love the activity, I think it warrants criticism for being a co-opted and insufficient form of resistance. This was the genesis for writing a conference paper.