The Increasing Instant Nostalgia in Mediated Sports
by Ryan Lizardi — Penn State University
August 29, 2012 – 00:00
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) reboot hit theaters just 10 years after its original, and only 5 yeas after the last series installment (mentioned in IMR posts August 6-10th). Moments-ago ousted reality television contestants are forced to relive and pine for their experiences on shows like Big Brother and American Idol through pre-edited video packages and reflection-inducing interviews. These texts are part of an increasingly dominant mode of mediated past remembrance called "instant nostalgia." Nowhere is this more evident than in sports media. From Sportscenter highlights to post-game and halftime recaps, the past is always and instantly present.
The clip featured here is from NBC’ 2008 Olympic broadcast moments after Michael Phelps won his 8th Beijing gold medal. Olympics’ tape delay concerns exist, but the primetime broadcast is still the first time many see events (much to the chagrin of many London Olympics viewers). This Phelps video package and DVD were prepared in advance to capitalize on the instant nostalgia of those caught up in the moment. Phelps’ Beijing run may be unmatchable (along with his career), but media’s increasing instant nostalgia allowed no room for healthy comparison in this instance. Instead, sports media personalities immediately asked whether his performance was the "greatest ever." With time to reflect, NBC’s 2012 Olympic coverage revisited Phelps’ achievements often, such as ESPN declaring that "Alex Morgan’s epic goal is an instant classic" mere hours after the U.S. Women’s semi-final Soccer match. Maybe it is, maybe that’s just prisoner-of-the-moment thinking.
Mediated sports’ instant nostalgia is also prevalent during every major championship game. Moments, literally, after a team wins, the players don hats memorializing their victory as they hold up pre-printed newspapers. A short time after each Super Bowl, a requisite Disney World commercial airs, which asks the MVP what they will do now that they have "just won the Super Bowl?" The key word in this nostalgia-soaked, commodity-loaded, question is "just." There is no time for reflection with this rushed on-field question, leading to a simplified, inevitable, and commodified answer. MVPs and audience members are asked to make instant historical reflections.
These sports media practices reduce complexity and condense opportunities to reflect and learn from history.
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