Ahh, draft day, the day that all the teams gather about and begin to think about the future, while teenage boys and their good intentioned and sometimes delusional parents begin to think about the present, and the payoff for all their years spent waking up at 4:30 AM and driving to the rink. For some, the NHL draft is like Christmas in June, for others, a very long and painful day, hoping and praying to become known as a late round steal (see Zetterberg, H., for more information) and not a first round flop (see Rita, J.). Draft day is something a little bit more than just a gathering of teams, teens and hockey dads; it is where Debord’s idea of the society of the spectacle really gets put into the public eye, where commodity fetishization truly runs amok, as the commodities are people, the governing bodies are the league and its 30 GMs, and the ruling class decides the fate of hundreds of hard working kids to determine whether or not they will be successful in their chosen path.
Debord’s concept in a nutshell looks like this: social life has been replaced with its representation: "All that was once directly lived has become mere representation." Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as "the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing." According to Debord, the spectacle is the inverted image of society in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity. "The spectacle is not a collection of images, rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images." These images are ready to be consumed on TSN at approximately 5PM, MST, a level of hype surpassed in Canada only by the Stanley Cup playoffs, and perhaps even more-so given the lack of Canadian participation in the finals.
The hype machine surrounding this year’s draft class is reaching a fever pitch, given how good the top 3 players are, and all of the intrigue surrounding the trades, the potential deals, the backroom shenanigans of managers like Brian Burke and the desire for John Tavares to be the next Gretzky, and of Victor Hedman to be the next Nick Lidstrom. The collusion of humans as commodities is only magnified by the sports media machine. I must admit that I am no different, aside from recognizing my own subject position as a cog in this machine, fueled by my own child-like desire to see my team acquire one of these commodity-people, either by draft, trade or both.
Debord analyzes the use of knowledge to assuage reality: the spectacle confuses and clouds the past, imploding it with the future into an undifferentiated mass, sort of an infinite present. Thus the spectacle prevents individuals from realizing that the society of spectacle is merely a moment in time, one that may not have the incredible impact that it is hyped into appearing to have upon the players, the teams, and the paying public. The spectacle is the inverted image of society in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity.
As the advanced media coverage continues to accelerate at a rapid pace leading up to the draft, readers and viewers are tricked into feeling some sort of want or desire for these people and begin to assume knowledge of who they are and what they could bring to the table. This is exemplified by the endless number of ranking charts, mock drafts and wish lists presented by the mainstream media types and bloggers alike, with so much about each player coming down to these mysterious qualities like Hockey Sense and ice awareness, as well as the more standard concepts like the ability to put puck in net. Yet it is far less about the people as people and much more about the idea of what these young players appear to represent; it is an idealized image presented for consumers to watch, eagerly and anxiously awaiting the results. Parties will be thrown, drinks of celebration or sorrow will be had depending on the results, whole stadiums will be filled with people, watching these young children turned from boys into commodities before their very eyes. Kids will be transformed from their humanity into an image of something, and it will be at least a few years before the mass audience that waits for them will see the results of this commoditization of human capital. The new saviors are coming. So says the league (state), so says the media. So say we all…