The spectacle of draft day

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…

Go Oilers



sean said...

Very nice. Society of spectacle is a pretty apt evaluation of the past 2 days. Judging from some of the hysterics going on in the comments section of ON or LT, you'd think Tambo walked up to the mic and ate a baby.

This draft did do a pretty entertaining job of replacing real social life for a few hours, and the Oil didn't stink the place up like it was 1997. I think we'll be in a pretty decent shape in 2-4 years.

Bruce said...

Good stuff, Shepso. Nice perspective on all this nonsense.

B.C.B. said...

{Devil's advocate mode ON]

We can take this agruement one step further (one step more towards a pomo purity of thought) by questioning if the spectacle is a representation of something Real at all, ala Baudrillard.

What would happen if we considered the draft an image of an image, or a Simulacra.

Then the draft is not even about what these young players even appear to represent, since they are only representation and never presentation. These young men stop being men at all: and only are the charts, mock blogs, and finally their draft order.

Even outside the rink, they stop being anything but a commodity. Just as Steve Kelly or Jesse Ninimaki are only ever commodities that fail to work, and never people anymore. There is a permanent disconnect between the being and appearing; that they are only every appearing and we can never get back to having (might as well being).

[Devil's advocate mode OFF]

B.C.B. said...

On a more practical note: I think the Oilers didn't do a bad job at the draft.

According to my draft day decisions, they only accomplished one of the tasks: to move a lesser light (Brodziak). I didn't think it would be him, but they got what I suspected for him (a 4th to 6th round draft choice).

I like the fact they traded their 7th rounder for next years 6th rounder (with OTT). I like MAP as the first round choice: speed, and more speed. Toni Rajala and Olivier Roy look like steals in the late rounds (if one turns out to have more then a cup of coffee in the NHL, or if one is traded in a winning trade for the Oilers then it is a win). Don't mind giant defenders (Bigos or Hesketh) and we need one of them to be able to be at least a 5-6 defender in the future.

Over all: if one of Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson r Anton Lander make the Oilers 2nd line one day in the future. One of Kyle Bigos or Troy Hesketh, become a depth defender (5-7 NHL or 1-2 AHL wth call up ability). If Cameron Abney can ever play in the AHL. And lastly if one of Toni Rajala or Olivier Roy pan out as a NHL player. This might be one of the best draft class in recent memory. I think it would be a success if we have two of the 7 players make it to the NHL with over 150 GP (and one of them makes second line forwards, or 3-4 defense).

PS: Sean I think Tambo did walk up to the mike and eat a bady in the third round. That baby was named Cameron Abney.