Coronavirus as new reality of sports-specific discourse

Dr.Hab., Professor V.P. Guba1, 2
PhD, Associate Professor R.V. Belyutin2
Dr.Med., Professor E.E. Achkasov3
1Russian State University of Physical Culture, Sports, Youth and Tourism (SCOLIPE), Moscow
2Smolensk State University, Smolensk
3I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University of Russia  (Sechenov University), Moscow

Keywords: coronavirus, new reality, sports-specific discourse, communication in sports.

Background. Sport is a popular, complex, voluminous, multifunctional, and multi-structural social phenomenon that occupies a special place in the life of most nations. Its exceptional status on the cognitive, emotional, linguistic, and cultural worldview scales (individual and collective) is mentioned in the works of many domestic and foreign specialists representing different scientific fields [1-7 et al.].

Apropos communication. Sport, endowed with such valuable existential characteristics, is inevitably reflected in speech, language, discourse through various communicative practices. Cf.: "Sport is first and foremost a communication effect; it is communication that its significance is revealed through" [7]. Among the conventional communicative practices that organize the "order" of the sports-specific discourse is communication between the participants (athletes, coaches, consultants, etc.) of the discourse on professional topics (training, preparation for competitions, analysis of performances at sports events, etc.).

The spectators and participants of the sports industry, who are both emotionally and materially dependent on the quality of competitions, should also be borne in mind.

The agenda has now been forcedly transformed; the distribution of the dangerous virus - coronavirus - around the world has caused most major sports events, including international competitions, to be postponed or canceled altogether.

It should be emphasized that it is the first time in contemporary history this has happened due to an epidemic. Previously, major international competitions, such as the Olympic Games, were canceled only due to the events related to the world wars.

The rate of the late changes is also a defining feature of the situation: as early as in February 2020, all sports events were held with no restrictions all over the world, except for China. Two months after, a blanket ban on all sports events was instituted basically in all parts of the world (except for Belarus and Tajikistan).

 This new reality, which has rushed into our life (including the sports sector), determines the vector of deployment of the entire sports-specific discourse: the "Coronavirus" concept has become its main communicative profile, the actualization of which, according to our observations, takes place in different, sometimes quite non-standard projections.

Objective of the study was to analyze the contents of the narratives (in German, English, Polish, Italian and other languages) devoted to the sports-specific discourse and expansion on the coronavirus topic in different aspects.

Methods and structure of the study. The methodological basis for the study involved system description of the factual material (more than a hundred sources, including interviews with athletes, coaches, managers, and sports experts, blogs, sports fans' diaries, contributions of the representatives from academia, etc.) based on the cognitive and discourse analysis of the selected contexts. The study is to identify the current markers and projections of introspection of the discourse participants belonging to a different culture on the organization of own (first and foremost) professional activities in a new environment, in terms of new challenges and threats.

Results and discussion. Let us define the key projections in the organization of the sports-specific discourse, built around the subject area "Coronavirus".

Cognitive dissonance (the main purpose of physical education and sports activities is not fulfilled). According to D. Kul'man (a physical education teacher): "That sounds paradoxical, but it is true now. People get involved in sports to do something for their health. Now, they have to give it up since their health is at stake. What is more, we go to athletic associations to meet other people and even measure up in the chosen sport. But nowadays it is impossible due to the need to respect the distance" [8].

Professional dissatisfaction. Anna Sen', the Olympic handball champion: "Most athletes will agree with me - this is terrible news [the postponement of the Olympics] for those who have been training for many years. Since I won the Olympics once, I know what it is. I imagine what athletes are feeling now - total disappointment" [17].

Psychological fear. Ekaterina Fikil' (a basketball player competing on the Bundesliga team "Herner"): "It's a disaster, I'm afraid of getting completely broke. My contract expires in July this year, and no one can tell me what happens next" [9].

Emotional crisis. D. Hamann (a sports expert): "For athletes themselves, this situation can get quite difficult. Running a football match in the stadium without the audience, without the right atmosphere, without the fans chanting is somewhat unusual. This resembles an apocalypse. It will be rather difficult for pro athletes to adjust themselves to a "competitive mode" [10].

Violation of the usual "professional" routine of the athlete. A. Mitchell (a basketball player in the Italian professional league): "You’re used to playing with fans, that’s the practice. I don’t know if the word "creepy" is correct here when talking about matches without an audience, but quietly - that's for sure" [11].

Reappraisal of values and paradigm shift (rejection of multimillion-dollar contracts, reduction of wages, withdrawal from commercialization, etc.). G. Gebauer (a sports philosopher): "Mr. Gebauer, let us dip into the future. What lessons will elite sports learn from this crisis? - First of all, we must stop glorifying football. We must stop the dangerous development of sports. Today, problems of sports are nothing compared to what the coronavirus epidemic causes people" [12].

Financial losses to the organizers of the competitions all over the world as well as to bookies. Igor Stolyarov, Deputy CEO for Marketing of the Russian betting company "Liga Stavok": "It is commercial leagues making money off this that will be affected first, as well as clubs raising revenue. There are four key pillars of the sports marketing market - sponsorship rights, media rights, ticket rights, and merchandise. Some sponsorship contracts will likely be suspended because there is nothing to sponsor, they can be put on hold, revalued, or even terminated. The sports channels' economy will also be affected. Gate receipts will surely be reduced to zero, and they will have to compensate all spectators who, for example, bought a pass. If judge on all four revenue streams, I think the industry has lost 50% as of now".

The co-founder of Sports.ru website, Dmitriy Navosha: "We feel it in the audience that people want a sports show right now due to the quarantine and the need to stay home. People want to get away from bad thoughts and bad news, people want to finally see something interesting. Every day, we are losing partners and contracts developed for specific tournaments are being avoided" [18].

A threat to the principles of "fair play" (less doping control tests etc.). F. Zergel' (an anti-doping expert): "Doping objectors have problems, too, as medical personnel is understandably being called upon for other purposes. Since sports events are now forbidden, most of the doping tests are frozen. And this difference in the intensity of doping testing in different countries will only increase in the following weeks" [13].

Endangering the national sports heritage (cancellation or postponement of events that form the nation's cultural identity). Yves Leonard (a sports history expert): "The Tour de France cycling race is like a national anthem or flag for the French. This is a precedent phenomenon. In July, there was no life in France because of this cycling race. And now..." [14].

Last, but not least. Our review will be incomplete without analyzing the communicative behavior of sports fans.

Since football is still a world's top sport, let us turn to the discourse on football fans.

In our analysis, we noticed how quickly the consciousness of the representatives of this sub-culture had changed in the face of the crisis. If we take Germany as an example, it can be emphasized that the discourse of football fans has just been in the grip of the conflict with the owner of the Bundesliga club "Hoffenheim" D. Hopp (the club has bluntly circumvented the "sacred" rule "50+1", and this decision has caused strong protests from fans of different clubs); now, these problems no longer seem so global for worldviews of fans.

It is obvious that many people want to resume the Bundesliga matches, and this was shown by the recent opinion poll held by the WDR public TV channel (more than half of the respondents declared for continuing the championship).

It can be assumed that even in this case, "Homo fanaticus" (in the terminology of the German specialists R. Copitsa and G. Brinka) are guided exclusively by irrational rather than rational: fans whose behavior is largely regulated by their emotions need proper "fuelling", while everything else takes a back seat. The text placed on the fanzine's digital platform "schwatzgelb" is highly indicative in this respect. The fan of the "Borussia Dortmund" appears to be speaking on behalf of a multimillion-dollar army of football fans, re-tuning their coordinate system and ready to make many sacrifices to return to the usual fan practices: "And despite that, I’m looking forward to going to the stadium for the first time since the crisis. And if before the "corona" I dreamed of a vacation in the Caribbean with palms, supposedly magnificent sandy beaches, now, my dream has radically "shrunk" in terms of physical distance - now, to feel like I'm on vacation, it will be enough to travel a 5 km distance from my house to see the familiar stadium poles painted in the colors of the favorite club" [15].

The new reality forces sports fans to temporarily change the "pool" of addressees - they share words of encouragement and solidarity rather than verbal aggression: they address them to the medical staff being at the forefront of the fight against the epidemic, cf.: "When you have no strength left, just remember that the whole city is with you! - was written on the banner in Darmstadt. In Berlin, the "Union" fans expressed their solidarity as follows: "Every day, you fight for our lives, whether in hospital, nursing homes, or medical centers. Thank you»; the fans of the FC «Osnabrück» summed up "You are real heroes!" [16].

In concluding consideration of coronavirus pandemic as the new reality of the sports world, one should note a positive point too. The number of the affected top-class athletes is very low and is most likely due to their discipline, responsible attitude towards self-isolation, which, in the context of the healthy diet, individual trainings and supervision by the doctors in charge make them less susceptible to coronavirus.

The recorded cases of infection (for example, the football players of Italian "Juventus" Dybala and Rugani) occurred during the period when the number of social contacts with athletes was maximal due to their participation in the matches and communication with their fans.

Conclusion. The concept of "Coronavirus" has become an integral part of communication in sports, "spread" to the majority of its sections and the "sore" subject practically for everyone who is directly or indirectly involved in sports narratives. At this stage of "being" of the sports-related discourse, most conventional discursive scenarios (training, evaluation and self-evaluations of sports performance rates, etc.) have become obscure. Anxiety and apprehension become the dominant feeling, and every social group is characterized by its own, "intra-collective" feeling: athletes worry about their future professional career, they fear to lose emotions and motivation; sports management sees the risk of financial stability of the entrusted companies, organizations, clubs, etc.; fans worry about the forced "downtime" and impossibility to realize their collective practices; philosophers, sociologists warn about changes in the axiological, personal, communicative paradigm in sports, etc.

References

  1. Gumbrecht H.U. Praise to beauty of sports. Transl. from Engl. V. Feshchenko. M.: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie publ., 2009. 176 p.
  2. Zilbert B.A., Zilber B.A. Sports discourse: basic concepts and categories; research tasks. Language, consciousness, communication. M., 2001. no. 17. pp. 45-55.
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  7. Heil J. Die Rhetorik des Spitzensports. Berlin. Boston: Walter de Gruyter Verlag, 2012. 281 p.
  8. https://www.dosb.de/sonderseiten/news/news-detail/news/sportvereine-sind-keine-supermaerkte
  9. https://www.msn.com/de-de/sport/other/basketball-nationalspielerin-katharina-fikiel-ich-f%C3%BCrchte-um-meine-existenz/ar-BB12vVuA
  10. https://www.spiegel.de/sport/fussball/dfl-beraet-ueber-bundesliga-ohne-zuschauer-endzeitstimmung-als-letzte-hoffnung-a-bbea9fb1-b07f-4d8c-a9b1-15205402ab1d
  11. https://www.slate.com /culture 2020/03/akil-mitchell-coronavirus-italy-bassketball-no-fans.
  12. https://www.blick.ch/sport/sportphilosoph-gebauer-ueber-den-sport-nach-der-corona-krise-man-muss-den-fussball-vom-hohen-sockel-holen-id15818967.html
  13. https://www.sport1.de/olympia/2020/03/olympia-und-corona-doping-experte-soergel-fordert-absage-fuer-olympische-spiele
  14. https://www.spiegel.de/sport/tour-de-france-was-das-radsport-event-fuer-frankreich-und-seine-identitaet-bedeutet-a-9327458a-b627-4300-8398-157bd6e53f9b
  15. https://www.schwatzgelb.de/artikel/2020/unsa-senf/ich-freue-mich-auf-den-stadionbesuch
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  17. 17.https://matchtv.ru/olimpijskije_igry/matchtvnews_NI1173939_Khotelos_by_chtoby_v_zhizni_vse_ostavalos_kak_bylo_do_koronavirusa_Pervaja_reakcija_rossijskih_sportsmenov_i_trenerov_na_zajavlenije_MOK
  18. https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4289827

Corresponding author: smolguba67@mail.ru

Abstract

Objective of the study was to analyze the contents of the narratives (in German, English, Polish, Italian and other languages) devoted to the sports-specific discourse and expansion on the coronavirus topic in different aspects.

Methods and structure of the study. The methodological basis for the study involved system description of the factual material (more than a hundred sources, including interviews with the athletes, coaches, managers, and sports experts, blogs, sports fans' diaries, contributions of the representatives from academia, etc.) based on the cognitive and discourse analysis of the selected contexts. The study aims at the identification of the current markers and projections of introspection of the discourse participants belonging to a different culture on the organization of own (first and foremost) professional activities in a new environment, in terms of new challenges and threats.

Results and conclusions. The article is devoted to the analysis of COVID-19 as a new reality of sports-specific discourse in different countries (Russia, Germany, Austria, Poland, Italy, France, etc.), the way it influences the order of discourse organization, as well as the cognitive, emotional, social, professional, communicative and other activities of the subjects of sports activity. The results of the study, newly emerged experience and practices are focused on a deeper understanding of the problem of the sports-specific discourse, identification of the points of bifurcation triggered by the crisis, and promotion of the search for solutions to the identified dissonance.