Jean Baudrillard, 1929-2007 | Coining a ‘worldwide currency’ for football violence

Participation in a live street football match has fallen in importance in comparison to the glamorous performances of human gods on television. Wielders of power in hyperreal society benefit from this loss of human agency, according to Baudrillard. Mark Perryman, author of Philosophy Football (Penguin, 1997), quotes from Baudrillard’s In the Shadow of Silent Majorities (1982): “Power is only too happy to make football bear a facile responsibility, even to take upon itself the diabolical responsibility for stupefying the masses.” Baudrillard is pictured, in fact, with a contented expression, wearing the T-shirt bearing the slogan, produced by Perryman’s “Philosophy Football” concern. Perryman expands on the Baudrillard doctrine, as it finds expression, at left back, within Perryman’s mystical XI:

With every half-decent team copying the moves of their wealthier betters, football pretty soon looked the same from park-side to Premier elite. Jean lofted the ball into hyperreality in sheer frustration: the only thing that was real any more was what could be copied. A passing commercial manager’s ears pricked up. Rubbing his sweaty palms, he headed down to some fly-by-night backstreet factory to start churning out replica kit by the barrow-load. Suddenly you weren’t little Joe Brown racing down the wing for the Cub Scout First Eleven, but David Beckham, well, at least according to the name and squad number on your back. (31–32)

The contrast could not have been starker on Feb 22 as Dave G., or “Dave the Walker,” stumbled on the annual ba’ game in Jedburgh, Scotland, as part of his length-of-Britain trek from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. None of the participants wore team colors, but were divided according to centuries-old custom as “Uppies” and “Doonies.” The town, says Dave, seems “at war with itself. Shop windows in the high street are boarded and rain-soaked youths are splattered across the streets. People are running wild. Screams reverberate. It’s carnage” (“Day 39: Byrness to Jedburgh,” I’m So Dave, Mar 1). Such is the primordial violence, “more enthusiastic and more sacrificial” than the simulacra of today.

The ba’ games are not televised.



“I was born in Jedburgh as an uppie and will die an uppie!” writes Tam Miller on Sept 18. “I live and work in Jedburgh and play the Ba’ game.” He points out that injuries in earlier days resulted from kicking the ball through the streets; the game now is played strictly with the hands. Thus, it is called “Hand Ba’.” Pridefully, Miller writes that a Jethart Ba’ sits on display at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, Glasgow, near the Scottish Cup trophy.

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3 comments on this post.
  1. Jethart Ba' player:

    The Jethart Ba’ game may look like carnage to the untrained eye. I’m a local ba’ player in Jedburgh, and you will find there is a mutual repect between ba’ players and that the game polices itself. Violence is very rare.

    It looks rough-and-tumble but there are a great deal of tactics, skullduggery and bluffing going on all around you if you know where to look. There is quite a lot of skill involved on the ball-handling side.

    There are some great photos on the Scran Trust website that capture the ba’ game,

  2. The Global Game | Technology | 84 hours of MySQL (My Server Quietly Languished) hell:

    [...] Until one attempts to enter the labyrinth and pay obeisance to the database’s ultimate authority—to the control that the unreal wields over the real—there is no succor. At the level of the soul, one learns the truth behind Jean Baudrillard’s description of modern technologies as “expulsions of man” (see 12 Mar 07). [...]

  3. tam miller:

    Some more pics and this year’s video thanks to the Scotsman. There was a massive interest from press and TV crews this year … no idea why.

    Some pics here:

    Video here:

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