2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Thomas Oates

University of Iowa
The Blackout: Marketing the Politics of Gender, Race, and Space

In the past several decades, the “street,” an amorphous locale typically associated with segregated, black neighborhoods, has become the setting for several different kinds of commercialized narratives. In these accounts, the street is dangerous, but also alluring. In hip-hop music and film, and in “streetball” – a stylized and carefully curated form of basketball marketed by a variety of companies in the 1990s and 2000s, fantasies about male competition are presented for mainstream audiences. This paper focuses on a single point of this convergence – the 2007 documentary The Blackout. The film is about the 2003 Entertainer’s Basketball Classic, a tournament held in Holcombe Rucker Park in Harlem, New York City. It focuses on the fortunes of two teams organized by well-known hip-hop artists: Fat Joe’s “Terror Squad” and Jay-Z’s “S. Carter.” Through an analysis of the film’s narrative and its promotional strategies, I examine an example of a consistent media narrative that markets “the street” to mainstream audiences by invoking what Elijah Anderson calls “the iconic ghetto” as a space for masculine competition.