New Harrington Professor Hodler Explores Nationalism, Ethnicity & Sport

By Ian Weiner

            “I like the atmosphere of college campuses, where there are folks that are thinking through big questions, talking, working with each other. I’m looking forward to building something here with other folks that are excited, and the scholars that are already doing good work.”

            This past semester, the Harrington School of Communication and Media welcomed Matthew Hodler to their sports communication and media team. Hodler is currently teaching two sections of introduction to sports media and communication, a broad foundational course using a sociological and historical approach to sport in the media, and a new course on sports, media and culture. His students learn how the culture surrounding sport is related to society, and how the media’s portrayal of sport creates community.

            Hodler graduated from the University of Miami in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and went back to school four years later to complete his masters at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His motivation to complete his masters came as he was in the midst of a graduate-level intro to sport law course. He wrote his final paper for the course about the economic and commercials interests of the NCAA.  This solidified his interest in analyzing sports from an academic perspective rather than working in the sports industry.

                        After finishing his Masters, Hodler continued his education at the University of Iowa and earned a Ph.D. in Health and Sport Studies. He wrote his dissertation about the ideological complications of celebrating Michael Phelps’ acquiring eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympics, and has focused his research on race, gender and nationalism in sport since.   

Hodler also explained that in today’s society, cultural meanings surrounding sport and the way athletes of various races are celebrated can help showcase racialized nationalism. He connected this to our current political climate, noting that the current administration’s perceived attempt of redrawing the lines of nationalism.

            “How we depict certain athletes based on race, and portray them and then how those meanings are consumed by us as sports fans or people that work in sports is extremely fascinating,” Hodler said.

            Hodler explained that he accepted the position here in Kingston because he was able to meet with students during the interview process, and seeing them excited in the program was an experience he did not receive at other Colleges and Universities.

            In his classes, he hopes to give students the ability to think about media critically, and ask more interesting and complex questions about sport when consuming media. After finishing his introductory courses, he hopes to teach them how to read an academic article and concisely explain it back.

            “A friend of mine who works in the corporate world says that all the young folks that he works with have a hard time being concise and relaying information back to them,” Hodler said. “I try to make sure that I keep that in mind, and I have plenty of assignments that make students keep things nice and concise.”