Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Deegan, Mary Jo, and Michael Stein. 1978. “American Drama and Ritual: Nebraska Football.” International Review of Sport Sociology 3 (13): 31-44. (With summaries in Russian, German, and French). [Reprinted, pp. 153-166 in The Sociology of the Offbeat, edited by Robert Khoury. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1982].


Copyright 1978 Mary Jo Deegan and Michael Stein


Football is a major sport in the United States because of its dramatic enactment of social values of violence, bureaucracy, sexism, and commercialism. The spectators of this game are particularly enthralled in the state of Nebraska. Here, a state with a large geographical area and a small, predominanty rural population, the ~' fans have elevated Nebraska football to a significant ritual and source for identification. As avid supporters they dress in the team colors, red and white; participate in pre- and postgame celebrations; travel great distances; and emotionally express their loyalty and dedication to "Big Red."

By combining the dramaturgical perspective of Erving Goffman with Victor Turner's concepts of liminality and communitas, we have a theoretical framework for analyzing and evaluating cultural dramas in modern society. Nebraska football as a dramatic ritual, then, reveals its creative and destructive roots in American society.