A node your homework release:

In Michael Gannon’s Understanding Global Cultures, the chapter entitled "American Football", (Chapter 16), provides an excellent and accurate metaphor for the exploration of American society or culture. Not only is this specific metaphor for American society a good one, but Gannon's favoring of metaphors over traditional didactic exegesis is keen. In the first chapter of the book, Gannon discusses and justifies his use of metaphors, writing that

[i]n essence, the [cultural metaphor teaching] method involves identifying some phenomenon or activity of a nation's culture that all or most of its members consider to be very important . . . The characteristics of the metaphor then become the basis for describing and understanding the essential features of the society (p.7).

Explanation and education cannot help but involve the use of metaphors, actually. Whether explicit or not, and whether the explainer realizes that (s)he is using metaphors or not, knowledge is educed in humans by drawing comparisons with other things which are already understood. Consider, for example, a dictionary, which is the most straightforward explanatory text imaginable. A dictionary explains what one word means in terms of other words which the reader must already know. While this is not the most common sense of the word metaphor, there is no essential difference; in metaphors, as in dictionary entries, one thing is explained in terms of other things which are already better understood. All education involves the use of metaphors.

Gannon’s choice to use metaphors explicitly is a good one for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that it makes his text more interesting and understandable. Furthermore, Gannon's approach encourages the reader's awareness of the learning process; it serves as a reminder that theory is imperfect, and that there is danger in applying cultural theories--whether metaphoric or not--very narrowly.

My experience growing up in America validates Gannon's specific use of the American football metaphor to describe American culture. For one thing, football is such an integral part of American culture that one could learn a lot about America simply by studying football itself without considering it in metaphoric terms. In the context of an explicit metaphor, it is even more useful.

Gannon notes three aspects of American football and compares them to American society: individualism and competitive specialization; huddling; and the ceremonial celebration of perfection (305). These three activities strongly reflect the American values I have observed in my culture. Ringing particularly true to me was the text's comparison of specialization in football with business individualism. Writes Gannon,

most Americans, when asked what they do, immediately describe their occupation or profession, unlike the Japanese, who tend to respond with the name of the company in which they work (306).
This brought to mind a tendency I had observed in my boyhood cohorts, who would spent considerable energy following the careers of individual professional sports players even more than teams. In addition to 'name-dropping' during sports play, they would collect and trade baseball (and other sports) cards featuring individual players and their career achievements.

Gannon’s reflection on the huddle is also interesting and accurate. He points out that the 1991 Super Bowl may very well have been won by the Giants because of their practice of huddling after every play, while their opponents (the Bills) huddled much less frequently (312). The huddle serves as a metaphor for the American business strategy meeting, which is considered essential to business success in America.

Cited above:
Gannon, Michael J. Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 28 Nations, Clusters of Nations, and Continents. Sage Publications. 2003(?).

Used as class material at the University of Maryland, College Park, in the College of Arts & Humanities. Since the text was issued to the class online, not all publication information is available. Publisher's name and date of publication, for example, discovered at Amazon.com.

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