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This article critically investigates and assesses two prominent "sites" of rhetorical/cultural significance in the Red River Valley: Bonanzaville U.S.A. and Redhawks baseball. Through rhetorical/critical engagement, the authors contend that these two places represent two significant rhetorical/cultural themes: preservation and entertainment. We assess both of these themes in relation to how Bonanzaville U.S.A. metaphorically emphasizes the theme of preservation and how Redhawks baseball metaphorically signifies entertainment. The analysis is aided by metaphor theory that posits those human beings think, act, and ultimately communicate metaphorically. Finally, the authors profile the implications of the analysis.
In her forward to the spring/summer 1998 issue of Prairie Portraits, co-editor Elizabeth Blanks Hindman invites readers to enjoy the various aspects of culture represented in the Red River Valley by engaging their senses. Hindman invites Prairie Portraits readers to: "see summer thunderstorms roll in from the west smell the early flowers of spring [and] taste the traditional foods of the cultures represented here, and [we] feel a sense of belonging." Hindman's invitation to "sense" Red River Valley culture is enticing, yet, as Hindman would agree, we experience culture in ways other than sensory. Not unlike others, we here in the Red River Valley spend a lot of time creating, reinforcing, maintaining, and perpetuating our culture, our heritage, and our "way of life." As noted literary critic Kenneth Burke reminds us in his book Attitudes Toward History (1984), we preserve our history and culture by setting aside those places and spaces that occupy our most treasured memories. Thus, as we experience culture in the Red River Valley, as Hindman's eloquent invitation entices us to do, we also preserve and protect our culture by reverently visiting those most "sacred" of places in the Valley: Newman Outdoor Field home of the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, and Historic Bonanzaville U.S.A. located in West Fargo.
In this essay, we discuss Newman Outdoor Field (with emphasis on Redhawks baseball) and Bonanzaville U.S.A. as metaphorical places. We contend that these two places metaphorically represent two cultural themes cherished in the Red River Valley: preservation and entertainment. Aiding our interpretation of these places are the insights provided on metaphorical theory provided by Burke and linguist I. A. Richards. Moreover, we discuss the scholarly work focusing on visual metaphors to reinforce both the linguistic and visual "function" of metaphors. Finally, we discuss the metaphorical themes of preservation and entertainment as we see them manifested at Newman Outdoor Field (Redhawks baseball games) and at Bonanzaville U.S.A., and draw some critical implications.
Bonanzaville and Baseball
We focus on Bonanzaville U.S.A. and Newman Outdoor Field as significant places of cultural significance for two reasons. First, both are popular places in the Red River Valley that many people visit. It is estimated that in 1997, over 600,000 people visited Newman Outdoor Field basically for entertainment purposes (Redhawks website, 1998). Whether to watch a baseball game or to attend a blue's festival, Newman Outdoor Field is certainly a popular site where people from diverse backgrounds join together. Bonanzaville U.S.A. receives the same sort of popularity, not necessarily in the numbers of people who visit, but because it houses many of the cultural and historical artifacts that many people associate with Red River Valley culture. Second, both places provide a good comparison of the cultural complexity in the Red River Valley. Newman Outdoor Field exists precisely because it offers people the opportunity for entertainment. On the other hand, Bonanzaville U.S.A. exists to preserve cultural history. It is this tension between entertainment and preservation where we contend a further understanding of the culture of the Red River Valley and how communication impacts, reinforces, and maintains it, takes shape.
Before moving into a discussion of metaphors, and specifically the metaphorical themes of preservation and entertainment, we provide a brief orientation to both Bonanzaville U.S.A. and Newman Outdoor Field.
Located adjacent to the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo, North Dakota, Bonanzaville U.S.A. is home to a variety of historical artifacts and re-constructions ranging from ancient Native American bone-tools to a 1952 Packard prominently exhibited in the automobile collection. Bonanzaville U.S.A. is a restored pioneer village and site for the Red River and Northern Plains Regional Museum, both operated by the Cass County Historical Society (Freed, 1989). Inside the forty-five museum buildings, visitors discover antique cars, farm machinery and horse-drawn vehicles, airplanes dating from early as 1911, a railroad depot with an original steam locomotive, and a model train exhibit. Other attractions include a display tracing the development of the telecommunications industry from the invention of the telephone in 1876 to the present, and a large doll collection featuring figurines of many nationalities. The village's other builds include replicas of a country school, church, town hall, jail, creamery, doll house, sod house, log homes, hotel and bar, blacksmith shop, print shop, drug store, general store, and barber shop. In all, Bonanzaville U.S.A. has over 150 exhibitions dotting its "Main Street" decor.
Approximately five miles northeast of Bonanzaville U.S.A. and located on North Dakota State University's campus in Fargo is Newman Outdoor Field, home of the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks Professional Baseball Club. Built as a joint venture between the Redhawks, the City of Fargo, and North Dakota State University, Newman Outdoor Field comfortably seats over 4, 500 fans and contains twelve luxury boxes and a full-sized press box on the stadium's third level.
Construction for the 4 million dollar stadium began in 1995. Besides housing various concession and food vendor sites, Newman Outdoor Field also features a rentable hot tub, a scoreboard that features a six-foot high display screen with manual running score, and a playground/recreational facility for kids ("Fargo firm awarded," 1995). The development and construction of Newman Outdoor Field received much public support in 1995. Yet, some dissension for the project arose when a group of citizens petitioned for a public vote arguing that the eventual price of the completed stadium would exceed the 3.7 million dollar price tag put up by the cities of Fargo and Moorhead, MN, and North Dakota State University (Pantera, 1995). As mentioned above, the completed price for the stadium was 4 million. To raise the additional funds needed to pay for the stadium without burdening taxpayers, city officials put forth a public relations campaign seeking corporate sponsorship for the stadium. In return for paying off the debt from under budgeting the cost of the completed stadium, the corporate sponsor's name would grace the stadium's official name. In March 1998, the Newman Outdoor Sign company provided the needed corporate sponsorship for the stadium, and on July 30, 1998, the stadium was officially dedicated as Newman Outdoor Field before a sellout crowd (Schnepf, 1998). Besides hosting over sixty Redhawks and North Dakota State University baseball games per year, Newman Outdoor Field also holds the annual Fargo-Moorhead Blues Festival in mid August.
Historically, the study of metaphor has been chastised as well as championed as a linguistic device (Gill, 1994). Yet, recently, much scholarly attention is being paid to the rhetorical function of visual metaphors (Aden, 1994; Foss, 1996; Kaplan, 1990, Meister, 1997). Our discussion of metaphor first begins with its traditional association as a linguistic device. Next, we profile the concept of visual metaphor.
According to Gill (1994), the study of metaphor's linguistic function has received mixed reviews. Some scholars banish metaphor to "a role as mere embellishment and argue that it obfuscates the search for truth" (Gill, 1994, p. 65). Other scholars elevate linguistic metaphor as the foundation principle of language and, in some cases, defining the operation of metaphor as the process of human intelligence. Disregarding linguistic metaphor as simply ornamentation or "pretty rhetoric," metaphor arguably offers insight into how we create, re-create, and assign meaning (Burke, 1984).
In his work Poetics, Aristotle mentions that "Metaphor consists in giving the thing a name that belongs to something else; the transference being either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or on grounds of analogy" (as cited in Gill, 1994, p. 66). Metaphor for Aristotle is a borrowing of proper meaning from another name, another word. That is, metaphors add to the connotative meaning of a statement, beyond the "proper" or intended meaning (Farrell & Goodnight, 1981; Gill, 1994; Ivie, 1986; Osborn, 1967).
German philosopher Ernest Cassirer argues that "[l]anguage is, by its very nature and essence, metaphorical" (as cited in de Saussure, 1959, pp. 23-24), while Burke defines metaphor as "a device for seeing something in terms of something else" (1969, p. 503). Metaphors, says Burke, are used to gain perspective.
The notion that metaphors aid in the creation of meaning and perspective is the basic thesis behind George Lakeoff and Mark Johnson's book Metaphors We Live By. Lakeoff and Johnson (1980) suggest that "the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another" (p. 5). Here we see the prominence and importance of metaphor as a linguistic construct in everyday lives. Simply put, we create and assign meaning to our lives metaphorically. Both thought and experience (language usage) become meaningful precisely because of the rhetorical function metaphor plays in our lives. One of the first modern students of metaphor, I. A. Richards reinforces the importance of metaphor as fundamental in the creation of meaning by contending that metaphor use is innate in all language speakers (Gill, 1994). Richards (1965) discusses two components of a metaphor whereby the underlying idea or principle subject of the metaphor is called the "tenor." The "vehicle" is the means of conveying what the tenor resembles (or intends to resemble). For Richards, metaphor is not ornamentation added to language; it is the constitutive form of language (Langer, 1953). Thought is metaphoric and "proceeds by comparison, and the metaphors of language derive therefrom" (Richards, 1981, p. 94).
As the above discussion illustrates, metaphor is a highly significant linguistic device. The saliency of metaphor exists because the essence of assigning meaning is predominantly metaphorical. Basically, we speak, think, and act metaphorically. Because metaphor is a fundamental mode of conceiving reality, it is logical to assume that we not only use metaphors in our language use, but also in assigning meaning to those objects, places, and scenes we see (Berger, 1998).
Foss (1996) points out that rhetorical scholars are increasingly becoming interested in the rhetorical aspects of visual imagery. Visual imagery has recently replaced written texts in many pieces of rhetorical criticism. In particular, visual images and artifacts such as space (Aden, 1994; Foss & Gill, 1987; Katriel, 1994; Rosenfield, 1989), architecture (Foss, 1986; Twigg, 1992), art (Foss, 1988, 1993; Reid, 1990), film (Fretz & Rushing, 1993), and advertising (Goffman, 1980; Jhally, 1987, Kaplan, 1990; Williamson, 1978) have replaced verbal and written artifacts in rhetorical scholarship. According to Berger (1998), "[w]e communicate through images. Visual communication is a central aspect of our lives, and much of this communication is done indirectly, through symbolic means: by words and signs and symbols of all kinds" (p. 1). Moreover, places, and cultural sites are interpreted metaphorically. In their book Place, Culture, Representation (1993), James Duncan and David Ley argue that we experience and understand certain places, geographies, landscapes, and spaces by drawing interpretive metaphors on how they shape culture. Just as in metaphorical language use, "seeing" a metaphor often represents other than an intended or desired meaning. "Seeing" metaphors in the places we visit are often related to cultural experiences (Sack, 1992; Soja, 1989).
This point is reinforced by Blair, Jeppeson, and Pucci (1991) in their analysis of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and by Meister (1997) in his analysis of Jeep Cherokee advertisements. As a site of cultural reflection, "the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is an instance of an emergent discourse within the cultural rhetoric of public commemorative monuments" (Blair, Jeppeson, & Pucci, 1991, p. 290). Metaphorically, the memorial facilitates an emotional response, and represents what the Blair, Jeppeson, & Pucci call a "postmodern commemorative text" (1991, p. 290). Meister (1997) argues that the United Nations discourse on sustainable development is metaphorically represented in advertisements for Jeep Cherokees. Since the language of sustainable development (achieving global economic prosperity through environmental engagement) is highly ambiguous, it invites visual representations. In print advertisement for Jeep Cherokees, the visual image of technology (the Jeep) is always set upon the highly aesthetic image of nature. It is in this visual manifestation whereby print advertisements can function metaphorically.
Baseball and Bonanzaville as Preservation and Entertainment
Recall that we are interested in the cultural tension that exists between two significant cultural themes: preservation and entertainment. Arguably, these themes reinforce, implicitly and explicitly, cultural values. That is to say that as a species, human beings are preoccupied with symbolizing their culture in ways that function to preserve it and be amused by it. Neil Postman (1985) in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, argues that to understand culture, in all its mediated visual manifestations, one must understand the visual function of metaphor and its impact on culture. Notes Postman (1985): "[f]or although culture is an expression of speech, it is recreated anew by every medium of communication, from painting to hieroglyphics to the alphabet to television. Each medium, like language itself, makes possible a unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation for thought, for expression, for sensibility" (p. 10). Since the visual medium is highly communicative, as Postman points out, it potentially also functions to anchor, in the visual-cultural, not only our need for tradition and preservation, but also quenches our consumer-biased appetites and fetishes for entertainment.
The irony existing between preservation and entertainment is slight at first glance, yet striking upon closer examination. Cultural preservation, argues Raymond Williams (1981) in his book The Sociology of Culture, reinforces the histories, traditions, institutions, commonplaces, and ideologies of a culture by seeping them in public memory, thus insulating them and protecting them from extinction. Whereby preservation is labor-intensive, we, consequently, also strive for pleasure, comfort, and entertainment. In the modern commodity-focused world of consumer demand, cultural theorist Robert David Sack (1992) argues that present cultural affairs reflect the need for relaxation. The demands associated with the labor-intensive acts of cultural preservation (pursuing "legacy insurance" as coined by political scientist Murray Edelman) encourages a bias for folly (Edelman, 1988). Simply put, our tendencies toward cultural preservation (maintaining our jobs, caring for our families and homes, celebrating our religions, paying our taxes, voting for public officials, appreciating our pasts, etc.) generally makes us yearn for the mind-numbing and comical (professional wrestling and other sporting entertainment, shopping, travel, etc.).
To further elaborate on this tension between cultural preservation and amusement we begin discussing how Bonanzaville U.S.A. represents the metaphorical theme of preservation. To clarify this theme, we discuss Bonanzaville U.S.A. using "church" metaphors. We then discuss the entertainment theme and discuss Redhawks baseball using circus metaphors.
Bonanzaville U.S.A. as a Church
Arguably, religion exists not only to facilitate faith, charity, and redemption, but also to preserve the histories and traditions associated with faith. Religious ceremonies, symbols, hymns, and sacraments all aid to encourage faith, but also to perpetuate and preserve it well into the future. The sacrament of baptism in the Christian tradition, for example, is significant because it is a demonstration of faith. But it is also functions to preserve the faith in that the baptized (usually an infant) becomes associated with the rich history and tradition associated with the Christian faith. Religion is concerned with sharing the faith, but also in preserving it.
The church, synagogue, temple, or mosque is generally the place where faith is preserved. Faith is manifested in religious statues and symbols (crucifix, Star of David), and books (Bible, Koran, and hymnals) that are displayed and placed throughout the church. In many ways, the place of religion (church, synagogue, mosque, and temple) houses a collection of significant relics that represent the faith. Religion as a practice is preserved in a museum of sorts--the place we call "church."(1)
Bonanzaville U.S.A. is in many ways a church. Instead of preserving religious faith, Bonanzaville U.S.A. houses those relics, mementos, artifacts, and fossils that represent a cultural faith in tradition and institution. Where a religious church is a place of religious significance, Bonanzaville U.S.A. is a place of historical significance, yet both operate to preserve faith (in religion or in historical/cultural significance). Just like a church, the Bonanzaville U.S.A. collection of artifacts reminds its patrons of the intense labor, treacherous living conditions, and overly simple lifestyles (all compared to today's standards) of those living in the early years of the Red River Valley. Just as the church is a place for celebrating the supernatural, Bonanzaville U.S.A. (and other museums for that matter) is a place for celebrating and preserving human culture. We come to appreciate human progress when visiting Bonanzaville U.S.A. The simple hand tools found in many of the Bonanzaville U.S.A. exhibits, for example, were shaped and pressed either by the Native American chisel or by the blacksmith's hammer and fire, and not pressed by contemporary machinery and technology. This reminds us to appreciate the past's work ethic legacy--a legacy built upon not only religious and moral faith, but also upon a faith in human potential. We are reminded when looking at the rusty hand plane or the oak-shaft ax protected by a glass case, that the energy to work such tools came from the human machine and not from the technological machines of today.
We are reminded that early life in the Red River Valley was certainly not easy. Several exhibits discuss and recreate the living conditions for early Red River Valley settlers who challenged the vicious winter forces of nature. Notes one placard discussing early weather conditions in the Red River Valley:
The winter of 1889 was the worst winter to date in the Valley. It was said that it was so cold for so long that the trapping industry in the area literally froze up because most of the animals to be trapped were froze up. From October to April a thick haze of ice and wind encased the Valley.
Just as a religious church preserves human spirituality, the Bonanzaville U.S.A. church preserves human potential. Regardless of the obstacle to faith or natural circumstance, the human potential, epitomized through the legacy of labor, perseverance, and tradition, is preserved in history at Bonanzaville U.S.A. We are reminded when walking across the dirt floors of the sod-house exhibit that early trappers in the Red River Valley fought daily for survival. In visiting Bonanzaville U.S.A. we understand the complexities and perplexities of life, where the simplicity of hard work contributed not only for survival, but promoted the quality of life we presently enjoy as residents of the Red River Valley.
It is not surprising, then, that all roads and paths, whether dirt or concrete, at Bonanzaville U.S.A. lead to St. John's Lutheran Church. The church, located within the grounds of Bonanzaville U.S.A., is much more than an exhibit housing historical relics and artifacts. Visiting St. John's is a reminder of the contribution of faith and work ethic that Bonanzaville U.S.A. not only represents metaphorically, but also preserves.
Redhawks Baseball as Circus
Unlike the symbolic activities surrounding the church, the circus symbolically represents a different human preoccupation. Whereby the church preserves faith, and the "church" of Bonanzaville U.S.A. preserves work ethic traditions, a Redhawks baseball game at Newman Outdoor Field, quenches our thirst for entertainment. Just as the circus is a commodification and celebration of the extraordinary (animal acts, tight rope walkers, clowns, etc.), Redhawks baseball revels in the extraordinary antics of baseball players, coaches, umpires, concessionaires, and spectators, whose "acts" all contribute and promote entertainment.
Each Redhawks baseball game includes a souvenir program whereby spectators can anticipate and participate in the circus of minor league baseball. The Redhawks souvenir program is more than simply a listing of player names and profiles; it is an in-depth litany of what spectators can expect as the circus of baseball unfolds. Spectators are encouraged by the "ring-master" public address announcer to "check your lucky number program at the end of each half inning to see if you have won a gift from one of our outstanding sponsors." Just like the circus "ring-master" who introduces the clown acts, tight-rope walkers, or the trapeze artists, the Redhawks baseball "ring-master" introduces the baseball players, the scoreboard operator, the umpires (who sometimes take on the role of circus clowns as evident by the many jeers directed at them by players, coaches, and spectators), and corporate sponsors who all contribute to the circus atmosphere.
In between innings, spectators, not unlike those opportunities offered at a circus, are asked to participate in an entertaining and light-hearted competition. Those chosen from the crowd entertain the entire gathering by attempting to run to first base after spinning, head down around a bat, ten times. The folly is complete when the dizzy participants inevitably fall on their way to first base and the crowd cheers and laughs in appreciation. In yet another thrilling competition, a spectator is blindfolded, spun around ten times, and asked to find a cellular phone placed somewhere close around them. The larger audience cheers loudly when the participant, now blindfolded and crawling on their hands and knees, is close to finding the phone. When the participant is not close to finding the phone, the crowd's cheers subside.
Newman Outdoor Field, the circus "tent" of Redhawks baseball, also contributes to its entertainment bias. The circus spectacle is obvious as spectators watch the baseball game unfold because it is impossible to not notice the huge signs for local business that cover the outfield fence at Newman Outdoor Field. Advertising for television and radio stations, public utility companies, local taverns and eating establishments, and sporting good stores catch the spectators eye as it moves from left to right field. Walking through the concession level at Newman Outdoor Field, the spectator cannot escape the influence of advertising. Pizza, beer, brats, hot dogs, cotton candy, and the entire genre of circus "fare" are at the spectator's disposal. Even the children's playground, complete with sandboxes, swing-sets, and slides (not a usual activity center found at most baseball parks) has corporate sponsorship. The children's playground is sponsored by Ponderosa Restaurant. Consequently, parents who wish to actively participate in the circus atmosphere by watching the game can allow their children to play in the playground.
Besides the clear association between advertising and Redhawks baseball, what also contributes to its circus atmosphere is its focus on consumption. People come to watch Redhawks baseball for entertainment, and entertainment at Redhawks baseball games inevitably includes consumption. Like spectators at a circus who watch (consume) extraordinary events unfold, Rehawks baseball spectators watch (consume) the fantastic skills of the baseball players. Watching a thrilling catch or home run is entertaining because spectators witness it at it unfolds. Spectators consume and admire the skill associated with a diving catch or in turning a double play. Most significantly, however, spectators identify with the Redhawks most clearly when they win.
Conclusion and Implications
From our analysis of Bonanzaville U.S.A. and Redhawks baseball, we propose three critical insights. First, the seemingly "ironic" emphasis on preservation (work ethic) and entertainment apparent in an analysis of Bonanzaville U.S.A. and Redhawks baseball, second, an emphasis on the consumption of history and entertainment, and finally, the highly mythic and symbolic function associated with the metaphoric themes of preservation and entertainment.
Is not the dual tendency to emphasize cultural preservation and entertainment ironic? Irony, according to Burke (1984) implies contradiction. Thus, is it not contradictory to promote a cultural identity in the Red River Valley in terms of preservation and entertainment? Our analysis of each cultural text illustrates the seemingly ironic nature of Red River Valley culture: in one respect, the place of Bonanzaville U.S.A. metaphorically champions work and faith in human potential. Distinctly, Redhawks baseball metaphorically champions entertainment and faith in human consumption. The irony is stark when we think of these places as a church and circus respectively. Yet as Burke (1984) points out, the human impulse to symbolize and communicate is precisely the means by which we work out these seemingly contradictory positions. According to Burke (1984) this process is called "casuistic stretching" whereby "one introduces new principles while theoretically remaining faithful to old principles" (p. 229). Moreover, according to Burke (1984) "all 'metaphoric extension' is an aspect of casuistic stretching" (p. 230). The nature of language, for instance, allows us to emphasize the contradictory notions of preservation and entertainment. Yet, the focus on human potential illustrated at Bonanzaville U.S.A. allows us to presently focus on entertainment by attending a baseball game. Simply, our faith in the "church" of history allows us the redemption of entertainment. We metaphorically make sense out of seemingly contradictory cultural themes because as Burke points out, we remain faithful to old principles--those associated with work ethic and perseverance. Because of our faith in such cultural values and because of their prominent representation at Bonanzaville U.S.A. we metaphorically redeem ourselves with such pleasurable activities such as participating in the circus of baseball.
So in very significant ways, we can as visitors at Bonanzaville U.S.A. and as spectators at Redhawks baseball games come to symbolize with the dual and contradictory notions of preservation and entertainment. Through consuming the history at Bonanzaville U.S.A. we come to better and more appreciative understanding of early life in the Red River Valley. It is because we come to understand the trials and tribulations of early Red River Valley settlers by visiting Bonanzaville U.S.A., that we are able to entertain ourselves by participating in the circus of Redhawks baseball. The consumption of history offers the opportunity for entertainment. Such transformation and such "stretching" of symbolic dualities provide an opportunity for our present preoccupation with consumption. Viewing such a large collection of historical remnants from such a broad time frame at Bonanzaville U.S.A. allows the visitor to experience history broadly.
Finally, we find the themes of preservation and entertainment highly mythic symbolic constructions in our analysis of Bonanzaville U.S.A. and Redhawks baseball. Mythic rhetorical conceptions provide legitimacy to a culture because the stories they tell are timeless "lessons" which serve to reinforce the culture (Osborn, 1990, Solomon, 1990). Although we do not assess the mythic qualities of the preservation and entertainment themes in reference to Bonanzaville U.S.A. and Redhawks baseball, a more in-depth mythic analysis may reveal how such themes are reinforced culturally. Rather our assessment has focused on the metaphoric qualities of these themes. Future study of cultural metaphors, we suggest, should focus on their mythical qualities.
It is our hope that this article provides some critical insight into the Red River Valley culture, and how communication symbolically contributes in emphasizing preservation and entertainment. This essay profiles the symbolic tension between the cultural metaphors of preservation and entertainment by critically interpreting the Bonanzaville U.S.A. and Redhawks baseball.
1. We have chose the term "church" rather than "temple," "mosque," or "synagogue" because we feel that it is a general term that encompasses all other places of religious practice. Although the term "church" is generally associated with Christianity, we do not wish to imply that it is the only or proper term for a place of religious practice. Rather, as a general term, "church" is highly metaphorical, easily malleable and understood regardless of the religious practice. (Return to text.)
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