"The Iron Cage", a term coined by Max Weber, one of the grandfathers of sociology, is the 'one set of rules and laws that we are all subjected and must adhere to'. He was referring to capitalism; I am referring to guidelines of social world. Maybe we're on a similar path.
The teams I saw yesterday were putting back threes like it was nothing. They showed the upmost respect for one another even in times of adversity on the court. Under the sun on West 4th and 6th , their grey and blue shirts were soaked with sweat, a public sign of the hustle. Many of them were toned, no doubt due to practices and an athletic lifestyle.
Spectators leaned up against the fences on all sides, bikes between legs, children in town, food in hand - untouched. They wanted to watch a ball game.
I was telling my mom on the phone a few weeks ago about my photography slump. She suggested I check out the West 4th courts; as she put it, "...there are always unbelievable games going on there". I did. And, like always, my mom was right.
There was a point in time where I would have written about how "aggressively" they played. How they had such grace and control over the ball, all the while thinking about what I expect from any basketball player. But, I am not going to justify those young women's skills in comparison to any man's skills. Why should I? They played well. Period.
Although I cannot take credit for the name itself, I can acknowledge its uncanny fit for this series. The Iron Cage, a socially constructed set of rules and a phenomenon that controls the female athletes, athletes of color, and any athlete of subordinated status' mobility is just what Weber theorized: it's a set of rules.
Although these fundamentals of social life are immaterial, 'The Cage' on West 4th is a space that both challenges and succumbs to its very name. It's a space where athleticism of any form is admired and approved. All sexes, genders, races, religions, and ages are allowed to watch and play. However, in being a public space, it becomes an arena wherein individuals put their selves on the line. Identities, and therefore, the rules of social life, are nurtured, formed, and reaffirmed via team ethics, body, 'natural talent', aggression, internal reasoning, and most importantly, external approval and acceptance.
The question, however, that sports sociologists, and athletes, consider on a daily basis is this: what happens when these rules are challenged and done so successfully?