Our list of good sport literature reads

March 20, 2011

As I wrap up editorial work on two books for my publishing house – Sport, Race, and Ethnicity: Narratives of Difference and Diversity, and Reading Baseball: Books, Biographies, and the Business of the Game,  I’m realizing that I’ve had a wonderful experience editing these two works. The first, edited byDaryl Adair, features essays from a multitude of international scholars in the fields of sport history, sport management, sport and culture, sociology, communications, and then some—all on the topics of race, ethnicity, and aboriginality in sport. The second book is a collection of essays by scholar Braham Dabscheck on the varying underpinnings of baseball: labor relations, sentimentalism, ambassadorship, race, and culture.

From my standpoint as a reader only, I have to say that these two books are wonderful, and although “pegged” as sport pseudo-academia (I say this because of the entertaining value on top of the intellectual value), they shouldn’t be confined by the framework of sport. These books are for anyone with an interest in humanity. Sport serves only as the vehicle to deliver the stories.

Which brings me to my topic: Too often I see hungry readers, who have no vested interest in sports, bypassing sport literature. As an editor, writer, and journalist, I feel I must make a case for sport literature as a foundation for humanity. The best way to do this is to take a look at a solid reading list, hand-picked by scholars. Attached below is a recommended reading list by writers and scholars in the field—Dr. Steven Pope, Dr. Braham Dabscheck, and Dr. John Nauright (see bottom of article for biographies):

The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture (1994), by Gerald Early. From the jacket: “The sport of prizefighting forms the intellectual core and central metaphor of this celebrated collection by one of our most daring writers. Early’s subjects, though, range far and wide—his insights and expertise illuminate subjects from multiculturalism, Black History Month, and baseball to racist memorabilia, Malcolm X, early jazz music, and the raising of daughters. Important and captivating, The Culture of Bruising, as William Gass has written, ‘provide[s] for the reader an almost continuous revelation.’”

Beyond a Boundary (1963), by C.L.R. James. John Nauright says, “In the book James recounts the history and legacy of colonialism in his native Trinidad and how that history impacted on his own life and on the development of the sport of cricket in the Caribbean. James, a leading Marxist influenced scholar, was influenced by his favorite novel, Vanity Fair and was a life long passionate follower of cricket, not a sport usually associated with the masses. In the West Indies, however, cricket did become a lingua franca that permeated all classes and races. Beyond a Boundary tells this story with passionate expression, keen cultural insight and a political edge that all merge to generate a compelling study of history, culture, politics and sport in the Caribbean.”

Crossing Boundaries: An International Anthology of Women’s Experiences in Sport (1999), edited by Susan Bandy and Anne S. Darden. From the jacket: “Crossing Boundaries is the first anthology of its kind—international in scope, cross-cultural in context, and uniquely female in content. The collection includes poetry, short stories, prose memoirs, dramas, and journalistic works by women from over twenty countries, including such celebrated contemporary authors as Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Wislawa Szymborska, and Joyce Carol Oates. The female voices that resonate through these works are often angular, raging, and knowing; at other times they are soft, melodic, peaceful, and yearning.

Baseball: The Early Years / Baseball: The Golden Age, by Harold Seymour, Oxford University Press, New York, 1960 / 1971. From Dabscheck: “Early work that demonstrated that sport was capable of research and writings norms associated with other areas of scholarship.”

Eight Men out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series, by Eliot Asinof, Owl Book, New York, 1987 (first published 1963). From Dabscheck: “A classic study of one of the greatest scandals in the history of sport.”

Lapham’s Quarterly, Vol. III, No. 3, (Summer 2010). This edition is titled “Sport & Games.” From Lapham’s introduction: “One not need be American to know that sport is play and play is freedom. It’s not a secret kept from children in Tahiti or Brazil. Dogs romp, whales leap, penguins dance. That play is older than the kingdoms of the Euphrates and the Nile is a truth told by the Dutch scholar, Johan Hizinga, in Homo Ludents, his study of history that discovers in the ‘primeval soil of play’ the origin of ‘the great instinctive forces of civilized life,’ of myth and ritual, law and order, poetry and science. ‘Play,’ he said, ‘cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.’”

Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos and the Color Line, by Adrian Burgos Jr., University of California Press, Berkley, Los Angeles and London, 2007. From Dabscheck: “A nuanced account of the changing role of Latinos in the national pastime and nuances and subtleties associated with race in the American experience.”

Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball, by Stephen Jay Gould, Jonathan Cape, London, 2004. Dabscheck says, “One of the great thinkers of modern times demonstrates how logic and scientific method can be applied to unravelling various aspects of American baseball.”

Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball, by John Helyar, Ballantine Books, New York, 1994. Dabscheck: “An account of the internal operations of an unstable cartel.” Read the rest of this entry »


Martin Luther King: The Measure of Man (and sport)

January 18, 2011

In recent months we, the staff at Fitness Information Technology, have had the privilege of publishing (or are preparing to publish) some fine books that have examined the history, culture, and defining roles of African-Americans in sport. These books, together with yesterday’s celebration of what would have been Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 82nd birthday, has helped our office gain considerable introspect to the dynamics of the sporting arena, and how it has shaped the lives of not only the African-American community, but the national and global community of sport as a whole. We have found that while much focus has been brought to the triumphs of African-Americans in sport, there exists a parallel side—a bleaker side—that shows we still have much to change. Yet we still have much to be thankful for.

The realm of sport in America is a complicated one. Throughout America’s history, the role of the black athlete has been severely limited; many athletes suffered mightily through poor wages, hostile crowds, and even saboteurs and cheating. In the upcoming Sport, Race, and Ethnicity, edited by Daryl Adair, author and scholar Andrew Ritchie brings new focus to Major Taylor, an African-American cyclist who resorted to racing in white Australia to escape the horrors of racing at home. At the time, white Australia was very intolerant towards Aborigines and blacks, yet they observed the champion cyclist with a sort of wondrous enthusiasm as explained by Taylor when he first arrived:

I could not restrain my tears as I looked over the side of the liner and saw hundreds of boats . . . decked out with American flags with their whistles tooting and men and women aboard them with megaphones greeting me with this salutation, ‘Taylor, Taylor! Welcome Major Taylor!’

In another chapter by Randy Roberts, the iconic, prize-fighting white brawler, John L. Sullivan, is showcased against another icon of American masculinity—the legendary black fighter Jack Johnson. Roberts writes how Sullivan declined to fight black boxers in 1892—although there were several great contenders within the ranks–and,

In one stroke, Sullivan banned black boxers from the empire of American masculinity. He set a precedent—Jim Crowing the most important athletic title at a time when ‘separate but equal’ was becoming the law of the land.

But we need not look too far back to realize that African-Americans in modern sport are still facing troublesome times, even though great changes have been made in terms of equality. Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and author of 100 Pioneers: African Americans Who Broke Color Barriers in Sport, shared some of his thoughts:

In the 1970s, African-American student-athletes were graduating at rates hovering around 25 percent and were not employed in any significant way in college athletic departments, professional franchises, or league offices. It was easy to conclude that African-American athletes were being used and exploited at that period of time. Students would come to our colleges and universities dreaming that they would become a pro or at least have a college degree and go home to their communities with neither and seem to be double losers.

After many years of pressure and studies, the disparity between blacks and whites in the hiring practices has certainly changed. Now all of the major professional sports leagues that we cover in the Racial and Gender Report Cards receive A’s in their racial hiring practices and B’s for gender hiring practices.

The sad exception is college sport, where issues of unfair hiring practices or lack of opportunity for African-Americans are still too evident. Women still coach less than half of the women’s teams in college sport. In terms of the graduation rates, the rates of African-Americans have increased dramatically. The greatest remaining problem in that area is that the disparity between the graduation rates for African-Americans and whites is still too significant. More pressure is needed, as exerted by organizations like the Black Coaches and Administrators.

Braham Dabscheck, industrial relations scholar, sporting aficionado, and author of the upcoming Reading Baseball: Books, Biographies, and the Business of the Game, explores, within parts of his book, complicated labor intricacies and how they have been applied to racial divides. Dabscheck wrote about the different worlds Babe Ruth and Satchel Paige—“The Darling of Whiteball and the Epicentre of Blackball”—lived and competed in. He compared the men as being at the top of their game—in hitting and pitching, respectively—and they both had rambunctious nocturnal lives, yet, “The real difference between Paige and Ruth, of course, is that they lived in two different United States of Americas . . . during his prime, Paige was denied the chance to display his talents in the ‘big-time’ because of the color of his skin.”

But Dabscheck was among those who celebrated the inroads that Martin Luther King created within the spectacle and culture of sport, writing to us:

[Dr. King] had a dream that his children would ‘live up in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’

Sport is one such arena where African-American athletes have demonstrated again and again that they are equal to any of the ‘great stars’ who have dazzled us with their skills and daring. Sport, in its celebration of excellence, is intolerant of arrangements or ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ which discriminate on the basis of race, color, or creed.

In terms of the long march of African-Americans towards equality, Jackie Robinson—who broke the color barrier in ‘The National Pastime’ when he turned out for his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947—has assumed an important role as an exemplar of Martin Luther King’s dream. He was just one of many such athletes, in baseball and other sports, who have demonstrated the equality of opportunity, not so-called racial or other characteristics, is the key to success and performance.

Here, at FiT, we are proud to help promote the academic and cultural backgrounds of sport—the raw beginnings of social change, the overtures of hope, the spirit of pure competition, and the endurance of the spirit. We thank our authors, readers, and colleagues for their assistance in improving our world to one in which we can be proud of, and we thank Dr. King for providing a great foundation of ideals in which we can follow and invoke.

Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy. – From the speech, “The Measures of Man,” 1959. (In memoriam, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 2011)


Daryl Adair is an associate professor of sport management at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. He is the editor of an upcoming collection of essays, titled Sport, Race, and Ethnicity: Narratives of Difference and Diversity, to be published by Fitness Information Technology this summer, 2011.

Richard Lapchick is a pioneer in social change and racial equality in sport. He is chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida. He is also the director for both the Institute for Diversity and Ethics and Sport and the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. He has written extensively on race, gender, diversity, and hope in sport, including the titles 100 Pioneers: African Americans Who Broke the Color Barrier, 100 Campeones: Latino Groundbreakers Who Paved the Way in Sport, 100 Trailblazers: Great Women Athletes Who Opened Doors for Future Generations, and150 Heroes: People in Sport Who Make This a Better World, published by FiT.

Braham Dabscheck is an industrial relations scholar, sports writer and enthusiast, and author of the upcoming title, Reading Baseball: Books, Biographies, and the Business of the Game, to be published this summer, 2011, by FiT.

Ozzie Guillén shames MLB on Latino relations, but is this just another rant?

August 5, 2010

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen argues with umpire crew chief Gary Cederstrom after being ejected from the game following a bench clearing brawl in the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, August 3, 2008, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT)

Outspoken White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén kicked over the cultural ant hill last week with his public commentary on how Latino baseball players aren’t getting the same treatment as Japanese players.

Does his argument have merit, or is it more of his usual verbal artillery?

“Very bad. I say, why do we have Japanese interpreters and we don’t have a Spanish one? I always say that. Why do they have that privilege and we don’t? Don’t take this wrong, but they take advantage of us. We bring a Japanese player and they are very good and they bring all of these privileges to them. We bring a Dominican kid . . . go to the minor leagues, good luck. Good luck. And it’s always going to be like that. It’s never going to change. But that’s the way it is.

“I’m the only one to teach the Latinos about not to use [performance-enhancing drugs in the MLB]. I’m the only one and Major League Baseball doesn’t [care]. All they care about [is] how many times I argue with the umpires, what I can say to the media. But I’m the only one in baseball to come up to the Latino kids and say not to use this and I don’t get any credit for that. They look at you and say, ‘Good for you, Ozzie.’” I did it for the Latino kids . . . I want to help those kids.”

He stated that his rhetoric was “filtered” by the media, saying they isolated his specific comments on the plight of the Latino baseball player. However, his words come at a time when the Federal Government is challenging the state of Arizona in court over immigration and profiling issues; when congressmen and women are trying to change the 14th Amendment of the Constitution in order to eliminate “dump and run” babies born in the United States by immigrant parents; and when there is an overall sense of tension between many Latino and non-Hispanic citizens of this country.

“Sport is an important barometer of assumptions about ‘race,’ ethnicity, and Aboriginality,” wrote Daryl Adair in his introduction to the book Sport, “Race,” Ethnicity, and Aboriginality: Narratives of Difference and Diversity. His comments are given particular meaning in this instance, where Guillén, the first Latino manager to win a World Series, is one man in a league where 30% of the players and managers call themselves Latino—a rarity in the professional sporting world.

What about Guillén’s comments? Do they have merit? Horacio Ruiz, the leading editor and a contributor to Richard Lapchick’s book, 100 Campeones: Latino Groundbreakers Who Paved the Way in Sport, said, “I don’t completely agree with what he is saying, but I think he does bring up many valid points and has gotten the baseball community to talk about an issue that needs more attention.” Read the rest of this entry »

Latino Athletes Turning Sporting Arenas into Political Arenas

May 14, 2010
Viva Los Suns

On Cinco de Mayo, the Phoenix Suns reached out to their Latino fans, and, for a day, become "Los Suns."

Arizona is feeling the heat. After their recent hard line policy shift on immigration, the Grand Canyon State is now facing a number of hardships—and, interestingly enough, some of the biggest political clout is coming from Latino athletes.

With the looming fear of racial profiling on the horizon, the Latino culture has been unifying and pressuring the Arizona government to repeal, amend, or suspend the current “anti-immigration” legislation. But the athletes—and just as importantly, their fans—have begun to attack a very vulnerable weak spot in today’s recession-driven landscape . . . the economy.

Phoenix’s Chase Stadium is the site of the 2011 Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game, and a large contingent has been hammering at MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to move the event to another state. Fenton, a consulting firm leading the charge, has been privy to landmark rights cases before, having challenged apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. Fenton launched a website called movethegame.org, offering a petition for users to sign.

Major League Baseball, which boasts a membership of at least 30% Latinos, is finding itself in a precarious position, reaching a wide swath of audiences. The Associated Press reported that Selig has elected to keep the All-Star Game in Arizona, stating, “I told the club today: ‘Be proud of what we’ve done.’ They are. We should. And that’s our answer. We control our own fate, and we’ve done very well.”

In the AP story, Selig cited sports sociologist, author, and activist Richard Lapchick’s report from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport last month that gave baseball an “A” for race, and a “B” for gender hiring.

The MLB Player’s Association did take a more pronounced position after deliberating at length, and issued a statement, given by Executive Director Michael Weiner:

My statement reflects the institutional position of the Union. It was arrived at after consultation with our members and after consideration of their various views on this controversial subject.
The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States. These international players are very much a part of our national pastime and are important members of our Association. Their contributions to our sport have been invaluable, and their exploits have been witnessed, enjoyed and applauded by millions of Americans . . . The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written. We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly.

Professional leagues and teams have been demonstrating their support for Latinos with recent crossover marketing. Later this baseball season, the ‘Cerveceros’ of Milwaukee will play the ‘Piratas’ of Pittsburgh.

In March, 10 NBA teams wore jerseys that targeted to their Latino fans. But more prescient was the decision of the Phoenix Suns to wear their “Los Suns” jerseys during a playoff game against the Spurs on Cinco de Mayo—after the Arizona legislation passed. (To be fair, San Antonio would have worn their “Los Spurs” jerseys had they been available.)

“The Suns and managing partner Robert Sarver should be applauded for their move,” said Horacio Ruiz, a contributing writer to 100 Campeones: Latino Groundbreakers Who Paved the Way in Sport, which is a title being published this summer by Fitness Information Technology. “Surely they are conscious of the Latino fan base they have and also the role that sports has in society. Anyone that argues that sports should be left alone and outside the influence of politics and social movements just doesn’t understand the history of sports and its foundations.”

Jim Litke wrote in an article that the upcoming census is likely to reveal that Latinos will constitute close to 15% of the population of the United States, with a purchasing power of one trillion dollars.

Arizona has seen this sort of pressure before, however, when the majority of state citizens voted to not officially observe the Martin Luther King, Jr., national holiday in 1990. The NFL Players’ Association helped to lead a boycott against the state, and Super Bowl XXVII, slated to be held in Arizona in 1993, was moved to Pasadena, California. Arizona soon voted again to adopt the official observation, and was awarded Super Bowl XXX in 1996.

“The immigration issue presents itself as a political and sociological issue as large as those that have come before it,” said Ruiz. “Why can’t sports now be a theater of protest and demonstration like it has in the past?”

Regardless of how one observes the current situation in Arizona, it is difficult to deny the amalgamating power of the sporting arena—one of the few places where the public at large can unify against a common enemy . . . the opposing team.

Horacio Ruiz is a contributing writer to Richard Lapchick‘s upcoming book, 100 Campeones: Latino Groundbreakers Who Paved the Way in Sport. He has also contributed to Lapchick’s previous titles, 100 Pioneers: African-Americans Who Broke Color Barriers in Sport, and 100 Trailblazers: Great Women Who Opened Doors for Future Generations.

You can also read more about how sports have transcended the color barrier in the recently published Long Run to Freedom, by John Nauright, and the upcoming Sports, Race, and Ethnicity, a collection edited by Daryl Adair.