American Sports : From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Televised Sports

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  • Edition: 5th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2004-01-01
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
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The Fifth Edition of this widely acclaimed book offers a gracefully written, analytical history of American sports from the colonial era to the present. It gives special attention to the meanings of sports in historical contexts and the historical relationship between sports and such social cleavages as class, race, ethnicity, gender and region as well as the power that sports have exercised in binding diverse peoples together.

Author Biography

Benjamin G. Rader is James L. Sellers Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is co-editor of the Sport and Society Series of the University of Illinois Press.

Table of Contents

1. Sports in Early America.
2. The Setting for Nineteenth-Century Sports.
3. The Sporting Fraternity and Its Spectacles.
4. The Rise of America's National Game.
5. Nineteenth-Century Sporting Communities.
6. The Rise of Intercollegiate Sports.
7. The Rise of Organized Youth Sports, 1880-1920.
8. The Setting for Organized Sports, 1890-1950.
9. The Age of Sports Heroes.
10. Baseball's Golden Age.
11. The Intercollegiate Football Spectacle.
12. The Club Sports Go Public.
13. The Rise and Decline of Organized Women's Sports, 1890-1960.
14. The Setting of Organized Sports Since 1950.
15. Professional Team Sports in the Age of Television.
16. College Sports in the Age of Television.
17. American Sports in a Global Arena.
18. The African American Quest for Equity in Sports.
19. The Quest for Equity in Women's Sports.
20. The Athletes.
21. American Sports: A Concluding Statement.


Those readers familiar with the first and second editions of American Sports will notice a subtle but significant shift in emphases in the third through the fifth editions. The original edition (and to a lesser extent the second as well) focused on major changes in sports. The narrative's overall coherence relied mainly upon a concept of stages in the development of sports as we know them today. While not neglecting important new developments in sports over time nor the technological, material, social, and cultural forces that induced them, these revisions give greater attention to continuities in the American sporting experience. In this edition, I have continued my quest to present the relationships between sport, society, and culture with greater clarity. Thus I have sought to be more explicit about the connections between the great social and cultural divisions in the United States and sport. The major cleavages that I tried to keep in mind throughout the narrative are gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, and region. At the same time, I have tried to consider how sport may transcend these fundamental social categories, how the experience of sport either as a player or a fan may bind diverse groups together. This has led me to give greater attention to layers of association. For instance, persons divided by gender, ethnicity, religion, region--or all four of these at once--may share a common experience in watching the Super Bowl on television but never enjoy a round of golf together on the local country club course. Apart from recognizing the sheer joy of engaging in or watching athletic contests, I have in addition sought to provide some of the possible meanings of sporting experiences within specific historical contexts. Sports are frequently played for sheer fun, but they may also present an individual an opportunity to display her or his athletic skills. The athlete may thereby win the esteem of others; the display may be accompanied by improved status, feelings of personal empowerment, autonomy, and perhaps even wealth. Moreover, athletic performances may serve as a "text," a text that can be "read" or understood in ways similar to how one reads a novel or watches television. Indeed, since the experience of sports entails "real" drama, it provides a particularly powerful text for viewers and athletes alike. As a text, sports send messages regarding fundamental beliefs, customs, and values. For example, that black and white baseball players in the age of segregation rarely played against one another or on the same teams may have confirmed and reinforced the nation's racial apartheid. Put somewhat differently, it suggested to those who watched baseball games that Jim Crow was an appropriate way of dealing with the nation's race relations. Given power in this vital sense, sports have never been immune from conflict. Paradoxically, at the same time, the sporting principle of a "level playing field," the idea that all have the right to compete equally in sports, may have helped to encourage social and cultural change. Readers of this edition will find a considerable body of new material and the reshaping of old materials. Influenced by the recent publication of a remarkable set of scholarly books and articles on the history of American sports, I have revised, deleted, and added material in every chapter. Especially noteworthy in this regard are a major revision of Chapter 11, "Intercollegiate Football Spectacles"; greater emphasis in Chapter 7 on the role of sports in the forging of an American upper class; new sections on the "new" middle class, consumer culture, and the quest for excitement (Chapter 8); female cheerleading (Chapter 13); and the new individualism and sports (Chapter 14). Finally, I have updated Chapters 14 through 21. References to the works shaping these revisions can be found in the footnotes of individual chapters. As with earlier revisions, I have tried t

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