‘‘Ball Don’t Lie!’’ Rasheed Wallace and the Politics of Protest in the NBA

March 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’ve recently completed my book Ball Don’t Lie! Myth, Genealogy and Invention in the Cultures of Basketball, and am now revising it, so stay tuned for updates on the publication timetable.  But in the meantime, I’ve also published a few related essays in academic journals. Though the style of writing of these is a bit more formal than what you’ll find in the book, the substance of the arguments is very similar.  What I’m sharing today combines elements of the Introduction and Chapter 7 (“The Myth of Blackness, March 12, 1997″) of my book.  Just click on the image below.

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Writing the Sporting Body

January 6, 2015 § 1 Comment

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This semester, I’m excited to be teaching two sports-related courses in the same semester for the first time.  First, I’ll once again be teaching “Cultures of Basketball.”  I taught it for the first time in Winter 2011, with few qualifications other than that I loved basketball and stories and had some tools for thinking about both of them.  That course sparked my interest and prompted me to learn more about the work of others who were thinking about basketball and culture within the academy.  Since then, in light of what I’ve learned, I’ve continued to teach and refine Cultures of Basketball every year.  Doing so has both informed and been informed by essays on the topic I’ve begun to publish in scholarly journals.  For this semester’s version, I’m reorganizing the course to follow more closely by book manuscript, Ball Don’t Lie! Myth, Genealogy and Invention in the Cultures of Basketball, which I should complete—it’s about 75 % done right now—by the end of the semester. In addition, my experience with Cultures of Basketball and people I’ve met in the broader field led me to want to broaden my range, at least, for now, as a teacher.  So, last fall, I rolled out a new, large-lecture format course at Michigan called “Global Sports Cultures” and, this semester, I’m inaugurating another new undergraduate course in Comparative Literature.  Under the general, preexisting course rubric “Literature and the Body,” I will be teaching “Writing the Sporting Body.”  I want to walk you through the idea behind the course and what we’ll be doing in it. « Read the rest of this entry »

Race and Protest: A Confession from Global Sports Cultures

December 7, 2014 § 6 Comments

I hadn’t intended to write about this, but recent events have made feel compelled to do so.  First, the public displays of solidarity by athletes—from the St. Louis Rams on November 30 to Knox College women’s basketball player Ariyana Smith and from Derrick Rose to Reggie Bush and others—in support of nationwide protests against racism and police violence have brought these issues closer to the scholarly field where I do most of my work.  Second, and in view of this, I felt it important to raise these issues and discuss them in my Global Sports Cultures course at Michigan this past week.  Our course topic this week was “Watching,” as part of a semester-ending unit on “Ethics,” and so it seemed entirely appropriate to me, even urgently necessary, to tie this topic to current events.  I’m no expert in these matters, and there certainly is no lack of superbly informed and eloquent writing on the topic.  Perhaps more than anything I need to get this off my chest.  And perhaps, if I do so reasonably well, it may be of use to others. « Read the rest of this entry »

“Getting Free” and “Playing the Right Way”

November 24, 2014 § 2 Comments

Over the past year, as I’ve been working on Ball Don’t Lie! Myth, Genealogy and Invention in the Cultures of Basketballmy book manuscript, I’ve also written a couple of essays that have been published in academic journals.  Unfortunately, many of those I’d like to reach with my writing do not have access to the institutional portals that house these very expensive journals.  So I’m making them available here for those who might interested.  I hope readers find them stimulating, enjoyable and edifying, and, as always, I welcome feedback.

“Getting Free: The Arts and Politics of Basketball Modernity” is coming out in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues.  In it, I try to sketch an image of a complex antagonism between, on the one hand, the creative prerogative exercised by basketball players, from the time of the sport’s invention, to continually make the game new, and, on the other hand, a state-like apparatus of basketball institutions seeking to corral, control and capitalize on that creativity.  Near the end of the chapter, I offer a glimpse of what will be Chapter Two of Ball Don’t Lie! (“June 6, 1946: The Myth of Foundation”).    You can click on the screen shot below to get to the article.


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“What We Mean When We Say ‘Play the Right Way'” was published in the Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association.  In this piece, I’m trying to show how the “right” in “play the right way” often winds up meaning not only “tactically preferable” but also “morally superior.” I also argue that this tactics-moral complex then sometimes subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly serves as both support and a screen for dichotomizing racial accounts of basketball style.  Some of this material will go into Chapter 8 (“September 4, 2002: The Myth of Playing the Right Way”). Again, you can click on the screen shot below to get to the essay.

 

 

 

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For More, and Better, Sports Narratives

November 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Is the sports media sphere being overrun by narratives? Are they getting in the way of facts and the truth?  A couple of recently published essays (one by Phil Daniels, writing in The Cauldron, and the other by Zach Lowe, writing for Grantland) lamenting the dangers of sports narratives might lead readers to just this conclusion.  And, while I share their dismay over the proliferation of bad narratives (I’ll come back to what I mean by “bad”), I can’t get on board with the idea that narrative itself is the problem, somehow by nature an obstacle to or at odds with the truth. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Case for Studying Sports

November 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, in a large, public meeting with university colleagues from a variety of disciplines that was devoted to a discussion of intercollegiate athletics, especially as these pertain to academics, it emerged that I offer a course on the Cultures of Basketball.  Near the very end of the meeting, one colleague surprised me by saying something along the lines of “You teach a course called Cultures of Basketball? I’d like to know how that is a legitimate course for academic study.”  He insinuated that because athletes take the course it must somehow be not a real course and expressed a concern about “public perceptions.”  Numerous colleagues in the meeting stepped up, in various ways, to call out the question as inappropriate.  Today, the colleague wrote me to apologize and to ask if he might sit in my class when I offer it next term.  I mulled over various possible responses, but finally decided that this was an opportunity to educate a colleague about what I do and why it is in fact not only legitimate but valuable.  So I wrote him.  A friend has asked me if I’d be willing to share my reply.   I want to be clear: I’m not sharing this to inflame or to shame, but rather to educate.  I believe my the assumptions my colleague held about sports studies courses are probably widely held, both by university faculty and administrators and by the general public.  I’m hoping that this brief explanation can help erode those assumptions.  So here it is, below, redacted only to preserve the anonymity of the colleague and to eliminate a few errors.

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Values of College Sport Symposium

November 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

 

valuesAs some of you know, with my colleagues Silke Weineck and Stefan Szymanski I’ve organized a two-day symposium devoted to a discussion of the question: what that we value do we gain and lose by virtue of the current model of incorporating athletics into the university?

The event, free and open to the public, will be held on Friday November 14th and Saturday the 15th in Room 100 of the Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan campus.  It kicks off with a dual keynote address featuring Amy Perko, the Executive Director of the Knight Commission and Taylor Branch, author of The Cartel at 4 pm and 5 pm Friday, respectively.  There will be a q and a and discussion following Mr. Branch’s remarks.

Then, beginning Saturday at 10:30 a series of panels will zero in on the guiding question from the perspectives of Economics, Well-Being, Education and Ethics.  Each panel will consist of three speakers and will include time for discussion.

So, at 10:30: Rod Fort, Lawrence Kahn and Stephen F. Ross will comprise the Economics panel.  Following this at noon will be the Well-Being panel featuring Rebecca Hasson, Jane Ruseski and Billy Hawkins.  After a lunch break, the Education panel will begin at 2:15 with me, Jimmy King and Rob Sellers.  And the final panel of the symposium, Ethics, will include Jack Hamilton, Bruce Berglund and William Morgan.

I hope those of you near Ann Arbor will be able to make it for all or some of the event and that all of you will spread the word.

Here’s the full program with the titles of the talks.

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