I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and graduated from the University there in 1987 and so many of my friends on Facebook have strong ties to the place and the school. Understandably, then, my feed over the past week has been dominated by pro-Badger statuses, images, and story links, which culminated last night in a euphoric, celebratory extravaganza. I was, in this particular group, the odd one out in rooting for a Kentucky victory, even though I have no ties whatsoever to that state or school; even though in most cases I’d probably find reasons to root against Kentucky. When I expressed this, in a kind of lazy way, some of my friends took issue with my position. So I’m feeling the need to clarify it, maybe most of all to myself. First thing, my fandom is irrational. Read more
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 more
As 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.
A couple of days ago I was interviewed for a short article examining the role of race in the media portrayal and public perception of the most recent incidents of domestic violence by NFL players. That led Marc Daniels, who hosts a radio show in Orlando, “The Beat of Sports,” to contact me for an interview addressing these issues on his show this morning. I’m posting it here for those couldn’t hear it live.
Thanks to Autumn Arnett who wrote the original article, to Professor Lou Moore of Grand Valley State whose intelligent comments in that article made me look better, and to Dave Zirin who publicized the piece. And thanks of course to Marc, who made the interview painless and even interesting and fun.
I don’t often write about sports other than basketball, but when I do, I prefer to unchain the deep irrationalities of my idiot sport heart. To wit: my handy, interactive rooting guide to the 2014 World Cup Semi-Final match between Argentina and the Netherlands.
Following upon my brief but mighty appearance in POLITICO this week (which itself followed the viral thrill of my rant about Mitch McGary just last Friday), I continued my meteoric ascent to the dizzying heights of media stardom in an interview with Jonathan Zarov, host of the Friday morning Eight O’Clock Buzz on my hometown Madison, Wisconsin’s community-owned WORT FM.
Here’s the (very brief) interview:
The Donald Sterling story that has filled sports pages and overflowed into mainstream news coverage and water cooler conversations over the last week provides reason #50 why we need the Allrounder and why you should support us today.
From the tactical to the cultural to the historical, from the political to the legal to the economic, Sterling’s case exemplifies perfectly the sort of complex breaking event in the world of sport that arises out of the intersection of a variety of forces in human society and that the Allrounder, with its pool of teachers and scholars from different disciplines will be poised to cover, as I explained to The Classical’s David Roth last week.
Just imagine, if the Allrounder already existed, you might have read Professor David J. Leonard (author of After Artest: The NBA’s Assault on Blackness) contextualizing Sterling’s taped remarks and backhistory within the broader framework of the league’s racial history.
But what about the economics of the case? Without a search or even a change of website, at the Allrounder you might see Professor Stefan Szymanski (sports economist, director of the Michigan Center for Sports Management at the University of Michigan and author of Soccernomics) break down the bewildering legal and economic issues and implications of the NBA’s response in ways we can all understand.
Of course, we all know that sports aren’t only about the bottom line. What might the Clippers and other NBA players be thinking about their options? How do these options fit into the history of Black athletes and political protest? Professor Amy Bass, historian and author of Not the Triumph but the Struggle the 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete, would provide you with thoughtful reflections on these questions.
Sure, there have been, amidst the din of noisy jackassery that is the mainstream sports media, a handful of clarifying pieces by smart journalists. But they are scattered across the web and, besides, who helps you think critically about even the best journalism?
Your professors! Think back to when you were in school and some news event broke that touched directly on your professor’s area of expertise. How excellent was it to be able to ask her directly in class what she thought of what going on? Don’t believe me, then ask POLITICO, which just yesterday phoned yours truly, Allrounder editor Yago Colás, for his views on the Sterling affair.
That’s who we are at The Allrounder: your sports professors! And we will give you just what professors can give: an informed expert’s opinion on what you care about. But it’s even better because it will be more like a team-taught course by some of the most experienced, accomplished and accessible individuals teaching about the world of sports in all its many dimensions.
The Allrounder will give you this, but we can only do it if you first give to the Allrounder. Please give $5 or $10 or, if you can $25 or $50 today, right now. And then make sure you brag about it and tell all your friends and framily by clicking on the Facebook and Twitter links after you’ve donated. Send them e-mails too.
Or, if you’ve got some major sports fans among your loved ones, consider making them the gift of a sports fan’s lifetime: imagine the basketball fan in your life upon hearing that they will be playing in a 3 on 3 tournament alongside the legendary Jimmy King of Michigan’s famed Fab Five! You can make that happen for a slightly higher donation.
But whatever the amount, the important thing is for you to please give today and help us continue to move towards our goal of providing the best single stop source for intelligent, accessible writing on all the breaking news that you care about from the world of sport.
I’m coming at this thing as a fan and as an educator, and as an educator who is a fan of those he educates. Yes, I’m talking about UM men’s basketball players, but not only about them. I’m a fan and educator also of water polo and volleyball players, of hockey and lacrosse players, of soccer and tennis and baseball players; of swimmers and divers and runners and throwers, and of dancers, trumpet players, and writers. Read more
47. Because David Roth at The Classical thinks you should and he knows what’s what in the world of online sportswriting. I know because he interviewed me yesterday for his own Kickstarted website for smart sports fans (a bit more journalistic and poetic than ours may turn out to be) and said some great things about us.
Here are a couple of excerpts:
DR: What are the challenges of writing about this sort of thing within academia, and what about that experience made you want to take to the web?
YC: I’ve already mentioned that this sort of publicly accessible writing tends to be undervalued at many institutions. Moreover, among many academics, especially in the humanities (the case I know best), sports are viewed with disdain, as a kind of brutish populist phenomenon unworthy of scholarly examination. But it’s also the case that most of us teaching and conducting research in the field of sports studies can find ourselves somewhat isolated within our institutions, even when our work is supported and taken seriously. There are still very few departments of sports studies around the world.
This means that most of us have to venture outside our disciplinary home to find interlocutors. This can happen, sometimes, in our institutions as well as through the organization of panels at conferences. But the possibilities that an online, publicly accessible forum offers for collaboration and for informing ourselves and our readers about the great depth and range of work that others like us around the world are doing simply can’t be reproduced within the structure of the university and its publishing apparatus. And speaking for myself, a relative newcomer to the field of sports studies by comparison with many involved in the project, already in this early stage, the Allrounder has given me the opportunity to discover work I hadn’t realized existed.
In this sense, the Allrounder is a resource. It’s like a big, awesome room someone can walk into to find that these great conversations among smart people on issues that I care about, not just as a fan, or as a sports studies scholar, but as someone who lives and cares about our world and the role of sports in it; who knows that sports isn’t just escapist entertainment but a critical experience through which billions of human beings around the world shape their images of themselves and their place in local, national, and global communities. At the Allrounder, we know this about sports because we count ourselves among those billions; and we address the sporting experience with respect and with a desire to understand—and to help others understand—it more deeply, ultimately with the hope that this understanding will empower us to shape our experience of sports more actively.
DR: What do you envision as the thing that will make the Allrounder stand out from various other sports-y sites out there, and the thing that it will contribute to the conversation that other sites can’t? How will the money raised through the Kickstarter go to make that happen?
YC: Our contributors, mostly academics, dedicate enormous amounts of time to actual research and serious critical reflection on sports and that really makes a difference. But there’s more, because typically the time it takes to craft academic work and to publish it in traditional venues means that the work of scholars falls behind the curve of the topical.
At the Allrounder, the size of our pool of regular, rotating contributors counters this by allowing that same caliber of thought and writing to speak accessibly to issues in the world of sports that are happening right now, in real time. Then, the geographical and disciplinary diversity of that pool will make the Allrounder the only place where you can get a global perspective on sport from a variety of angles. Economists, historians, sociologists, literary and cultural critics, anthropologists, kinesiologists and others all see a different sporting universe. Their specific ways of seeing help bring different territories in the world of sport into sharper relief. No other site does this.
Typically, the kind of writing our contributors will be doing will not be recognized as legitimate by their institutions for the purposes of promotion and merit pay increases. In many institutions, there is still a prejudice that views with suspicion academic writing that is publicly accessible and unvetted by other academics. For our first year, while we get off the ground and transition to ad revenues, the money we are looking to raise through Kickstarter—besides supporting the infrastructure of the site—helps to make all this cool think-y stuff happen in much the same way that the money in medicine, law, and business helps attract academics in those fields to venture outside the university: by giving academics a tangible reward for the time and energy they will be dedicating to generating high quality content for the site.
So if you weren’t sold already, surely you now are aware that if you care about sports, or really just about our world at all, then The Allrounder is something you want to back. Go to our Kickstarter page and do so now.
Today I received the good news that the new course I designed — Global Sports Culture — was approved so that I will be able to offer it as Comparative Literature 100 in the Fall semester of 2014. This gives me a chance to devote more of my teaching time to the topic of sports, to broaden my teaching repertoire beyond the culture of basketball, and it offers students who have been interested in, but unable to enroll in my Hoops Culture course, a chance to take a different sports-related course with me. So please share this with anyone you think might be interested. Read more