A couple of clips from last night’s Yago’s A-Town Throwdown, the 2015 Cultures of Basketball intra-class 3 on 3 tournament, without further commentary.
I’ve been fortunate to get to expand my repertoire of courses in sports studies over the past few years from Cultures of Basketball to Global Sports Cultures to Writing the Sporting Body. In this time, my colleagues in the Residential College and the Department of Comparative Literature at Michigan have been supportive and for that I feel both fortunate and grateful. But it’s important to emphasize that their support is neither a matter of chance nor of charity. My colleagues are all exceptional scholars and teachers, with rigorous standards for research, pedagogy, and the curriculum. Their support for the courses I’ve been developing has come because—not despite—their intelligence, integrity and commitment to higher education. In other words, these courses exist and flourish because scholars with no special personal interest in athletics per se believe that athletics is a valuable object of study for humanities students. Read more
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 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
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.
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.
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
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