I absolutely love learning about politics and how it is used by governments. In this class, I have greatly enjoyed learning about how sports can and were used for the progress of a political view. For example “While the World Watched,” the Argentine government used the 1978 World Cup to display Argentine achievements. While simultaneously they used the same World Cup to cover up acts of state terror. Politics are so interwoven into sports, I knew that for my digital project I had to look at politics. Hence the reason why I decided to look at how Fidel Castro had an impact on the growth of baseball in Cuba. 

When the class talked with Katie Taylor (scholar on women’s football), she hinted at how sports depend on the inclusion of the media. Depending on the media, sports will grow exponentially or struggle to survive. The same could be said about the way politics interact with sports. The support or their lack of could make or break a sport. For example, I think of college football and how the national champions are invited to the White House. However, when I look at the WNBA, I do not see the same endearment from the government in the media as bluntly clear. Turning this to baseball in Cuba, I wondered how much of an impact the Fidel Castro regime had on the growth of baseball. 

Continue reading Digital Project

For my digital project, I have looked at the impacts that Fidel Castro had on Cuban baseball. This video looks at how Castro not only changed the view of baseball in Cuba but also how he transformed it. He created a new national identity around baseball unifying Cubans through the game. The video also looks at how Castro used baseball as a political force to display superiority over democracy and the United States. Castro used baseball to create a national identity and to promote his political ideologies.  

I chose the video format because I thought it would work best for my presentation and I wanted to try something new! As I began to edit, I realized that creating a video was much harder than I first thought. The reason is that time is limited and everything takes up time. Therefore, it was challenging at the beginning to create a cohesive order of videos that convey my argument in only five minutes. However, with many hours in front of my computer editing, I am confident that my video is able to surmise years of history and impacts from Castro in a matter of minutes. 

I hope you enjoy it!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1gIcMFE4ZuzYCjeer3B3DP_5BtXqH63bk/view?usp=sharing

To be really honest, this week’s readings were heavy. When one studies sports, we tend to (in general) think about positive memories or sweet bitterness of defeat. However, rarely do we think about the political hands of directing sports. One example is, “Lifting ‘Round the World’: The Goodwill Weightlifting Tours of 1955” by Sam Schelfhout and John Fair. They point out how the US used 1955 world champion Pual Anderson (a weightlifting champion) as a campaign tool to display “America” as being better than the Soviet Union. The US sent Anderson on a victory tour, the sole purpose was to prove to other countries on the fence (on choosing a side in the Cold War) that America was superior. Ironically, the tour did not prove this to other countries, but through different instances displayed an unruly American hand guiding sports. The same could be true about the World Cup of 1978 in Argentina. “While the World Watched” by Wright Thompson points out how the memory of the World Cup of 78 is not always full of joy and triumph. Although Argentina did win that world cup, for many, it resurfaces harsh memories of beatings, terror, pain, and death. While the world watched the 78 World Cup, the dictators of Argentina were huntings down, kidnapping, torturing, and killing those who opposed the ideas of the reigning government. It shocked me that I (as a historian) never really viewed sports as another arm of a government to expand their reach into people’s lives. Meaning that I understand that the government has control in foreign policy and taxes which impact me as a citizen, however, I never really thought much about politics through sports. Having read Thompson’s work has shown me that I am ignorant of things that have taken place in the context of “sports” but carry none of the joyful memories of sports. 

Then when we read “A Dream Re-Routed: Deported Maryland Brothers Seek Options, Play on After Being Banished,” it revealed how much the government still uses sports to display political goals. I understand that some will argue that the governments do what is best for the country, however, who decides what is best for the country? Based on this week’s articles, I see only pain and hurt when politics are added to sports. I find it frustrating that sports, something that is supposed to unite, create joy and excitement can be an arm of the government to push political policies. Moving forward knowing about the historical atrocity and painful memories that politics can have when combined with sports, makes me want to study the history of this issue more. My heart breaks at the terrible things that people will do in the name of a country, person, or idea. 

Elsey, Brenda, and Joshua H. Nadel. Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2019.

     Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America examines the development of football (soccer) from the view of women spanning the late-nineteenth century to the twenty-first century. Elsey and Nadel discuss how society hasn’t and continues not to always accept female football players due to sexually based stereotypes. In chapter 3, “‘Femininity’ was used to critique male football, further disconnecting women’s football from acceptable sporting practices.” Elsey and Nadel’s main focus was to create a basic chronology of women’s sports in Latin America. Up to this point, there has been no rough timeline of how Latin America’s women came to play different sports. Therefore, Elsey and Nadel have revealed how from the 1880s to the present day, despite numerous challenges and obstacles put in place by men and different governing bodies, women have continued to play football and are still fighting to play every day. 

     This book consists of five detailed chapters with an introduction and epilogue to accompany it. The five chapters begin with looking at the furthest southern countries like Argentina and Chile and each chapter slowly moves through various countries ending with Mexico. The first four chapters have a similar organization that begins with looking at the early 1900s and the way that institutions like girl’s education began to impact how sports were developed for women. The fifth chapter is an exception, as it focuses on Mexico beginning in the 1960s and how and why women soccer leagues were created. Elsey and Nadel examine how football was and still is an outlet for women to express themselves and seek changes in society that would empower women. As is evident with the 1971 Women’s World Cup, the Mexican women’s team began to make headway in changing society as newspapers began treating the event like the men’s World Cup. This was achieved by giving the women’s team several different news outlets to be displayed on including television stations. In chapter five, newspapers even told spectators that they were “‘optimistic and think that the spectacle will be enjoyed,’” despite others (like FIFA) who disapproved of the tournament. Elsey and Nadel’s use of the tournament was a great example to include in their chronology as it reveals a turn in the way that women’s sports were viewed for a time. This tournament provided hope that women’s sports could grow and be widely accepted. This also serves as a great beginning point for others to do further research into the national and international impacts and implications of having the tournament in Mexico. Furthermore, Elsey and Nadel reveal the intense gender differences in place throughout Latin America. The uses of professional accounts in newspapers, government decrees, and sports magazines in the book are the perfect type of sources to reveal the social tensions that women playing football created. They are polarized towards the view of the mainstream media and culture and help to tell the story of how the view of women playing football changed over time. The inclusion of the personal accounts from players was helpful to give insight into what were the thoughts of the women playing. These personal accounts help to further add to the chronology of how women’s sports took root in Latin America. 

     The work is arranged in a pleasing manner that pulls a variety of different sources together to explain the development of women football players in Latin America despite their many challenges and setbacks. There are occasions, however, when there seems to be a lack of attention to the divisions or implications of social classes when it comes to women playing sports.  Elsey and Nadel. in the Introduction, point out how they discovered two different “tropes,” “the women athlete as athlete and the women athlete as object of male ridicule.” These two ways of viewing women athletes are prevalent throughout the book and at times the balance is in favor of the second. This would be expected as Elsey and Nadel express in the Introduction how “These experts… had little knowledge of women’s physiology and tended to worry more about appearance as a measure of sports’ value.” Hence the reason why in chapter two women sports were viewed as threatening to women’s “natural virtue.” What is more surprising is that despite the sexism and demeaning attitude towards women football players, the women continued to play and commit time and effort to the sport. Elsey and Nadel hint at the reason why women continued to return to play football as it gave them a sense of freedom. It also was a way for women to actively show that they wanted to be more than just mothers. Towards the end of the book, the purpose of returning for many players was the desire to represent their country in international tournaments. Women have always and continue to take pride in their country and they long for the opportunity to display on the pitch. As is evident in the epilogue, women in Latin America are still facing problems such as “poverty, femicide, workplace discrimination, and reproductive rights” (p. 266), yet are still willing to play football because it is a game they love for a country they love. 

      Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America is at the forefront of (re) gathering information about women and their roles as they fought to be heard and treated equally both on and off the field. One strength is that Elsey and Nadel linked social and political issues to the goals of women’s football, giving insightful views into the issues of the countries explored. Simultaneously they explained how women football players helped or did not help in the different social and political issues that nations faced. In contrast, it would have been nice to have more information included about how the social status of players and their families played into the acceptance and representation of sports in Latin America. This book also provides several suggestions on what Latin American countries could or even need to do for women’s football to grow as the men teams did and continue to do. This study was creative, insightful, engaging, and thought provocative. For those who seek to learn about society, culture, and women footballers in Latin America, Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America, will provide anyone searching for a solid platform to begin further research and answer many questions. 

Andrew Thomas

Appalachian State University

In Roberto Echevarria’s book “The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball,” he presents a new idea about the struggle of baseball in Cuba. In all the previous texts we have discussed, baseball the king and did everything to prevent other sports from taking their spotlight. However, Echevarria points out how in Cuba baseball was the sport that had to fight to gain attention. Baseball in Cuba had an uphill battle as bullfighting and theaters held the entertainment eye of the Cuban people. Another interesting point was that baseball was considered a “modern” sport in Cuba, was it seem the same way in the rest of the world? Echevarria also points out how the Ten Years’ War created many different struggles for the people of Cuba. Famine and social unrest lead to baseball creating a place of unity. Baseball allowed people to forget their social classes and cheer for a team, it helped the “democratization and secularization of Cuban culture”.  Roberta Park informs readers that baseball was first introduced to Puerto Rico by Spanish officers who had been stationed in Cuba. Baseball had grown in Cuba to a point that after the Spanish American War in 1898 and was beginning to spill into nearby countries.

Unlike in Cuba, in Puerto Rico baseball took hold in different schools and universities. In fact, Roberta Park points out how the first meeting to two baseball teams was in 1905 between schools. Different from Cuba, America had a much greater say in the education reforms in the early 20th century and had an impressive say on sports in schools. This article reminds me of previous readings about the YMCA and how the US government used them to spread “American Ideals”. This makes me wonder if the relationship between Puerto Rico and America is from this heavy influence. Also because the US did not directly impact Cuban schools and thinking, did it lead to a negative relationship in the future? 

Often times in life we forget simple things. There are also other times we (as humans) forget our history, either by choice or by accident. Although forgetting to buy milk is not a huge issue, forgetting history is. One example of this is the Bethlehem Steel Socer Club. You probably never heard of this team, the reason for this is people have simply forgotten. However, thanks to Daniel Morrison who has worked to revive the history of this forgotten team, we have learned many different facts about the team, players, and the culture of sports in the early 1900s. One discovery is that soccer had a rich history long before top performances at the World Cup in the late 1900s in the USA. 

In 1934: USA v. Mexico and the “little truck”, we see a USA team that is fairly new to the international stage, having played only 15 previous international games ever. Despite there lack of experience, they defeated Mexico in a 4-2 match to qualify for the World Cup in 1934. Although the USA team would not beat Mexico again until 1980, this win from 1934 represents a golden age of soccer in the USA that has passed until recent years. In the last few years, the USA women team has claimed and protected their world champion titles. Finally bringing the golden ages of soccer back to America once more.

The sport of soccer has had its ups and downs over the years, but nothing compares to the challenges it faced in the 1920s. While sports were slowly becoming more popular, two soccer organizations that were created in the 1920s. The first was the American Association of Professional Football Clubs and the second was the American League of Professional Football Clubs. Both organizations found a good rhythm until the depression hit staring in 1929. People began to have less money and began attending sporting events less. This in turn drove many of the teams involved in both clubs to close their doors. Soccer seemed to be on the way out with fewer teams and no money coming in. That is until RIS (Red Sport International) began to organize soccer games for local workers. Their focus was to create a league of worker class people who would play soccer with low costs. They also saw this as an opportunity to begin sharing communistic ideals with those who played. This was implemented by the unique Soviet Union symbol being on uniforms and other things around the stadiums. Although communism did not directly appeal to everyone, it did provide a cheap way to play soccer. These clubs did not last through the end of the following decades, however, it did preserve the game of soccer in America. Allowing for future generations to learn and enjoy the game of soccer for generations to come.

At the turn of the 19th century, the idea of imperialism had taken the world by storm. Many of the leading countries of the world (like America) felt the need to spread their ways of life to other underdeveloped countries. As America expanded to more countries after the Spanish America War in 1898, it used organizations like the YMCA to help civilize these countries. America felt the need that they had to implement their ideas, beliefs, and systems onto their colonies. Therefore, the YMCA and other organizations were provided with many opportunities to help implement American ideals. YMCA began to expand to countries like Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. They came in the name of Christianity and America, through sports. They encouraged young boys and men to begin participating in sports and physical activities. While simultaneously sharing and beginning to instill American values over time. Although America hoped to transform their colonies into mini Americas, they were not entirely successful as many countries retained different aspects of uniqueness. One example is Puerto Rico, even though they enjoyed the American ways of capitalism, they still held onto a sense of diversity. This was in part due to teachers, who implemented the things they wanted from America and left out the things they did not. For example, baseball and basketball began to become more popular, while the notion (from America) that women were too weak to compete in sports also took root.

While America was expanding its reach across the nations, they were also spreading the ideas of sport at home. Patrick Miller points out, how at the turn of the 19th century there were no large sports teams in the south, only the North and West. This slowly began to change as the game of football grew in popularity. Miller argues that the game of football helped focus the determination of the South. It allowed for those in the South to encourage their young boys and men to participate in manly and physically demanding sports. Giving the South a goal to strive after and prove their toughness. Sports really began to grow when the view of sports was accepted as a form of proving masculinity. Although there were attempts to make it a religiously center activity, sports won the day as a way to prove a man’s worth. Over time, southern sports teams began to progress in skill and gain a deeper understanding of the game. Furthermore, by the early 20th century, athletes were being recognized as All American athletes and became household names. This transition over a short period of time shows how deeply sports reconnected the South with their tradition of believing they had to be better and was a way to prove their masculinity. Also as southern universities began to play those in the North and West, they learned that games could be both physical and organized in a calm professional manner. Miller reveals how the South did not come to be a sporting powerhouse by following the pattern of the North or West, they blazed their own trail through keeping what they liked and not using what they did not. Very similar to the colonies the YMCA expanded into, they kept some aspects of America and not others. 

COVID has radically changed the way that people live their lives. Now everyone is a possible enemy who could be harboring the illness of COVID. As the world begins to come back to the reality that the virus is here and we will have to live with it, changes are being made. Schools are moving to online instruction, stores and restaurants are doing contactless delivery and college sports are changing too. “Former App State Coaches, Players Come to Terms with the Cutting of Their Programs” by Ethan Joyce, points out how Appalachian State University has cut three-sport programs due to COVID. The three sports are men’s soccer, men’s’ indoor track, and men’s tennis. These cutting of these sports have nothing to do with the safety of the players, coaches, refs, or fans. No, it has to do with the money that sports bring or don’t bring in. Andrew McGregor wrote “Covid-19 Presents an Ideal Time to Rethink College Sports,” and asks the question of why the safety of those involved is not the first questions asked. Due to the financial difficulties that many are experiencing due COVID are leading universities to rethink how much they allocate to sports. This shows that McGregor’s point is a true question. What are universities going to do to continue to protect their athletes or are they more worried about money?

Sadly the cutting of the men’s soccer program at Appalachian State hurts many more than the current team, for example, those who know the history of the soccer program. Jesse Wood wrote, “App State’s Rich Soccer Tradition…Was the Golden Era Pushed to the Wayside?” Wood mentions how in the 70s and 80s App State won eleven conference championships in a row. Wood reveals that the soccer program also had ample amounts of money to spend on scholarships for both in-state and out-of-state athletes. This allowed for greater success and recruitment and helped them win those eleven championships. In other words, the program was thriving and being recognized on the national level. However, as the years went on, the program received less money and the football team and others gained more. This leads to a lower amount of money available for scholarships and less recruitment. Now that COVID has hit and money is becoming even tighter for many universities, it is becoming easier to simply take from lower-income sports and shift them to sports like football and basketball. As McGregor points out, recent events in the NCAA have allowed for athletes to gain more rights and a louder voice to protest their safety and wellbeing. Hopefully, this COVID virus will be like an ice bath for universities and others about the importance of putting the individual players first and not the dollar amount associated with the sport. Although it is sad to see three programs cut at App State, there is always that as the nation comes back from COVID that the programs could be renewed. However, the question still remains, if the programs are brought back, will it be for the amount of money the university can pull in, or the enjoyment of those how play and watch?

The threat of history being rewritten is very real. As Patricia Anderson points out in “On Searching for the Latin American Sportswomen and Finding an Argentine Sports Historian”, the memory of the sportswomen in Argentina is not what it should be. In our twenty-first-century world, people forget how important the past is because the focus is on the future. In America, sports are the rave of almost everyone. However, what is the history of the sports we love? For many, it does not matter because only the current season and future seasons matter. When we neglect to know the past, we miss important people and events that have shaped our world. Louis Moore in “When I Fell in Love with Sports History”, talks about how it was not until his senior year of college that he was made aware of a sports historian and their role. The world loves to honor presidents, kings, and others who change the world for the better, but the world is slow to remember and honor those who have made sports what it is.

Both Moore and Anderson reveal how the study of sports is often overlooked by many and it hurts those who have gone before us. Many people will find the study of sports history to be odd as it does not fit in with the typical view of what history should be. This thinking is why both authors agree that there are many myths about what history has to be, these myths prevent people from doing something they might love. One myth is that one must play sports to study them. This is not true as Anderson points out how she never play any sports but has totally fallen in love with studying the history of sports. One suggestion to combat these myths is to have mentors and professors who will invest in students who want to pursue the study of sports history. To have people believe in themselves and in others who want to study the history of sports. Anderson explains how being a sports historian is a wide-open field. There are many different subjects and time periods that one could study the social, economic, and political impacts of sports. There is also always the possibility to find a new person who radically changed sports for the better that was forgotten to the sands of time. Moore also points out how being a sports historian is great as he can decide how and when he wishes to write. He also mentions how there are days that are tough and he simply has to grind through. However, he soundly confirms that being a sports historian is worth it as he gets to learn how sports have created the world he lives in.

As the world continues to spin, the true history of sports is beginning to surface. Social media and other online platforms are quickly becoming easy ways to learn history; as Moore points out. This allows for sports historians to be able to share their findings and honor a hero of sports worldwide in a matter of minutes. The field of sports history is still wide open as there are countless people waiting to be remembered for how they impacted the world through sports.

My name is Andrew Thomas and I am from Waxhaw, North Carolina. I am a secondary history education major with plans to get a masters in history. I love just about any sport but more specifically soccer and volleyball. I have been playing soccer since I was 4 and still love a good game. One unique thing about me is that I am an MK or missionary kid and lived in Indonesia for 6 and a half years. SO… yea… that’s a thing… lol. And no I can not speak Indonesia anymore. I have been back in the US for 8 years now and have lost almost all of that language… Yup! There’s a little about me!