My digital project is on some of the effects of the NBA-ABA merger.
My topic for this week is on basketball. In Steph Curry…The “Male Machine Gun Molly”?: Gender and Styles of Play in Modern Basketball, Cat Ariail discusses how men’s professional basketball players are often compared to other men’s players and not women’s players, and that Stephen Curry’s success is a result of an implied feminization of the game of basketball, as it has become less physical and aggressive than it was years ago. She also talks about how many people try to compare Curry to lesser-known male players, but that, instead, he should be compared to a woman who played professionally in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Molly Bolin. She and Curry were similar because they both overcame restraints on their talents, became better as a result, and played to the strengths of the systems they were placed in, not to mention both of their quick and skillful shooting abilities and releases. However, unlike Curry, who has a stable and unlikely to fade in the near future league he gets to play in, Bolin had to play in multiple leagues before being forced to not really play in any professional league at all, due to poor management and the likes. Men and women’s basketball today is shifting towards a more androgynous style of play in which honed skill over raw athleticism is being more and more emphasized, and both sectors of the game are benefitting in one way or another because of it.
In God’s Work: Hakeem Olajuwon, Islam, and the Role of Religion in American Athletics Alex Parrish talks about Hakeem Olajuwon’s success in the sport of basketball that seemed to come once he started practicing his childhood religion of Islam. Olajuwon, much like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali, was looked down upon for practicing his religion, one of which is seen by many Americans as only the extremist sects of it and, therefore, violent and anti-West. However, much like Kareem and Ali, Olajuwon found success in his faith, as once he started practicing he won two NBA championships and multiple personal accolades, whereas beforehand he lost in college championships, one NBA championship, and a marriage. While Olajuwon and many others will probably always be looked down upon for expressing their political or religious views publicly, it can be refreshing to those who believe the same things as those athletes to know that it can be possible to succeed in a world that may seem to be actively against them.
The article by Wright Thompson is about Argentina’s 1978 World Cup championship and how, even though you would assume that the country would celebrate such a monumental achievement, the country tries its hardest to forget about it altogether. Argentina during that time was a military dictatorship, and the authoritarian and fascist state jailed, tortured, and killed any and all people they could that disagreed with them or said anything that could be perceived as against them. The crimes committed by the state are still being fought in Argentinian courts to this day, even though democracy had officially returned to the country in the early 1980s. The leaders of the country were using the World Cup to project themselves more powerfully and, to ensure that they appeared powerful, they most likely paid a large sum of money and rigged the tournament in their favor. General Videla had apparently never even attended a soccer match until the World Cup finals in 1978. The worst part about the World Cup generally for the country, however, is how it reopens the fresh wound that still haunts the country to this day. That World Cup is similar to the 1936 Summer Olympics that were held in Nazi Germany in that, while having that happen for them is an achievement, it is not something for the country to look back fondly on.
ICE in the Ben Teitelbaum and Priya Desai piece deported a pair of nonviolent El Salvadoran immigrant boys who were playing soccer in the US. The brothers had received scholarships to play at the collegiate level and, because they reported those scholarships legally to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they were deported out of the country. They were “Dreamers,” but were forced out of the country once President Trump made major changes to immigration law. Now, the boys have to adapt to living in a different country in which they had not grown up in, and have lost their scholarships, all thanks to the messed up immigration policy in this country. It has become too difficult for some people to enter the country legally or maintain a visa long-term, and primarily non-European immigrants suffer from the laws regarding it.
The weightlifting piece is about Paul Anderson, a 340-pound man who lifts for the American weightlifting team in 1955. He beat Soviet competition in the USSR on a weightlifting tour, his coach talked bad about the country, and they made tensions during the early parts of the Cold War worse. All of these articles are examples of how sports can be indicative of or influence politics and legislation anywhere.
Women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries experienced a lot of mixed feelings for showing off their bodies’ abilities through athletic pursuits. The trapeze artist named Charmion was an example of how to push the boundaries of women not only in sports, but also in how they did or didn’t dress. Charmion was famous for doing vaudeville and burlesque performances as a trapeze artist, but mostly for her gimmick of “disrobing” beforehand and suggesting the idea of public nudity, something incredibly scandalous for the turn of the twentieth century. Women were expected to wear clothing more constrictive of movement doing gymnastics, and Charmion was able to do so without as restrictive clothing, albeit with much public adoration but more disparagement. Not only was she feminine, but she was also muscular, which was incredibly juxtaposed to the societal feminine ideal at the time of the frail, skinny, weak woman who needed a man to help her survive. She broke many scandalous boundaries of her time, but the idea of feminine muscularity is still, to many in today’s society, looked down upon.
The public’s attitudes in the south towards sports for black women in the 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s, however, was slightly more diverse. Many black female universities did not allow for their students to participate in competitive sports aside from ones that were deemed as more feminine, such as archery and badminton. Others only allowed their students to participate in intramural leagues or noncompetitively. However, an exception to those institutions was Bennett College in Greensboro, who allowed for women to be competitive and also to be in touch with their “femininity.” There were a lot of rules to follow off the court for the students at Bennett, such as strict dress codes and etiquette, but on the court the women were allowed to compete as they saw fit. Bennett believed that women could still be feminine while challenging feminine norms and sports were the perfect way to do that. They faced a lot of discrimination as not only blacks, but also as women, but were able to fight the norms that many women are still subject to to this day. Women’s basketball is still seen as lesser than men’s basketball by the general public, in addition to many other dual-sex sports, and it is incredible that the women at Bennett and other colleges were able to challenge the norms that were facing them during the interwar years.
For one to successfully look at the history of Argentine Jews, one must look at the history of Club Atlético Atlanta, the football club in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Villa Crespo. Jewish immigrants to Argentina faced many hardships, especially in determining what their national and cultural identity really meant to themselves, but, through watching Atlanta soccer, they were able to simultaneously shape their national identity while the new nation that they came to shaped them, similar to the cliche phrase of U.S. immigration being akin to a melting pot. Unlike the Bethlehem Steel team, the Atlanta club is still the original club that it was in its founding in 1904, although other teams had merged with them as well. Even though the team was founded in 1904, most Jews didn’t emigrate to Villa Crespo until the 1920s. The team became known as “Jewish” in the ‘50s, originally as an insult by rival teams but as a symbol of pride for the fans. The team enjoyed a moderate amount of success throughout the years, but ultimately never again reached the heights of itself in the late ‘50s and ‘60s when they reached the finals of the Copa Argentina.
The stadium for the Atlanta club became a strong cultural beacon and epicenter for the Jewish community of Buenos Aires. The team gained its “Jewishness” from having at least one Jew on the team’s board and for at least 35 years cumulatively during the 1959-2014 era had a Jewish president, the most famous of which being Leon Kolbowski, for which the current stadium that the team plays in is named after. Jews never made up the majority of the players on the team, although Jewish people did play for the team.
Like many other football fans, fans of Atlanta have had racist expressions thrown at them. However, they have also thrown racist expressions as well through stadium shouts, a tradition in the institution of football where fans shout offensive chants at each other as a way to get more into the game. These shouts have made tracking anti-semitism against the fans of Atlanta slightly more difficult than it would be without, but, nonetheless, antisemitic things are shouted at Atlanta fans during games.
Atlanta football is a way for Argentine Jews to assimilate into their Argentinian society whilst holding on to their eastern or central-European traditions. It unites the many different denominations of Judaism and allows them all to celebrate their cultures together in a safe and fun way. Football truly is a sport that transcends cultural boundaries and allows people to come together and be a part of something greater than themselves.
Professional soccer in the United States has had a very hard time trying to find mainstream success. The first attempts at professional leagues both began in 1894, only one of them lasted more than three full weeks, and both had folded that same year. The sport’s origins began as a way to try to make extra money in the pro baseball offseason, and sometimes pro baseball players themselves would play on the teams. However, despite the apparent lack of success of these leagues, a culture of soccer did start to form, as the US managed to get to play in the 1934 World Cup. The team, however, was not nearly as good as it could have been because the team was mostly made up of people who were willing to pay to play (a culture that has still, to an extent, persisted in the US today) instead of based on sheer talent. Elitism and favoritism was evident in the team, and because they allowed one player who was incredibly talented who wasn’t from one of the New York or Saint Louis groups of players who primarily made the team, they managed to grab a win from Mexico in a play-in for the Cup.
There is so much about soccer, professionally or otherwise, that is either unknown, lost, or hidden to the modern archives of sport history. This has become most apparent in the case of the American Soccer League team, the Bethlehem Steel, being uncovered by a man who had only familial ties to the team and absolutely no previous soccer fanaticism. The history of a sport if it isn’t as popular as the Beatles is inherently local, and the history of the Bethlehem Steel team was uncovered through local newspapers. Daniel Paul Morrison, the man who uncovered and reported essentially all of the history of the team became fairly well known throughout hte soccer community, and the history ended up becoming a very big selling point for the club that had replaced Bethlehem. This commercialism of the sport is sometimes politicized and looked down upon. In the early days of professional soccer, a lot of clubs were ethnically watched and played for outside of the ASL, and there was a lot of politics involved, especially in the case of communist soccer leagues like the Metropolitan Worker’s Soccer League and the WSA, which disseminated communist propaganda and played internationally, and even threatened the other established leagues of the day.
In the first article, Jesse Wood’s “App State’s Rich Soccer Tradition…Was the Golden Era Pushed to the Wayside?” explains that, before coach Vaugh Christian took over the App State men’s soccer team in 1971, they were doing very poorly, mostly due to the fact that soccer in the United States and especially the High Country was incredibly uncommon, and that the university owned the only soccer goals in the entirety of Boone. After his relentless recruiting from outside of the nearby vicinity of the university, he brought the team to much success, recruited numerous star players, and won multiple SoCon championships. Then, coach Hank Steinbrecher came and gave the university its first NCAA playoff win, but left because App started to cut back on its soccer program in favor of more high-revenue sports. The club continued to be great in the 1980s, but once the 90s arrived the club was no longer as supported by the university, with as little soccer scholarships as possible. This is an example of sports history being important, because without it, it would be very easy to forget the heights of the team from the 70s and 80s and the stories of human excellence and perseverance.
If the soccer club being less supported over the years wasn’t sad enough, the article by Ethan Joyce entitled “Former App State coaches, players come to terms with the cutting of their programs” showcases a lot of how App State’s priorities are on sports. Due to less funding from the coronavirus, the men’s soccer team, among others, were cut from this year’s funding. It’s unfortunate, because the teams that were cut gave students scholarships, and many students rely on scholarships to afford college, which means that the university can give less scholarships this year and pocket more cash right now and into the future if the teams aren’t reinstated.
The final article by Lars Dzikus, which was written when sports were much more up-in-the-air, talks about how the absence of sports affects society, and how sports brings people together. It allows people to feel less depressed, feel a sense of belonging, and be brought together during times of crisis. With actual sports being harder to do (with the NBA’s bubble being an exception), esports are becoming more commonplace, attempting to fill the void that many other sports fans feel. NASCAR was very easily able to adapt, allowing its racers to compete virtually. Here’s to hoping that actual sports can continue to happen today without disease-related interference, at least so that people can watch from home.
Howdy! My name is Chase Clatanoff, and this is my first year at App State. I am currently majoring in history and social studies education and have come to Boone from near the small town of Forest City, NC, about an hour from Charlotte. My interest in sports comes from my grandfather, who was a coach of multiple sports for the high school he taught at, most notably (my favorite) basketball. I’m a Charlotte Hornets fan, and while I’m still getting over us losing Kemba Walker, I’m really glad that we just got the third pick in the NBA Draft! In terms of this course, I hope that it broadens my viewpoints on sports in general and shows just how important sports are to culture worldwide, especially outside of basketball.