I wanted to do my digital project on a sport that many in the United States may be unfamiliar with and that is Formula 1. Formula 1 is one of the biggest sporting draws in Europe and South America but the history of the relationship between the sport and the US is complicated. The event would constantly change venues and eventually had a disastrous event in 2005 when only six of the twenty cars lined up on the grid for the race due to a tire dispute and safety concerns. This up and down nature of Formula 1 can be compared to the history of Soccer in the U.S. in my opinion. Soccer has had a hard time taking hold in the U.S. because of the popularity of the countries own national sports and pastimes. Baseball, Basketball, and especially American Football have long overshadowed Soccer and it has had a difficult time taking off. I thought this article that we read “A Stumbling Start for U.S. Pro Soccer” in some ways could speak to how Formula 1 has had a difficult time taking hold in the U.S.

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Politics can have a major influence on sports as we have seen throughout this course and the various topics. National governments can often control what a sports league can or can not do, or if not direct influence they are powerful persuaders when it comes to the image of a sport or league. The 1978 world cup is one that will forever live in infamy due to the events taking place off the football pitch. The right wing dictatorship in Argentina was torturing members of the opposition and everyday citizens were living in fear from their own government. The Argentine team won the world cup but their achievement on the pitch was not what the world remembered. It is astonishing to see the impact it had on every day life in Argentina. The victims were forever traumatized by the event that many can not watch football without triggering bad memories from 1978. The government was able to hide the atrocities thanks to the win by the national team and the distraction was enough to let the torture carry on.

Politics can also drive people out of a country as we see in the story about the brothers Lizandro and Diego. Soccer was an opportunity for them in U.S. as their family came from a very poor upbringing in El Salvador but the U.S. offered hope. This is the idea of many immigrants coming into the U.S. that they are leaving bad lives behind for a better life and freedom in the United States. The boys were able to get an education and they even received scholarships to college to play soccer but thanks to the U.S. politics that all got torn away. The United States under President Trump has taken a much stronger stance on immigration. Diego was born in the U.S. and thus is an American citizen but Lizandro was 1 when he was brought to the U.S. by his family and is a dreamer. The Trump administration has taken a staunch approach to dreamers and going so far as to deport them along with those who enter the country illegally as adults. It is sad to see such a great opportunity taken away from someone who did not have a say in where they ended up, but it goes to show the power of politics on sports even in the U.S.

Women have a long and complicated history in sports and in many ways it has been more complex in Latin America than it has in the mainland United States. Soccer has been the most popular sport in Latin America throughout history and everyone wants an equal chance to participate in the national pastime of Latin America. Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel seek to illustrate why women faced a much bigger challenge than men did. Futbolera A History of Women and Sports in Latin America relates heavily to the ideas of masculinity and femininity and the purpose of gender roles and norms in sports. 

Futbolera conveys the overall theme of struggle across different chapters and focused on different countries. A common theme between all five chapters is the idea of how the different countries promoted the idea of women’s fitness but not women’s participation in sports. This idea of fitness was promoted by many of the regimes across the region; many of these countries were under authoritarian regimes in the past and these regimes were the primary motivating force in the country. The authors layed out that the reason behind why the regimes resisted women’s participation in sports had to do with very gendered reasons such as reproductive health and also appearance. There is a traditional gender role that women are supposed to be petite and thin, not so thin they look unhealthy but thin nonetheless, and also they are supposed to be homemakers. These regimes promoted these roles to the max saying that women would start to look “mannish” if they became too fit and that it would damage their reproductive health. The authors keep presenting this theme of gender roles and norms over and over again to illustrate the hardships that women faced in their path to playing professional sports. Gender norms can be very strong and motivating to opinions and the authors do a good job of presenting these points to an audience that would likely be very familiar with the acceptance of women in sports in the United States. Soccer and Basketball have been major opportunities for women in the United States but the authors remind us that this is not the case everywhere. I feel like the authors present a very even perspective given that there are two of them, one man and one woman. In any sort of writing it is important to have two different perspectives on a topic, and it validates their findings in such a way that I would not believe a book written by two men or two women on gender would have. 

Eugenics was one reason behind why the regimes wanted to limit women in sports but the authors also lay out why nationalism played a role. The authors pointed out how many of these authoritarian leaders outright banned women’s soccer in their country. While some of the leaders banned women’s soccer due to body image and eugenics as previously discussed, countries like Mexico and Brazil. The authors pointed out the unique situation in Brazil where it was the military that banned women’s soccer and it was unprecedented intervention by a standing military. The authors also illustrated the situation in Mexico where they were worried about fanaticism and prejudice if they were to promote women’s soccer. The authors make it clear and convey reasoning for why this happened. Women as a gender in many places were still seen as an inferior people and the Mexican government knew the backlash that would come if they promoted it. This is a good point brought up by the authors that although a country or government might support something privately, they still want to keep a good positive public image and that might be why they are not supporting it publicly. The author’s use of newspapers as a source for this content makes it more genuine and true. Anyone can go and find articles online to research but taking a close look at the newspapers and media in these countries, makes the information they share even more compelling. This goes back to my point about different perspectives and the authors do a good job of making sure to present every possible view on a situation. 

Overall the authors do a good job of telling a compelling story that sports and non sports fans alike can enjoy. That is incredibly important to me that a book can attract not just its intended audience, but an audience outside of that as well. Soccer fans and women’s rights activists will enjoy this book because it offers a history of a beloved sport, and it offers a story about the journey women have taken towards equality. Those groups have been expected to enjoy the book but I believe sports fans of all walks will enjoy this book or even those who just enjoy a good story. The fact that it is about soccer helps with other sports fans and especially those who enjoy a wide range of sports will find a good story. I keep talking about the story and it is an important part of any book whether it be fiction or nonfiction, no one enjoys a book that just spews facts at you and nothing else. Futbolera takes the idea of a nonfiction book and it creates a compelling narrative that anyone who likes to read can easily get sucked into and enjoy.

Connor Nilsson

Appalachian State University

Its unusual to think that there are a large amount of Italian immigrants in Brazil and Argentina but that is the reality and there were a fair amount of Italian immigrants to South America on Italy’s 1934 world cup winning team. I have always found it interesting when you have athletes that basically have a choice of which national team they want to play for. Someone like me for example if I was an athlete I could only play for the USA but we see examples like this where people living in the USA can play for Spain or Canada or France because that is where they were born. People who are immigrants or who are children of immigrants can have a real sense of ethnic or national identity that they hold onto for their entire life. The Italian immigrants were originally not allowed to have their own football team but they were able to form one after banding together with other European immigrants to South America. These Italians were some of the focal points on the Italian team and they held onto that national identity despite pushback from the people in Argentina and the rest of South America. National identity can be stronger than anything and these athletes proved it and they could be shining examples for other immigrants to countries to hold onto that identity. These immigrants also suffered due to the financial hardship they were forced to endure. Many of the immigrants were poor and the teams they were on were made up of people from similar classes. Working class and lower class people made up their professional teams and the upper class wanted nothing to do with them. The immigrants wanted nothing more than to be considered professionals in the eyes of their peers. The idea of transferring to squads in Europe rose from this need by the immigrants to get the support they wanted. Other players not just immigrants began to do the same as well because the European clubs were so highly respected that it would do good for their careers. These moves were criticized especially in Brazil going back to the idea of National Identity. They wanted South Americans to stay put which I can understand but I feel they should be allowed to do that as long as they still play for their home country on the international stage.

Baseball, the great American pastime, while it is true that baseball holds a special place in the eyes of Americans, it is just as important in other parts of the world. We see so often today that a large number of players in the MLB are not American and come from various Asian and Latin American countries. Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria specifically discusses the presence of baseball in Cuba. Echevarria discusses the idea of myths and distortions when discussing the history of baseball and how the too the Cubans, they were the inventors of the game and played a game similar to baseball centuries before the U.S. had even thought about it. He also describes how this way of thinking is in line with the anti American sentiment in Cuba. Since the days of Fidel Castro in the late 1950s early 60s, Cuba has been at odd with the USA on almost everything and being how baseball is so sacred to them, it is natural for them to try and claim it to be their own and completely erase the USA from its history. Echevarria discusses however that baseball likely came to Cuba in the late 1800s when the USA was helping to build up Cuba and they had close relations. Echevarria then goes on to say how baseball became a way for the Cubans to rebel against Spanish rule. The population of children and young adults going outside and playing an American game was almost like a spit in the face of the Spanish. Baseball is a symbol of defiance and freedom to the Cubans which is why it is so sacred to them.

Puerto Rico has similar origins when it comes to baseball as described in From La Bomba to Beisbol by Roberta Park. This article describes how the USA came to become a major trading partner in Puerto Rico after the Spanish were forced to leave. The USA helped to institute bilingual schools in Puerto Rico and many students learned English along with speaking their native Spanish. Sports became part of the curriculum for many Puerto Rican students and baseball was the undeniable king. The YMCA in particular was a big group that was helping to spread the American ideals, we saw this a couple weeks ago when we were discussing how the YMCA spread sports to Brazil and the Philippines and here they area again helping to spread American ideals and sports. This integration of sports has helped bring Puerto Rico into more global affairs and the island continues to be a feature in American policy and likely one day will become the 51st state. Baseball is very important to Latin America and the Caribbean, it is one of very places in the world where there is a sport that is more popular than Soccer and it has helped create a national identity for those nations.

Sports in the south began to grow at an exponential rate at the turn of the 19th century. Southern culture always seemed to have this idea of masculinity and toughness, and a man is not a real man until he proves his worth. Sports became a new outlet for this notion rather than just working on the farm or doing things at home. Football in particular became the sport of choice for the south and they started to grow. An interesting part of this growth was the religious side of the sports. Miller writes that evangelicals in the south came to see the sport of football as barbaric and immoral. They believed the sport had no place in their society and that it was not right for men to be participating in it. The two sides were at odds but eventually football won out and the south became a powerhouse. Miller talks about how the south took a different approach to football compared to the north and that’s why they were able to succeed. There need for satisfaction and to prove their worth drove them harder and led to the south and in particular the southeastern conference to become the powerhouse of college football today. The south was able to make strides faster than any other part of the country and its remarkable to see. The feelings of masculinity have not gone away and it continues to drive the southern men, they choose to play football rather than tennis or baseball because they are not as masculine.

The U.S. was determined to spread its influence across the globe. Whether it is through sports, arts, or culture, the United States has always had this need to expand and spread its culture. The YMCA in particular was an instrument for the U.S. to spread sports to Central and South America. The U.S. had very close relationships with Puerto Rico and Brazil in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and while they went on missions to spread Christianity they brought sports with them as well. These sports were a way the U.S. could share their culture and values with other countries in a more endearing way. Over time these values began to take hold although these countries did not fully change their ways. While they adopted the idea of American sports and aspects of the American economic system, they mixed it with their already existing culture rather than changing it altogether. Country leaders and people are resistant to full on change but you can see little influences across Latin America that were left by the U.S. in their culture.

Hello everyone my name is Connor Nilsson and I am from Raleigh, North Carolina. I am a senior at App State and this will be my last semester as I am graduating in December. I am a political science major with a concentration in American politics and a minor in statistics. I know that does not sound like someone who would be taking this class but I have always had a love for history and a passion for sports. I was introduced to sports as a very young child by my dad who is a die hard Buffalo Bills fan. Unfortunately for him I grew up to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan but thankfully he has not kicked me out of his house yet. Aside from the Steelers I root for all of the major North Carolina teams: Hurricanes, Hornets, UNC, and of course App State along with the Pittsburgh Pirates given North Carolina’s lack of a professional baseball team. Thanks to my passion I have been able to start a weekly sports podcast called Clutch Crew Sports, with my cousins and we just recently celebrated our 100th episode. I hope to continue to increase my sports knowledge and share my experiences with all of my classmates and who knows, maybe one day this sports podcast will get big and I’ll be on ESPN (although I am not holding my breath)