Final Exam

My project ‘Sports Impact on Cleveland’ researches the history, and economic importance of Cleveland’s professional sports programs to the city of Cleveland. Which mainly ties with the overall goal/theme of the course, how sports have shaped identities across the Americas. Cleveland, Ohio was once an industrial powerhouse at the turn of the twentieth century, although looking at the city today it tells almost an entirely different story. Since the 1960s and 1970s Cleveland has had a steady decline economically, through this time of decline their professional sports teams have helped the city economically, and socially. Whether these teams were doing good or not, they brought its citizens together in celebration or devastation. Cleveland celebrated an NBA championship, and a winless NFL season almost simultaneously, which shows how Clevelanders love their teams. In my video I talked about the importance of the three professional teams playing year round has on bolstering the downtown economy of Cleveland, because of how close together the stadiums are to each other has given opportunity to restaurants and eateries to flourish.

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Final Project

My digital/final project is on how sports have impacted Cleveland, Ohio. This video looks at the history of Cleveland, the change in its identity, and how professional sports teams impact the city economically. The video examines the economic impacts of Lebron James, Cleveland Indians, and Cleveland Browns affect Cleveland as a whole, and its downtown area.

I picked the video format because I felt as though it would be the best way to convey my topic. There is a lot of information to be told on how sports impact any city, and there is still on-going conversation about how these teams impact Cleveland. The discussion is surely to continue for a long time, in my video I aimed to summarize the discussion, Cleveland’s history, and the colossal importance of Lebron James and the Cleveland Browns have to this midwestern city. This video is intended for general audiences, and a lot of information is told throughout the five minute video. I like to look at my video as a quick synopsis of the sports discussion going on in Cleveland today.

I hope you all enjoy!

This week’s readings both focused on American sports like Basketball and Baseball growing outside of the country into Latin America. The reading ‘Bolivian Ball’ written by Eduardo Leal focused on African American basketball players going to Bolivia after college to continue their professional basketball career and play in the Bolivian leagues. While the other reading, chapter six in ‘Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game’ is about the MLB struggle with another baseball league outside of the United States, the Mexican league. These readings are similar because they both document foreign, Latin American sports leagues attracting American athletes to come to their country to play their beloved sport professionally. The Mexican Leagues directly competed with the Major Leagues by acquiring players from the segregated African American baseball league, and playing during the same time as them. The difference between Bolivian Baseball and the Mexican League is the way they both work to gain American athletes. Bolivian Basketball acquires players who have little to no shot at playing in the United States professionally. While on the flipside, the Mexican Leagues worked to gain players of notable talent who already played professionally in the United States, or even playing from other areas in the world the MLB was trying to get players from. The competition that the Mexican league posed on the African American leagues, and later the MLB worried the MLB. It is a different story with the Bolivian Basketball poses little to no threat to the NBA, or other professional levels of American Basketball. A similar concept in today’s sports where a foriegn league makes another more popular league worry would be the European Premier Football(soccer) league and the American Major League Soccer. The MLS in the United States will often acquire many players from the European Premier league and get them to play in the United States, like David Beckham. It would be interesting to see other foreign sports leagues become popular and begin to acquire American players in the same fashion the Mexican League did. Overall both of the readings reveal the importance of foreign leagues and what they can provide for athletes. The Mexican Leagues allowed for African Americans to escape the prejudice they faced playing in the American segregated league. While the Bolivian Basketball League allows American basketball players who have little chance to play professionally in the NBA, a chance to play professionally elsewhere. These readings give a wonderful insight into how foreign leagues used to affect American sports, and how they do nowadays.      

Elsey, Brenda, and Joshua 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, outlines the history of women’s sports in Latin America through the lenses of several athletes, sports, and locations of play. The authors, Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel, take the reader through Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, and Costa Rica to show that Latin American women were left with little room to play sports. Nadel and Elsey throughout Futbolera reveal the struggle Latin American women had in finding their place within the sporting world. The authors argue that girls’ physical education programs led to the creation of women’s sports clubs and how women went on to challenge the social structure that left them little space in doing so in the first place. From playing while women’s football was banned in Brazilian prohibition even to battling and creating new ideal body types through challenging their societal norms. These all culminate into the author’s main argument, that women’s sports matter, and they fought perceptions, gender, and societal norms of women’s to have organized sports throughout Latin America. By guiding the reader through these Latin American countries, Nadel and Elsey provide an amazing avenue for future research in the new field of the history of women’s sports throughout Latin America.  

The structure of the book helps support the main point of Futbolera, through looking deeper into few Latin American countries versus trying to cover the region as a whole. By focusing on a particular country, spending each chapter allows an in-depth analysis into one issue, or time period. This helps the reader in understanding Latin American women’s struggle for recognition throughout Latin America. The book journeys north from Chile to Mexico which helps hone the author’s main argument that Latin America as a region did not accept female football players. The choice to focus on specific Latin American regions within each chapter allows the authors to journey more in depth into their research on certain countries. The first chapter focuses on Argentina and the suppression of women’s football, and physical education. Quickly succeeded by a quick turnaround into forming an Argentinian women’s team for the women’s football world cup, and overall inclusivity in Argentina sports press. The second chapter describes Brazil’s attempts to police women’s football, and the uproar it caused in the patriarchal sports organizations. While the following chapter focuses on the prohibition that was placed upon women’s football in Brazil, and how women persisted in playing the sport, which further challenged the gender norms that contradicted women’s participation in sports. The fourth chapter focuses primarily on Costa Rica and Mexico and their revolutionary nature affording women more opportunities in physical education, and sports. Lastly, the fifth chapter outlines the rise and fall of women’s football in Mexico, from the beginning of the leagues to the boom after the 1971 women’s world cup championship invoking further interest in women’s football. This book being the first study into the history of Latin American women’s sports, the deep analysis is necessary to help future researchers understand the subject.  

Futbolera is meaningful to historians because it presents a field that is uncommonly looked into, the female sporting world. The sporting world in general has been steadily gaining more recognition throughout recent years, and this field is dominated by studies on male led athletics. Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel have written the first deep look into the history of women’s sports in Latin America, which rightfully has earned its place in meaningful literature. Elsey and Nadel have written their book in a way that is understandable by general audiences and not just historical scholars. This book has even more to offer for sports fanatics as it outlines very interesting aspects of football and basketball that will surely invoke further research to be done. Futbolera is a good beginning to a new aspect of sports, and gender history that will lead to this growing field. 

Nadel and Elsey are quick to reveal that their work throughout Futbolera is lacking much scholarly source material. In another work on the rise of women’s football in Mexico, Nadel and Elsey point out this flaw, and show their work to be based on differing journalistic coverage. Nadel and Elsey use different newspaper articles, or press coverage of different matches to string together Futbolera. Due to being the first work of its kind, it is difficult for Futbolera to be compared to similar work. The engagement with other sports work is often primary sources of its time, and not so much historiography of other women’s sports history. At the beginning of this work the authors state that this work is to not give a voice to the voiceless, but to record all the traces available and open up new avenues for further research. This can be seen as an interaction with other historiography by simply being the beginning of new research. 

Mitch Michaels

Appalachian State University

This week’s readings focused on the growing topic of women’s involvement in sports during the early to mid-twentieth century. In Katie Taylor’s journal article titled “‘Here’s the football heroine’: female American football players, 1890-1912” Taylor writes about how women played football at Harvard, Yale, and University of Pennsylvania as the sport was gaining popularity. Interestingly enough women’s participation in the sport coincided with the growing popularity and notion that the sport was highly masculine. Taylor argues in this piece that women played the game despite its strong ties to masculinity, and in turn went against the feminine ideals of the time. Women participating in football challenged the norms of the time, and even more so today. Football is overwhelmingly male dominated, and to think of women playing alongside men, or against them on separate teams challenges the norm of today, and the past. Interestingly enough Taylor covered how the media coverage of the women who played the sport was accepting and encouraging. The treatment of female participation in American football today is little to none, if not even making a mockery of the idea. The second reading is a chapter from the text titled, “From ‘Moral Disease’ to ‘National Sport’: Race, Nation, and Capoeira in Brazil” written by Katya Weslowski. Weslowski writes about the transition of Capoeira from a sport condemned by Brazilian leadership, to a treasured national pastime. From once being considered a social threat, to becoming a celebrated practice of national culture by women, children, and men, capoeira has had a massive shift during the twentieth century. Capeoira and Football share many similarities when comparing the two sports and their shifts within their respective cultures. Both American Football and capoeira are both beloved by their nations and important to the culture of their peoples in the United States and Brazil. These pieces are similar in how they cover the rise of the sports within their areas of influence, and how it was treated as a result. The masculinity attached to American Football, and the idealized femininity of the time prevented the growth of women playing the sport. While in Brazil, the perception of Capeoira being an African descended sport, and being an exclusively male, lower-class activity caused the vilification of the ambiguous sport. Capoeira struggled to even be identified as a sport in the eyes of Brazilian leaders, while football seemingly did not have a prolonged struggle to be recognized as a sport in the eyes of Americans. Both sports are male dominated, and are identified and revered as national treasures to the United States and Brazil respectively. These two articles show a contrast in the rise of the sports, but a similarity in how they are regarded by their cultures today. Women’s participation in American football was encouraged in the beginning, but that is opposite today, while capoeira was not encouraged in the beginning but is celebrated now.    

Week 10 Blog Post

This week’s readings consisted of the changing perceptions of female athletes in the United States during the early to mid twentieth century. The journal article “Flying, Flirting, and Flexing” written by Bieke Gils is about how Laverie Vallée through her trapeze act demonstrated her upper-body muscularity. Laverie Vallée or her stage name, Charmion was part of a wave of new aerialist athletes who helped Victorian society revisit their views on women’s physicality, and sexuality. Charmion took advantage of new technology to promote herself, which in turn promoted a new image of female athletes. I found the reading interesting due to bringing up new points about female athletes in a new sport we have yet to explore, gymnastics. In this piece Bieke Gils offered new perspectives on the changing opinions on women and their bodies at the turn of the twentieth century through the lens of Charmion. Charmion being a very muscular woman would have been tough for Victorian Era New Yorkers to see her as anything more than a circus act. Due to Charmion, and many other trapeze acts, they helped American society, and culture revisit their views on the female body and its physicality. The other reading comes from Rita Liberti titles “We Were Lades, We Just Played Like Boys: African American Women and Competitive at Bennett College, 1928-42.” Rita Liberti writes about how during the 1920s and 30s elite black schools began to discount and dismantle their black women’s basketball teams but Bennett college became an exception to this change. Other schools around the country sought for women to play sports like table tennis, badminton, or archery instead of basketball, arguing that the other sports were more suitable for female involvement. Bennett College saw women’s basketball as a means of expression, and it was used over time as a way for women to challenge the notion of being “ladylike.” The chapter covers women’s basketball programs around the country facing problems as people at the time wanted them to play five on five instead of six on six, in an attempt to simplify the sport for women. These two chapters cover the change in the views on female athletes in the United States during the early twentieth century. The view on female athletes changed as they began to play a variety of sports, or market themselves with more physicality instead of the ladylike norm. Challenging the status quo of the time of what could be seen as “ladylike” with the new views of athletic femininity. Showing the world at the time that women could be athletic, muscular, and play the same sports as men. These readings presented changes that I was unaware were going on during the early twentieth century, and cover a growing new field in sports history. The women in these readings were developing a new gender identity out of their physical prowess, physicality, skills in sports, and overcoming the gender stereotypes of their time.   

Week 7 Blog Post

Baseball in the texts we have read up to this point was dominant, taking up the mantle in America as the number one sport. Baseball had no struggle to maintain its status quo and often stopped other sports from challenging its popularity. Just shortly across the waters from Florida is Cuba and baseball has a similar story there. In the text “The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball” written by Roberto Echevarria he writes about the history of early baseball within Cuba. The sports baseball competed with were bullfighting and theater were the most popular things to do, and see. Interestingly enough Cubans played a game similar to baseball, although by design it is more closely linked to tennis. Echevarria’s main points are how baseball has had a myth like rise in Cuba and how the sport developed alongside Cuban nationality, and the rivalries that developed within the country between Habana and Almendares. Similar to baseball in the United States, the sport soon took off into massive popularity. Echevarria reveals throughout his text that baseball rose into a similar popularity as the United States, becoming a favored pastime and in other cases, a lifestyle. Baseball unified Cuba in a time of political and social unrest, the sport brought all the different classes together following the Spanish-American War. Echevarria focuses on how the sport may have been introduced by the Americans, but it quickly became identifiably Cuban, as they helped shape the sport in very significant ways. 

In Robert Gumstead’s chapter of ‘The Sporting World of the Modern South’ he writes about the rise and origins of baseball in Puerto Rico. The origins are similar to Cuba in that they both originated from interactions with Americans. While Puerto Rico was not occupied by the United States like Cuba was, Puerto Rico became a trading partner to the United States and soon American ideology spread. Among the most interesting points in Gumstead’s chapter is how sports became a part of schools curriculum in Puerto Rico, namely baseball since it became the most popular. These chapters reveal that baseball grew in areas outside of the United States, mostly the countries they interacted with because it was so massively popular in America that it was bound to spread to the nations near it. I find it interesting how baseball quickly took up popularity within Cuba and Puerto Rico, or even how despite political tensions between the United States and Cuba the ‘American’ sport still maintained popularity in Cuba. Furthermore, how baseball can be seen as an indicator of bringing the United States and Puerto Rico closer together socially, and politically through the shared pastime. Baseball becoming a national pastime within Puerto Rico and Cuba shows that baseball was not just an American sport, but growing outside of the United States and becoming a national identifier for other countries too. These readings show the importance of baseball outside of the United States and more importantly the interconnecting of different cultures through a sport. Although baseball did have racialized leagues, the sport itself still managed to bring together the people of Cuba, and Puerto Rico in their own way.

These articles helped spread awareness about the sport of soccer struggling in its early days, especially in the United States in the turn of the 20th century. The article titled ‘A stumbling start for U.S pro soccer’ written by Roger Allaway reveals this in detail, how early soccer clubs struggled in large part due to their scheduling. Early soccer was popular to foreign-born factory workers, and the games were scheduled during weekday afternoons, meaning that none of them could attend. As Allaway put it so well, the early pro soccer clubs offer little more than to show how to not succeed with a pro sports league. I think it is interesting how many early pro soccer leagues used off-season baseball stadiums as their own playing fields, and the pro baseball teams let them. Although it is further shocking to see how these early soccer leagues completely did not understand their demographic by scheduling games during weekday afternoons. In Ed Farnsworth article titled ‘1934: USA vs. Mexico and the “little truck”’ it covers the story of the 1934 U.S men’s world cup soccer team who defeated Mexico in the qualifier round that year. Farnsworth notes that the U.S men’s world cup team would not defeat Mexico again in the world cup until 1980. Farnsworth further quotes articles from the New York Times 1934 article on the win, and how they wrote the U.S team won not because of skill but because of the U.S men being heavier and playing a more vigorous match. I found it interesting how this U.S team was seemingly haphazardly put together yet managed to defeat a team that could easily be seen as a more skilled soccer team, or organization as a whole. The growth of soccer in the United States is interesting as it seems to have grown between the two sports behemoths of the United States, football and baseball. Especially during the early 20th century football and baseball were in its early stages to becoming the sports religions of the United States today. I was surprised by the journal chapter written by Gabe Logan on the U.S Communist party established soccer clubs throughout major U.S cities from 1927 to 1935. I would have never guessed this to be a situation to occur during this time in U.S. history, especially since only around ten years earlier was the first red scare within the U.S. Despite being communist clubs, they succeeded by lasting as long as they did and I was thoroughly surprised by these early clubs often playing for charity and donating the funds made back into their communities. Lastly, the article by Stanley Kay titled ‘Pastor Keeps Story of Storied U.S. Club Bethlehem Steel Alive’ is about how Pastor Daniel Morrison brought to light the old soccer club Bethlehem Steel. Bethlehem Steel won ten league championships within fifteen seasons and eleven players are in the National Soccer Hall of Fame. I found it insane how this level of success became forgotten with time, yet one man was able to dig up its old history, which is incredibly motivating for a history buff. All these articles share similarities on the importance of early soccer and the stories that can be told from it, from massive successes to terrible failures. Looking at the popularity of soccer in the United States today it is difficult to see how it would have struggled in its professional infancy. These articles show that Soccer, like other sports, holds such a rich history that should be explored especially in its early stages and further understanding how it got to where it is at today.  

The articles ‘Former App State coaches, players come to terms with the cutting of their programs’ written by Ethan Joyce, and ‘A world without sports’ written by Lars Dzikus, both focus on sports in the age of Covid-19. Joyce’s article focuses primarily on Appalachian State cutting men’s soccer, tennis, and indoor track and field sports programs, and the feelings of those affected by the decision. While Dzikus focuses on the broader sports world in America, and the many times sports have been stopped due to other crises such as the civil war, 1918 flu pandemic, both world wars, and the September 11th attacks. The third article ‘App State’s Rich Soccer Tradition … Was the Golden Era Pushed to the Wayside?’ written by Jesse Wood is about Appalachian States soccer dominance from the early 1970s to late 1980s. 

Wood writes about how Coach Christian Vaughn built the App States soccer team off the talent of foreign players, primarily from his connections to Nigeria. Under Vaughn the team made several SOCON championships and even appearances into the NCAA national playoffs, and rankings. Wood emphasizes how this is no small feat considering how when Vaughn arrived the team was following a 2-8 season and his success is linked to Vaughns relentless recruitment effort. Wood writes on how despites reaching extreme feats for a small program, App State chose to downsize their program in the midst of their rise by cutting back many scholarship opportunities for players despite having excellent attendance. This downsize of the past almost spells out the cutting of App State sports programs in Joyce’s article. Joyce wrote his article on the responses players and coaches had to their beloved programs being cut. Interestingly enough Joyce writes how both men’s soccer and tennis programs have had outstandly talent come from App State, having players receive SOCON player of the year awards, unbeatable NCAA records, or tennis players being inducted into the NC Hall of Fame. Sadly, these sports programs are casualties of Covid-19 and a microcosm of other sports programs across the country being cut, or stopped as well. Dzikus’ article speaks about sports being stopped throughout U.S history, yet how what is going on now during Covid-19 is completely unprecedented. Dzikus reveals how most instances of sports being stopped is a result of men going off to war and there being a shortage of players. Yet, in the case of the 1918 flu pandemic sports were only temporarily stopped and resumed within a few months. Dzikus ends his article on some questions about the future of eSports, and whether or not this could be the end of sports as we know it. 

The articles play into one another very well, speaking about the impacts of Covid-19 and what it can mean for the future of sports. The history of programs and the importance of sports on not just the high country but as a nation. The articles show the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting more than those getting sick, it is affecting routines, pastimes, sports programs, and possibly the modern concept of sports as Dzikus wrote. These articles show the past, and question the future as we continue to pave the way as a country during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hey y’all!

My name is Mitch Michaels and I am a junior majoring in History/Social Studies Secondary Education. I am a man of many passions from the Carolina Panthers, Appalachia, to music, history and movies. I am looking forward to this course because I would love to expand my knowledge on the sports and their importance within the western hemisphere. Sports/history both have been a big part of my life as I grew up playing soccer and loving history, so as soon as I heard about this course I knew I had to take it. An interesting fact about myself is that I am a performing musician and I have been professionally playing bass guitar since I was sixteen years old. I look forward to all this course has to offer and getting to know everyone a little more as we deep dive into the history of sports in the Americas!

Also enjoy this photo of me as a Blues Brother!