When attempting to pick my topic for the Digital project, I knew that I wanted to explore something relevant to the South. Specifically, I wanted to research a sport that hit close to home in North Carolina. I grew up enjoying college football so that was an option. However, Given the class’s focus on identity through sports, I wanted to go with something a little more niche. That is how I came to focus on NASCAR. NASCAR is a sport I had only recently become familiar with so I knew the research would be fresh and exciting. I also had the stereotype in my head that only southern rednecks enjoy NASCAR because the cars are loud and fast. This was only partly true.

NASCAR has a very rich history that predates World War Two. It was started after the prohibition era in the United States when alcohol. During the prohibition, illegal liquor was made called moonshine. This moonshine would then have to get transported by drivers without being caught by the federal police. The solution was to enhance the engines of regular stock cars in order to stay incognito but also be able to outrun the police if necessary. Eventually, these drivers would race these cars which is where NASCAR comes from. This rebellious background was the basis for a lot of my argument regarding the sport and race.

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For the Week Fifteen discussions, I read the Soccer in Brazil and Uruguay topics. The two articles look at massive footballing stars from the respective countries and how their journeys uncover a lot of corruption. Journalist Wright Thompson is tasked with uncovering a story in which Luis Suarez headbutted a referee when he was fifteen years old. While trying to uncover the truth of this bizarre story, he uncovers a tale of massive corruption in the youth soccer federation in Uruguay. Luis Suarez had headbutted a referee due to the anger of receiving a red card. The head of the soccer federation requested the referee to scratch this from the record so that Luis Suarez would not have to miss any further matches. He refused and a hit was put on his life. Luckily, the hit man was rethinking his job, so he only shot the referee in the leg. All of these events really surround the true poverty that is in the region. The poverty that Luiz Suarez worked so hard to escape from. The same poverty that the referee grew up in. Meanwhile in Brazil, the country that had won so much success in world football was also suffering from corruption. Unfortunately, it is hard to separate the success from the corruption. Brazil became invested in the gold mine that their team was. So much emphasis on sponsorships made a lot of men rich. On the flip side of this the author discusses the yang to Pele’s yin: Garrincha. He was a also a very talented player that won world cups for Brazil with Pele. He did not make a tremendous amount of money like Pele did however. He would end up dying from alcohol sickness before his fiftieth birthday. He represents the Brazil that has died when corruption and politics took over. The author’s last hope is that football will start being about football again, rather than money.

This week’s readings discuss the relationship between politics and sports. Whether it be the execution and torture of political prisoners whilst a world cup is occurring, young men who are passionate for soccer being deported, or the idea of the lost cause and Nascar, sports and politics have been intertwined for some time. During the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, a right-wing dictatorship was imprisoning, torturing and killing their opposition from the left. These were not just armed revolutionaries, but everyday people that might just disagree with the regime. Due to these atrocities, the 1978 Argentine team that won the world cup is not celebrated for their victories like other Argentine heroes are. The events of that world cup were used as a victory by Argentine dictator Videla. A man that did not really care for sports was all smiles when his nation won. To him, it was a political victory. Years later, he would die in prison and be buried privately. While celebrations rung out in the streets, prisoners would sulk in their cells clutching their maimed bodies. World Cups after 1978 would still haunt many citizens who experience the torture firsthand or lost their loved ones. While soccer represents joy and triumph to many Argentines, to others it brings up the traumatic political past. In America, soccer is a way out for many immigrants from Latin American countries, especially those who came to America illegally. Lizandro and his brother Diego arrived in America and sought to play D1 college soccer. In an attempt to be transparent, Lizandro met with ICE to inform them of his college scholarship. This resulted in him and his brother to be deported back to El Salvador, a place they did not call home. In many people’s eyes, Lizandro and Diego were contributing members of society who did not deserve to be deported. This sentiment did not matter however to ICE, who under President Trump’s America first policy, were deporting a large number of illegal immigrants. Finally, Nascar has been used as a representation of the old South’s lost cause. This was the idea that the common confederate soldier fought for the right to be free of government control. Nascar drivers were seen as men who loved the thrill of speed and freedom since Nascar’s routes were from the Moonshine production during Prohibition. The common southern man could identify with Dale Earnhardt’s background of a working man who raced to provide for himself and a family. Other sports superstars were seen as pompous and arrogant while Earnhardt earned his cocky attitude. Sports represent a lot of things for people and politics is one of them. This is why it so common to see sports being intertwined with politics as recently seen with Colin Kaepernick kneeling or Lebron being told to “shut up and dribble”. Sports will surely have a place in politics until one of them dies.

Week 13

This week’s readings focused on the US-Latin American relationship through the scope of sports. Specifically, the two sports looked at are football and American football. The first reading looked at the football club Tijuana. The club is located just under the United States and Mexican border. The reason this club is so special is due to its effort to draw in American support. The team has sought out Mexican American players to draw in American soccer fans. The club also has major support from the San Diego area which is very close to the border. Fans will often make the drive down to Tijuana in order to support the team. San Diego does not have a team of its own, so the Tijuana club has become its de facto home team to support. This influx of American fans has caused the club to use both English and Spanish as its official languages which is very unique amongst Mexican clubs. Tijuana has taken tremendous strides in unifying both Mexicans and Americans for their support of the border town club. The second reading discusses the sport of American football in Cuba and what it signified in US-Cuban relations. A lot of Cuban identity already relates to the United States due to their military occupations during the early twentieth century. It was during this time that the popular sport of baseball was introduced by American soldiers. Football was also introduced, and a few Cuban universities adopted the sport and created their own teams. What ensued was a number of games between Cuban universities and American universities. These games became crucial to the Cuban national identity. Just like baseball and the Olympics it was a way to defeat the nation that had once occupied them and flaunt their independence. Overall, these two readings offer two very different views on the US-Latin American relationship through sports. Tijuana shows the cooperation between Mexican and American fans to support their club. Cuba shows the rivalry in sports that grow from political events.

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

Futbolera: a History of Women and Sports in Latin America analyzes the history of women’s participation in sports during the late 19th and 20th centuries in Latin American countries such as Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Costa Rica and El Salvador. In this context, Elsey and Nadel show how women’s bodies were controlled and judged by the government, journalists, scientists, and everyday citizens. The term “futbolera” refers specifically to the women who played football at this time, but it really describes the women who pushed the cultural boundaries in society through sports.

The journey of women in sports starts with the developments of physical education in the nineteenth century. The idea came from Sweden and was quickly adopted in South America. Physical education became heavily promoted for boys so that they could develop into men and soldiers. The motivation for women was more centered on improving beauty and fertility in order to create a healthier next generation. However, women were limited to which sports they were actually allowed to play. Tennis, swimming, dancing and gymnastics were seen as ideal for women since they were less of a team sport and featured less aggressive play. Basketball was allowed in some circumstances, but football was harshly allowed and even banned in some instances.

While the government was already suppressing women in sports and society, the media will further criticize. Early on, women’s sports will receive very little coverage. When they are covered, women are often objectified, made fun of, or just not taken seriously at all. They are times when serious coverage emerges but it is few and far between. Scientists also write reports on why it is unhealthy for women to compete in sports citing fertility and ability to produce children.

Futbolera is broken down into five chapters. At the end, there is a substantial bibliography and index. The authors often utilize public records and works of journalists. Specifically, newspaper and magazines are utilized to show media opinion on women in sports. A common theme hit by the authors was the role physical education played in female sports. They hit on this topic for almost every country covered. The same is true with other sports such as basketball or gymnastics. Obviously the most common theme was female football teams. Individual women are often talked about extensively in relation to the sports or team they played for. This really gives the book a personal feeling when discussing hardships or abuse these women faced.

The book succeeds in its task of displaying the sexist culture that existed in these countries through the scope of sports history. It provides in great detail the chronological history women’s sports in each country cited. This was accomplished by going sport by sport in the selected country and following its history in relation to women. Choosing to split countries histories in different chapters resulted in a confusion free read. Rather than mixing up which country was being discussed, the authors were clear in where they were talking about. Anytime a different country was cited the distinction was clear from the main theme of the chapter. At times the text can be a little difficult to read. The authors often list off a lot of names of clubs, cities, or women without a break in between. This creates a lulling effect which makes you feel like you are not reading anything at all. The occasional use of photographs was useful in making the history feel real and personal. The arguments made are very clear and presented in a simple manner which makes the text overall very readable.

Futbolera is the first of its kind in graphing out the history of women in Latin American sports. This makes it extremely valuable to the sports history field as it unlocks a history not known by many average sports fans. It can also help attract new historians to the sports history field who are particularly interested in gender studies. It also provides great insight into the relation between gender and social norms at the time making it very useful to women’s studies. The book gives great insight into what life was like as a woman in Latin America at that time and helps you understand what these women were facing in their passion. The book could not have done a better job at highlighting the sexist culture that exists in women’s sports.

Week 9

This week’s readings discuss the early history of race and sports in the United States. Specifically, Cuban females in baseball and black soccer players. Sports in the United States started off racially segregated. There was an idea of white supremacy when it came to sports and we see in the two readings that athletes of color had to overcome this racist belief. When Howard won the NCAA championship in soccer, they were met with numerous recruiting allegations that would strip them of their title. The belief at the time was that soccer was a white sport and that it represented being American. A similar belief was held about baseball during World War 2. When the men were away a new league was created for women or more specifically white women only. There were a few Cuban women however that entered the league. Unlike the athletes at Howard, these women were usually embraced by their teammates even though a language barrier existed. At Howard, athletes from Africa, the Caribbean, and South America worked together to form the “Triangle of Blackness”. This was something they embraced along with “Black Teamwork”. Howard used its success to dismantle outdated theories on colonialism. It also sought to expose the racist practices of the NCAA. Even though the players came from different nationalities, they formed together to celebrate their blackness and triumph in a reversal of the triangle trade. This did not stop at the soccer team but influenced the entire student body as well. The NCAA targeted the recruitment of black immigrants but ignored when a university recruited white immigrants. What was once seen as foreign, was now seen as white. Women of color faced the same discrimination in the female baseball leagues. However, the athletes from Cuba challenged racist views as well and became pioneers for racial integration in sports. Overall, the idea that whiteness was superior to “colonists” slowly becomes dismantled after the success of athletes of color.

COVID-19 has reshaped a lot of the world in multiple ways. For starters wearing a mask has become the new normal everywhere in public. Classes have either gone online or been minimized to limited capacity all over the country. On top of this the sports world has been struggling to find a way to compete and make money while keeping their athletes safe. College sports specifically, has been struggling to find a way to compete. Football teams have opted to not play in the Fall while others are trying to. Some of the casualties of COVID have been specific sports programs at the university. At Appalachian State, Men’s tennis, soccer, and indoor track and field were cut. The reason for this however, had nothing to do with concern for player health. It was to save money. The closing of the men’s soccer program is especially sad due to the rich history. Before football was the powerhouse, soccer reigned supreme selling out crowds in the 70’s and 80’s. Unfortunately, in recent years, soccer has been an afterthought with sports like football and basketball getting the most attention. With this decision to cut certain sports for money purposes, it brings forth another issue. That issue is whether or not college athletes should be payed. In Covid-19 Presents an Ideal Time to Rethink College Sports, Andrew McGregor ponders this. The fact that money goes into the decision-making process and not the well-being of athletes is pretty telling of universities priorities. It is more important that the university continues to make money off of athletes than these athletes being safe during a global pandemic. If they are to risk their lives and the lives of those around them should they not be compensated in a way that is fair to them. For a long time, this compensation has been scholarships. You play football at a school and in return you receive a free education. However, this pandemic shows that education is really less important than the success of revenue. When money is tight programs that make less money have to be cut no matter their history of success. Money is king and will continue to be so in the near future.