For this weeks readings, I focused on the Chapter on Wrestling in the Sporting World of the Modern South book and Katie Taylors, ‘Here’s the football heroine’: female American football players, 1890–1912. For wrestling and football in the South, they are two of the top sports that many have tuned into each and every night. These sports have caught the eyes of many for generations and will continue to grow each and every year. When we look at wrestling and football, we see it being a masculine sport, full of big men who are larger than life. When we look at wrestling, we don’t see it as the wrestling that we see in the Olympics but, wrestling that has larger than life personalities that entertain us. Wrestlers like the Undertaker, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and John Cena have blown the minds of many, even myself as we see the battle between good and bad guy. But it didn’t always be this way. The chapter, gives us a timeline of wrestling’s start in the South after World War Two. Wrestlers like Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt would lead the way for the bigger than life stars that became Killer Kowalski and Bruno Sammartino. These giants would show their brute strength for the new tv broadcast. This trend would continue until other wrestlers would challenge that with homoerotic antics like “Gorgeous George” and his bleached blonde hair. Wrestling itself would appeal to the common man with people like Dusty Rhoades, or push the envelope and cross the so called “line” with his son Goldust, who would cross that homoerotic “line” that would become widely accepted. Wrestling itself has changed greatly but still has mass appeal in the South, even as Women have begun to become the featured act. While it is still seen as male dominated, the line of what is “normal” has shifted greatly. For the Taylor piece, her focus is on Women’s football leagues that would go on throughout the late 19th century and early 20th century. These women pushed the gender norms that were established during those times. Many wouldn’t except women to go out and play what was considered a masculine game. The crazy thing for the time was, that the media seem to enjoy the games. Taylor points out how in many cases, the media praised and encouraged these women to play. Not only did theses games push genders norms, they pushed social norms as upper and middle class women were participating as well. Eventually, the men and women would play and the women would come out on top! Women seemed like they were being held back a lot, but they were able to show how they could stand their own with the best.
I really enjoyed this week’s reading, Sparring in the White House: Theodore Roosevelt, Race, and Boxing by Andrew McGregor. When you think about certain president’s, you don’t think about them playing games or exercising (at least I don’t). This wasn’t the case for President Theodore Roosevelt, as he was a boxing student-athlete with Harvard’s boxing club. Roosevelt also took in wrestling with his time at Harvard. After college Roosevelt continued with boxing, using it to stay physically active in the White House, until he was punched so hard that his left eye’s retina detached, losing his sight in that eye. This was news to me. Boxing began to get lots of criticism, especially after Jack Johnson won the heavyweight champion, becoming the first black to do so. Although you would think Roosevelt would support this part of history, he did the opposite. Until a year later when he invited lightweight champion Oscar “the battling nelson” Nielson, who was white, to the White House. Why not invite Johnson? This is where it became a race issue. W.E.B Bois, who was a contemporary of Johnson, stated “Neither he nor his race invented prize fighting or particularly like it. Why then this thrill of national disgust? Because Johnson is black…Wherefore we conclude that at present prize fighting is very, very immoral … until Mr. Johnson retires or permits himself to be ‘knocked out.” After Johnson lost his title to Jess Willard, Roosevelt soon supported boxing. Race riots led to six black individuals dying with others injured after Johnson’s victory. I really enjoyed this reading and news of boxing. Hopefully we have more readings regarding more contact sports like this and “Fighting Cholitas“.
This week the reading was about the “Fighting Cholitas” in chapter two of Sports Culture in Latin American History. Personally I do not consider myself an expert on the subject of wrestling, I had a couple of buddies from high school who were pretty good but it all looked like intense cuddling to me. Though this story tells a very interesting and cinematic type story. The underdog in sports is a theme used many times in film and also takes place as a real world sports phenomenon. Usually in the real world the underdog does not prevail, although this sometimes happens it is fairly rare. In Bolivia Soccer is the most popular sport and dominates the culture. Though in this story we find a group of women who are interested in the sport of wrestling. These women who find this interest are not just trying to express a love of wrestling but also represent pride of an ingenious group that in this era had been abused. During the wrestling events the women would come out wearing the garb of the ingenious people. This all was a sign of respect and a call to justice for these people. This also was a way to promote women’s strength, a theme that is often overlooked even today. This promotion of women’s strength along with indigenous pride gave way to a new Bolivia that fights hard for identity of its people, and straying away from the European elitist way.
Now, I found this chapter quite interesting. I myself watch professional wrestling (WWE, AEW, etc.) and the story of Cholitas in Bolivia was quite an compelling story. The Cholitas use wrestling as a way to promote Indigenous pride in a country in Bolivia that until recently have been mistreated and misrepresented. The Cholitas come out wearing traditional indigenous garb and even wrestle in this clothing as a way to promote strong indigenous and even more specifically Indigenous women strength. It is noted that Evo Morales gaining power in Bolivia was a turning point in the history of Bolivia and now Bolivia is fighting more for indigenous and identity, while in the past Bolivia was ran from a European elite. And Cholitas is one way of showing Indigenous identity and power. I also found it quite interesting that the Cholitas style of fighting is a mixture of No-Holds Barred and Lucha Libre borrowed from Mexico.
I chose to read Sparing in the White House and Here’s the football heroine this week. The article sparing in the white house is about boxings popularity during Roosevelt’s term as president. The sport grew very rapidly during his presidency but was hindered by the race disparity in the sport. The sport was eventually denounced by even the president after Black boxer Jack Johnson defeated white boxer Jim Jeffries. The sport was spoken out against to prevent race riots after the match. Unfortunately, six Black people were killed anyway following the championship victory. The second article is about women in college football. The article discusses the fact that women are rarely mentioned playing the sport even though it did occur. However there are written records of wives, sisters, mothers at football games during the sports beginning in the late 1800s. While analyzing the authenticity of claims that women played football, the article also addresses why this has not come to the attention of sport/ football historians previously.
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.