This weeks readings were focused on defining the intrinsic, but complex relationship between politics and sport within different civilizations. The articles, “While the World Watched” and “A Dream Re-Routed” reflected an inherent and historical correlation between these two societal entities.

The first piece, written by journalist Wright Thompson, described the contextual circumstances, underlying political and humanitarian issues, and the identifiable cultural principles that majorly composed the experience and legacy of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Throughout the 20th and 21st century, winning the World Cup has been considered universally to be a uniquely defining moment of historical achievement, global recognition, and unified patriotism for every participating nation. Its value has not lessened with time and within the modern era, each individual nation’s fervent desire to bring home a World Cup trophy reflects more than simply a transcontinental love for football. This athletic achievement inherently represents a unified, societal demand for globally recognized respect, and winning the World Cup will immediately cause a countries’ collective identity, political autonomy, and cultural distinctions to gain a level of undeniable credibility. This heightened level of patriotism can be easily identified within Argentinian culture in regards to their 1986 World Cup victory; but as the article details, the present-day idea of this “heroic” 1986 national team and their victorious legacy has been intentionally manipulated and emphasized in order to overshadow the prior Argentinian achievement of 1978 and the devastation it gradually became associated with. In order to accurately visualize the deeply felt trauma and cultural sensitivity that will permanently define this historical moment for many Argentineans, the author analyzes different personal experiences and memories of diverse citizens who were persecuted, censored, and subjected to unimaginable methods of torture by their own government during the late 20th century and the 1978 World Cup. These previously unknown, primary experiences that occurred within the same physical location and time period as a historically renowned event provide the audience with a better understanding of the connection between sports and politics. The World Cup is often associated with athleticism, teamwork, patriotism, and unity; but for the countless victims and survivors of the “Dirty War”, it is difficult to imagine the level of sorrow and resentment which is identified to that period of their nation’s history. It is probably more accurate to assume these survivors associate the World Cup with political exploitation, political distrust and division, and ideological discrimination instead of the other previously stated characteristics.

The second article, “A Dream Re-Routed” analyzes the experience of two teenage brothers named Lizandro and Diego Saravia, who both deeply loved the game of soccer and held a promising opportunity to play at the collegiate level in the United States (their immediate families’ home for over 8 years) before they were unexpectedly and unfortunately deported back to their native El Salvador. Both Lizandro and Diego were high school graduates and benevolent members within their local community, and their illegal emigration to the United States was a decision made by their guardians and happened when they were both too young to consent or decide their own path. Ultimately, the sole reason for the boys becoming identified by ICE, taken from their families without a chance to say goodbye, and then sent to a foreign place that was so unfamiliar and intimidating, was due to Lizandro’s truthful communication with the federal agency regarding his collegiate soccer scholarship. The authors, Priya Desai and Ben Teitelbaum, were able to present these personal experiences of the two young players in order to highlight the unjust and unfortunate connection between politics and sports that can re-shape someone’s life for the better or for the worst. Thankfully, both boys were given an opportunity to play soccer at a university in Nicaragua, but it was heartbreaking to identify the political influence of strict immigration protocols within the lives of two good-natured athletic players.

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.

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 14 Blog Post: Political uses of sports

Politics and sports have been connected since the beginning of time especially in countries with governments that hold a power struggle over its people. In the ESPN article “While the world watched we are brought witness to the extent of this. With a content warning before reading the reader can assume graphic content but nothing to the extent that it depicted in the article itself. The methods of torture described were utterly barbaric and all because people threatened the governments desires. Even worse was hearing the lasting impact these events had on the victims, anything from elevator noises, walking into police stations, or walking past a certain building could serve as triggers. As for sports roles in this, the military leaders used sports as a cover up for their own benefit. Rumors still swirl about the 1978 World Cup Championship and if Argentina actually won the title fairly. Regardless though a win in a major sports championship is proven to alleviate stress and portray dominance. In other words, the win allowed the government to hide the truth of their torture because people were so consumed with being the winners. It also allowed them to portray Argentina as a powerful country to others around the globe.

While not to the same extent we see this same idea of displaying dominance through sports in “Lifting ‘Round the World’: The Goodwill Weightlifting Tours of 1955”. The United States seized the opportunity after US lifter Paul Anderson out lifted his Soviet opponent by 77 pounds in the Soviet Union. This defeat on opposing soil sparked the US to send Anderson and other lifters on tours to other countries in an effort to combat the Soviets expansionism.

Not all usage is for a display of dominance or cover up though, in “A Dream Re-Routed: Deported Maryland Brothers Seek Options, Play on After Being Banished” we are shown how sports can be used as a bridge to greener pastures in politics. The brothers came over to the US to play soccer, while ultimately, they got deported they received an education and even a college scholarship. The time they had in America was invaluable to their life now and their story received national attention. As they said in the end it may be too late for them but maybe their story will give others opportunity.

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.

The readings this week presented multiple stories that highlighted the relationship of sports and politics. The world of sports can feel separate or distinct from political realms. Theoretically, there is no politics in sports. Soccer, football, Nascar, so on and so forth are all ‘games,’ meant to be played for ‘fun,’ as leisure activities that do not require extreme intelligence or analysis. In many instances of political unrest, sports have provided an escape for fans, players, coaches accounted in beloved sports stories and shared through the years. For many, when politics or associated tragedies have touched every aspect of one’s life, the sporting realm has remained a neutral space of ease and entertainment. However, as evidenced by this week’s readings, there are equal anecdotal experiences where politics have been deeply embedded in sports. The reading A Dream Re-Routed, for example, details the direct consequences of the changing deportation priorities under the Trump administration even while the main focus of the story, Lizandro Saravia, “refuses to connect the dots” between politics and his current circumstances. While the World Watched focuses on the experiences of Norberto Liwski during the 1978 World Cup while he was being tortured by the reigning military regime for attempting to aid those without healthcare and holding leftist beliefs which differed from the regime. The article outlines stories similar to Liwski, each explaining how soccer and the World Cup have come to represent the worst moments of their lives. “The King, the Young Prince, and the Last Confederate Soldier: NASCAR on the Cusp,” from The Sporting World of the Modern South outlines the cultural representations and political ideologies that dominate the sport: the old South, the last confederate soldier, and the southern code of honor. It also details the lack of representation for many minorities which make up the American populus: women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinx-Americans. Nascar’s ties to Confederate ideologies and the old South make the sport undoubtedly tied to political movements that have caused terror and tragedy in the lives of many Americans. Even more recently, the sport has seen unrest in the wake of the political movement Black Lives Matter as fans wrestle with the sports discriminatory and racist past. One notable difference in the readings is the organized use of the sports to aid or further political movements as written about in While the World Watched. The other two readings made less of a connection compared to the aforementioned. Overall, I thought the greatest takeaway from this week’s readings came in the conclusion that sports played on a national level always have a tie to politics. Even when we may use them as an escape or entertainment, there is a connection at the level of organization, player personal experience, and in monetary funding. This has been a common theme or lesson in most of the readings or material we’ve interacted with in this course, but A Dream Re-Routed, While the World Watched, and “The King, the Young Prince, and the Last Confederate Soldier: NASCAR on the Cusp,” have really driven that fact home.

The two articles, While the World Watched and A Dream Re-Routed, both tell the story of how soccer and local politics/ government go hand in hand. While the World Watched goes into very in depth detail about the circumstances surrounding the 1978 World Cup hosted in Argentina. The Argentinian government was very corrupt and was basically putting on a show for the entire world to watch and enjoy when hundreds of domestic political prisoners were being raped/ murdered/ and tortured behind the scenes. The author talks about the lack of acknowledgement for the World Cup win because of the memories, dramatic experiences, and the overall burdon that accompanies the the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. It is expressive of how something, such as winning the cup, that later became a very important event to Argentinians can create such horrific memories from past events, because of the way that the Argentinian government hid the torture and death of hundreds of people. The second article A Dream Re- Routed tells the story of two brothers that came to America from El-Salvadore in search of a safer place to call their home. The younger brother took up soccer and eventually earned a scholarship to Louisberg college in North Carolina. A few weeks before he was set to attend school, the boys were arrested and eventually deported back to El- Salvadore. This exemplifies the unjustness and unfairness of the deportation system in the United States. The two boys had no criminal record and no intent to harm/ or commit crime. The kid had worked hard enough to earn a college scholarship so that he could get an education. Sports often create events that are positively unforgettable. However things like the 1978 World cup is something that is hard to forget the horrific political backdrop to the event. And Lizandro was attempting to use sports as an avenue to gain admittance to a college and further his career, the opportunity was stripped away from him because of political action. 

To be really honest, this week’s readings were heavy. When one studies sports, we tend to (in general) think about positive memories or sweet bitterness of defeat. However, rarely do we think about the political hands of directing sports. One example is, “Lifting ‘Round the World’: The Goodwill Weightlifting Tours of 1955” by Sam Schelfhout and John Fair. They point out how the US used 1955 world champion Pual Anderson (a weightlifting champion) as a campaign tool to display “America” as being better than the Soviet Union. The US sent Anderson on a victory tour, the sole purpose was to prove to other countries on the fence (on choosing a side in the Cold War) that America was superior. Ironically, the tour did not prove this to other countries, but through different instances displayed an unruly American hand guiding sports. The same could be true about the World Cup of 1978 in Argentina. “While the World Watched” by Wright Thompson points out how the memory of the World Cup of 78 is not always full of joy and triumph. Although Argentina did win that world cup, for many, it resurfaces harsh memories of beatings, terror, pain, and death. While the world watched the 78 World Cup, the dictators of Argentina were huntings down, kidnapping, torturing, and killing those who opposed the ideas of the reigning government. It shocked me that I (as a historian) never really viewed sports as another arm of a government to expand their reach into people’s lives. Meaning that I understand that the government has control in foreign policy and taxes which impact me as a citizen, however, I never really thought much about politics through sports. Having read Thompson’s work has shown me that I am ignorant of things that have taken place in the context of “sports” but carry none of the joyful memories of sports. 

Then when we read “A Dream Re-Routed: Deported Maryland Brothers Seek Options, Play on After Being Banished,” it revealed how much the government still uses sports to display political goals. I understand that some will argue that the governments do what is best for the country, however, who decides what is best for the country? Based on this week’s articles, I see only pain and hurt when politics are added to sports. I find it frustrating that sports, something that is supposed to unite, create joy and excitement can be an arm of the government to push political policies. Moving forward knowing about the historical atrocity and painful memories that politics can have when combined with sports, makes me want to study the history of this issue more. My heart breaks at the terrible things that people will do in the name of a country, person, or idea.