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.
For my final blog post, I read The Unbearable Whiteness of Baseball and Time to Cancel 2020 Baseball Season: A Lesson for Colleges and Universities. Both of these articles have highlighted major issues in baseball as a whole and the MLB. For the first article, Kang looks into how African Americans have been either misrepresented, left out, and under appreciated in the MLB and baseball as a whole. This has led to a what the article title calls the whiteness of baseball. In the article, Kang discusses how baseball in InterCitys has lost its appeal to the African American population due to this misrepresentation in the game. Kang highlights how social media and other outlets have allowed these kids to appeal to the game of football and baseball. The one thing that baseball has done is embrace the Latino community to a sense. Stories like that of José Bautista and his bat flip caused an uproar with the older generation who has had a hard time embracing the new ways people celebrate and react to a big play. They rather the player dress and act “normally”. The dressing part comes into the play with Ken Griffey Jr. and the way he would wear his hat backwards and his shirt untucked. Several older white gentlemen in baseball weren’t fans of this and other people associated with baseball have had a hard time embracing change. Instances like these is the reason why baseball has lost its appeal to people. The other article focuses on how the MLB have failed at handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The one problem the article found with the MLB is the fact that it was having a season all together. It failed to go bubble like the NBA and in return had caused outbreaks among teams. The MLB could’ve took the hit due to the rich owners. Overall, what both articles have pointed out is that the MLB and baseball have failed to adapt. Baseball is more about keeping the things how it was and making money. What it should be doing is embracing all races, social media, and new norms so the sport doesn’t die.
My topic for this week is on basketball. In Steph Curry…The “Male Machine Gun Molly”?: Gender and Styles of Play in Modern Basketball, Cat Ariail discusses how men’s professional basketball players are often compared to other men’s players and not women’s players, and that Stephen Curry’s success is a result of an implied feminization of the game of basketball, as it has become less physical and aggressive than it was years ago. She also talks about how many people try to compare Curry to lesser-known male players, but that, instead, he should be compared to a woman who played professionally in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Molly Bolin. She and Curry were similar because they both overcame restraints on their talents, became better as a result, and played to the strengths of the systems they were placed in, not to mention both of their quick and skillful shooting abilities and releases. However, unlike Curry, who has a stable and unlikely to fade in the near future league he gets to play in, Bolin had to play in multiple leagues before being forced to not really play in any professional league at all, due to poor management and the likes. Men and women’s basketball today is shifting towards a more androgynous style of play in which honed skill over raw athleticism is being more and more emphasized, and both sectors of the game are benefitting in one way or another because of it.
In God’s Work: Hakeem Olajuwon, Islam, and the Role of Religion in American Athletics Alex Parrish talks about Hakeem Olajuwon’s success in the sport of basketball that seemed to come once he started practicing his childhood religion of Islam. Olajuwon, much like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali, was looked down upon for practicing his religion, one of which is seen by many Americans as only the extremist sects of it and, therefore, violent and anti-West. However, much like Kareem and Ali, Olajuwon found success in his faith, as once he started practicing he won two NBA championships and multiple personal accolades, whereas beforehand he lost in college championships, one NBA championship, and a marriage. While Olajuwon and many others will probably always be looked down upon for expressing their political or religious views publicly, it can be refreshing to those who believe the same things as those athletes to know that it can be possible to succeed in a world that may seem to be actively against them.
The readings I chose this week discussed the globally celebrated sport of Tennis, specifically focusing on the unique abilities, identities, and contributions of two tennis greats, Serena Williams and Bill Tilden. The first article, “The Meaning of Serena Williams” written by Claudia Rankine, is not simply a review of the countless trophies, awards, corporate partnerships, and athletic achievements that have become synonymous with the tennis star each time she steps on the court. While that is undoubtedly a major part of Serena’s celebrity identity and what she inherently embodies, winning at the highest level was not always apart of her journey or what people recognized about her talent. As a Black woman playing a sport that was historically identified with the white upper-class, Serena has been forced to constantly battle more than just her opponents for respect and accreditation. In order to understand why Serena’s excellence seems incomparable, it is first necessary to recognize that she has had to not only train excessively in order to become the greatest tennis player of all time, but she also has to work equally as hard to receive fair treatment from unjust officials, the media, and organizational leaders who still favor a tennis match that is dominated by skinny, blond, white women. Serena Williams was not raised in a six-figure income household that could pay for the best tennis instructor and physical therapist, nor was she born with a body-type or personality that is easily swallowed or accepted within the traditional standards of European civility. She is the opposite of everything that tennis has been defined as throughout history; ultimately, that is exactly what makes her success and her distinct excellence so unimaginable, powerful, and revolutionary. Serena William’s is the definition of black excellence, and her unapologetic nature is what will subsequently re-shape the ideals of tennis into a more inclusive, diverse, and highly competitive sport than it already is.
The second article, “Taking Punishment Gladly: Bill Tilden’s Performances of the Unruly Male Body” written by Nathan Titman, analyzes another historically prominent contributor to the game of Tennis, Bill Tilden. Tilden, a seemingly attractive, highly athletic white man, had dominated men’s tennis throughout the 1920’s and was not attacked with discriminatory messages within the media or by spectators due to his physical attributes. Instead, his internalized battle with homosexuality caused the star to oppress an innate side of himself in order to achieve his impressive athletic goals and to fit within the normative expectations of hyper-masculinity. Homophobia and the restrictive ideals of masculinity deeply influenced and structured both American society, but also competitive sports in general. Despite Tilden’s highly controversial identity being hidden away until the mid 1940’s, the author analyzes how the tennis icon’s playing style and on-court persona was indicative of his boundary-pushing existence, and the fluidity of his sexuality and gender. Although Bill Tilden undoubtedly felt the pressures of societal acceptance and held a fear of retaliation from countless different sources of power, causing him to fervently hide his true identity for decades, he was still able to achieve a ranking within the exclusive list of tennis superiority, and his iconic legacy remains undisputed among those who achieved greatness afterwards. No one could ever take away his achievements on the court, and to him, as well as for Serena Williams and countless other great athletes that faced adversity within their sport, their uniqueness and method of self-expression within a normative system is ultimately what will keep their legacy alive for generations to come.
Racism and racial stereotypes have surrounded sports forever in numerous different ways. In the readings “From Superman to Just a”Boy” and ”3 Days That Rocked the World of Native American Sports Imagery” we see first hand the drastically different ways racism still exists in sports even today.
The first regards to superstar Quarterback (QB) Cam Newton and his actions after his superbowl 50 loss to legend Peyton Manning. Following a game where Newton was subpar from his MVP season standard the loss became too much prompting him to walk out of the post game presser. This prompted criticism all over the media world (as it should) but none more so than former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski when he said “You will never last in the NFL with that attitude. The world doesn’t revolve around you, boy!”. The key part of this tweet comes with that last word “boy” a term used to undermine and emasculate black men for centuries. This display of clear racism in 2016 is the sad truth that we still have a long way to go to reach any sense of equality. To further this argument you have to look no further than a few years prior when the man on the other side Manning lost his superbowl to the Saints. Following his loss the future first ballot hall of famer promptly left the field shaking no one’s hand and what was the media’s reaction, crickets.
In the second article we are brought to a more recent issue that has prompted positive change already. The Washington franchise previously known as the “Redskins” finally changed their name after years of petitioning. The change comes after prominent revenue generating companies like Nike and Amazon pulled all Redskin affiliated products from their stores until the name was changed. This would have resulted in millions of dollars being lost even over the course of just one year which is unsustainable even for a billionaire owner like Dan Snyder. The question raised here however is was the change made because people are changing or because they were forced to. This is extremely important when you go back to the fact that change wasn’t made until pressure was placed upon the franchise and the fact that as recently as 2013 Snyder said “We will never change the name”. In my personal opinion I can’t believe that this was a change made in good faith with the track record of Snyder. However, the impact of this has already been felt in a positive way for stereotypical norms. Teams like the Indians, Blackhawks, Braves, Chiefs, etc… have been forced to look at themselves under the microscope.
Overall while it is evident changes are being made we have to ask ourselves why they are changing. There is no doubt racism still exists in today’s world and in sports. With people like Romanowski and Snyder in positions of power this is a battle we will all continue to fight.
Don’t Dismiss the Washington Football Report as Just Another Problem With the Franchise, by Clair McNear, ends asking readers one important question: “Is there any franchise where revelations of a toxic, abusive, or sexist culture would surprise you?” To answer her, I respond no. If we were to expand her question to all sports- “Is there any sport or organization where revelations of a toxic, abusive, or sexist culture would surprise you?” I again would answer no. I am not surprised by the sexist culture at the Washington Redskins Franchise, I am not surprised by the abuse in USA Women’s Gymnastics, I am not surprised at how many toxic men were outed by the #MeToo movement. I’m not surprised anymore when it comes to harassment, sexual assault, rape, etc. As women, we are used to these words, these circumstances, this treatment. I don’ t remember who it was but one of my classmates asked our guest speaker Katie Taylor who was speaking on her article, “Here’s the Football Heroine,” if she had come across reports of women or girls being abused or taken advantage of when playing games against male teams. Taylor hadn’t, but I thought the question was of considerable importance. It made me wonder, in sports history, is there anyone studying the abuses of women in the sporting world? We’ve discussed gender pay and general recognition inequality in sports. We’ve read Futbolera which focuses on women and how their bodies were controlled by men leaving sport as an avenue to push boundaries. But we haven’t so far encountered a specific focus of Sports History that focuses on the physical or mental abuse women have encountered in sport. Perhaps this is because finding evidence in history can be daunting, for who would record evidence of sexual assault- but maybe mental or physical abuse/toxic culture would be more likely to be documented in the way officials or coaches micro-managed female athletes from their food to their clothes to their ability to live a ‘normal’ life. After writing and taking a moment to collect my thoughts, it makes sense that there might be an area of sociological or psychological academia already committed to this avenue of research but maybe sports history could blend its way into that academic field to make it more specialized. I think it’s an important topic which should be covered by the sports history field.