Week 6 Blog

Reading these articles gave me a new insight as to how sports, especially soccer began in America. The article “A Stumbling Start for U.S. Pro Soccer” by Roger Allaway informs us greatly of the epic fails that resulted from the first national soccer leagues in the country. These leagues include the American Association of Professional Football Clubs (AAPFC), and the second, the American League of Professional Football Clubs (ALPF). Allaway states that one was much better off than the other, however, they both failed. He says, “it was to provide those who would follow in its path with a manual on what not to do.”

He says this due to the epic failures of both organizations, but does state that they were successful in showing future participants and owners what not to do when trying to establish an organization.

Another article is titled “Pastor Keeps History of Storied U.S. Club Bethlehem Steele Alive” by Stanley Kay is about how an extremely popular soccer club, Bethlehem Steele Soccer Club, was diminished to only talk and memories. However, one man named Daniel Paul Morrison, has become an unofficial historian on the topic of the soccer club. Nobody else has done the extensive research or spent as much time on the subject as Daniel Paul Morrison has. Two of his great uncles had played for the clubs. It is crazy how such a small connection can allow for a passion to develop for a subject, such as the situation with Morrison. 

It is absolutely insane to think that history that is often forgotten or not thought about can be recovered through just one person who became curious. This curiosity can spark a light in someone’s mind or heart and lead to intense research and interest in a subject or topic, allowing history to be uncovered and rediscovered in a way that it has not been before. In these instances, we can look back on critical successes as failures, and also learn from them. We can see why previous clubs failed and why others may have succeeded. We can learn from their mistakes. We can uncover the legacies that clubs, coaches, teams, and players left that may have been forgotten or go unrecognized by many.

Week 6 Blog

While reading the articles this week I really began to realize how much soccer struggled to take off as a sport in late 19th and early 20th century America. In the Alloway article, he speaks about the dominance of baseball and the fact that baseball took precedent over soccer, especially because the soccer league was started by baseball clubs to continue to profit off of the playing field when baseball was not in season. This shows how reluctant baseball was to taking a backseat in the American sports world. In the following article by Farnsworth, he discusses the first time America sent a team to the world cup in 1934. In his article, Farnsworth elaborates on how the teams were selected which included a playoff between the selected national team and other teams in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area. Eventually, the team would go on to defeat Mexico and advance to the world cup, loosing to Italy in the first round. Although the United States had an early exit, the win over Mexico proved that American soccer was growing. Another example of the popularity of soccer growth in the American North East is the Bethlehem Steel soccer club.  In the article by Kay he discuses the history of the soccer club, their popularity, and the unfortunate ending of the program. He has structured a website around the findings of newspaper articles and events showing that there was a passion for people to follow and keep up with different soccer clubs. In the final article, Logan writes about a league that serviced the midwest instead of the north east. The league was founded and maintained by the communist party and was well kept. These various articles showed the struggle of soccers emergence to the small pockets of popularity the sport experienced in later years.

In this week’s discussion, I read about the history and influence that America and Youth Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) had on sports and religion in South America; Brazil, and Puerto Rico. Brazil is a country that is rich in sporting history. Their men’s soccer football and women’s volleyball, among others, have been very successful in global competitions. Sporting activities were introduced to Brazil by different European countries, American missionaries, the YMCA, and Germans. The YMCA was crucial in the process as they came into the country as missionaries to spread Christianity. They believe sports go hand in hand with Christian beliefs. On the other hand, Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain before the arrival of Americans. After the Spanish American war in 1898, the Spanish left Puerto Rico. However, the country was already dominated by the catholic society. Americans viewed this as backward and therefore felt they were the bearers of the right and burden to spread Christianity in the country. The YMCA was significant in the spread of Christianity in Puerto Rico because they went in as an army and navy YMCA but still spread Christianity and encouraged physical activities.

The themes that dominate this week were Christianity, sports, and racism. Christianity had an influence on how America found its way into Brazil and Puerto Rico. The main organization that spread Christianity was YMCA which felt that it had the duty to do so. They were allies to the United States’ invasion of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. They believed Spanish Catholicism that dominated Puerto Rico at the time was backward. They felt the need to introduce Anglo-Saxon Protestantism which they termed as civilized and culturally progressive. Christianity begot sports in both countries. The general feeling was that spiritual health was tied to physical health. Therefore, sports spread through the region replacing cockfighting and samba dances that were the main source of entertainment in the region. In Puerto Rico, we find a strong theme of racism through the early stages of sports. Black people and women were seen as outsiders in sports. The hierarchy favored ‘Spanish men’. Women would engage in sports, but not during regular hours.

This talked about the YMCA’s role in Puerto Rico, Imperial America’s rule over Puerto Rico and also what role Sports played in Puerto Rico’s “Americanization.”

Luther H. Gulik who was a prominent member of the international leadership of YMCA. YMCA stands for Young Men’s Christian Association. Gulik pushed for having the triangle as the YMCA’s symbol. He saw the Triangle as a symbol intertwined with Christianity which would help spread the worldwide missionary movement. And Gulik sought out places like Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines as places that he wanted to convert to his ideals of Christianity. One of the other reasons he used YMCA is that his interpretation was to have physical strength. And after defeating the Spanish they wanted to wipe away colonial Spanish ideals that they saw as barbaric and backwards and Americanize these places. His main focus though was Puerto Rico, and he used sports as a main way to help Americanize the Puerto Ricans and also the Puerto Ricans who had to suffer under a brutal Spanish colonial rule were more than welcome to welcoming the American’s Imperial rule and Puerto Ricans already knew of sport and enjoyed it so that is another reason they welcomed it.

Sports in the south began to grow at an exponential rate at the turn of the 19th century. Southern culture always seemed to have this idea of masculinity and toughness, and a man is not a real man until he proves his worth. Sports became a new outlet for this notion rather than just working on the farm or doing things at home. Football in particular became the sport of choice for the south and they started to grow. An interesting part of this growth was the religious side of the sports. Miller writes that evangelicals in the south came to see the sport of football as barbaric and immoral. They believed the sport had no place in their society and that it was not right for men to be participating in it. The two sides were at odds but eventually football won out and the south became a powerhouse. Miller talks about how the south took a different approach to football compared to the north and that’s why they were able to succeed. There need for satisfaction and to prove their worth drove them harder and led to the south and in particular the southeastern conference to become the powerhouse of college football today. The south was able to make strides faster than any other part of the country and its remarkable to see. The feelings of masculinity have not gone away and it continues to drive the southern men, they choose to play football rather than tennis or baseball because they are not as masculine.

The U.S. was determined to spread its influence across the globe. Whether it is through sports, arts, or culture, the United States has always had this need to expand and spread its culture. The YMCA in particular was an instrument for the U.S. to spread sports to Central and South America. The U.S. had very close relationships with Puerto Rico and Brazil in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and while they went on missions to spread Christianity they brought sports with them as well. These sports were a way the U.S. could share their culture and values with other countries in a more endearing way. Over time these values began to take hold although these countries did not fully change their ways. While they adopted the idea of American sports and aspects of the American economic system, they mixed it with their already existing culture rather than changing it altogether. Country leaders and people are resistant to full on change but you can see little influences across Latin America that were left by the U.S. in their culture.

At the turn of the 19th century, the idea of imperialism had taken the world by storm. Many of the leading countries of the world (like America) felt the need to spread their ways of life to other underdeveloped countries. As America expanded to more countries after the Spanish America War in 1898, it used organizations like the YMCA to help civilize these countries. America felt the need that they had to implement their ideas, beliefs, and systems onto their colonies. Therefore, the YMCA and other organizations were provided with many opportunities to help implement American ideals. YMCA began to expand to countries like Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. They came in the name of Christianity and America, through sports. They encouraged young boys and men to begin participating in sports and physical activities. While simultaneously sharing and beginning to instill American values over time. Although America hoped to transform their colonies into mini Americas, they were not entirely successful as many countries retained different aspects of uniqueness. One example is Puerto Rico, even though they enjoyed the American ways of capitalism, they still held onto a sense of diversity. This was in part due to teachers, who implemented the things they wanted from America and left out the things they did not. For example, baseball and basketball began to become more popular, while the notion (from America) that women were too weak to compete in sports also took root.

While America was expanding its reach across the nations, they were also spreading the ideas of sport at home. Patrick Miller points out, how at the turn of the 19th century there were no large sports teams in the south, only the North and West. This slowly began to change as the game of football grew in popularity. Miller argues that the game of football helped focus the determination of the South. It allowed for those in the South to encourage their young boys and men to participate in manly and physically demanding sports. Giving the South a goal to strive after and prove their toughness. Sports really began to grow when the view of sports was accepted as a form of proving masculinity. Although there were attempts to make it a religiously center activity, sports won the day as a way to prove a man’s worth. Over time, southern sports teams began to progress in skill and gain a deeper understanding of the game. Furthermore, by the early 20th century, athletes were being recognized as All American athletes and became household names. This transition over a short period of time shows how deeply sports reconnected the South with their tradition of believing they had to be better and was a way to prove their masculinity. Also as southern universities began to play those in the North and West, they learned that games could be both physical and organized in a calm professional manner. Miller reveals how the South did not come to be a sporting powerhouse by following the pattern of the North or West, they blazed their own trail through keeping what they liked and not using what they did not. Very similar to the colonies the YMCA expanded into, they kept some aspects of America and not others. 

When reading “The Sporting World of the Modern South” by Patrick Miller I was introduced to the ideas of many during the early days of football. Many players and people, similar to today, saw the sport as a way to become a man. This was a way to show how manly they were and how strong they were to others. Many other people, such as evangelicals, saw the sport as barbaric. They saw the sport as disgusting and filthy. It was immoral to them for men to be playing such a sport. It is interesting how this can still be seen today, many athletes who play sports such as football or even rugby, will look down on those who play a sport that is less “manly” such as tennis or volleyball. Why does the sport, or lack of any sport, one chooses to play define their level of masculinity? In “The Early Evolution of Modern Sport in Latin America: A Mainly English Middle-Class Inspiration?” by JA Mangan, the author writes about how sport played a large role in imperialism. He claims it is often overlooked by other factors such as economics when studying the topic. People often forget that sports were used in Latin America as a way to “civilise” the “uncivilised” people who inhabited the area before the white settlers. The impact of these games and sports were extreme on the native people and cultures. Gideon Dishon writes in “Games of Character: Team Sports, Games, and Character Development in Victorian Public Schools, 1850-1900” about how games, teams, and sports were utilized by public schools to enhance skills of the young school children. Games and sports were played to build the character of the children. The schools are also accredited for the way we play sports today, claiming that their use of them made a huge  contribution on how the sports we play today are played.

The early use of sports had huge impacts on the world we live in today. They were used when countries imperialized and settlers took new land. The sports were used to build character and to change the native people of lands in Latin America and elsewhere. The way these sports are seen has always varied, especially from a religious stand point. Sports have contributed to the sculpting of the world we see and live in today more than most think.

Week 4

This weeks readings is something that speaks to the hearts of all of us this year. Through this year our country has been going through change and unrest in hopes of a better future for everyone. In regards to the piece on Muhammad Ali, the three writers points out how Ali’s protest of being drafted wasn’t just because of the war, but a religious and racial protest as well. With the piece on Nike and Kapernick, we see the main focus on policy brutality and social justice for African Americans. I went out and found an older article from NPR that highlights several cases of protest in sports from the then St. Louis Rams doing the hands up don’t shoot gesture while walking out to a game, the protest from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, to protest throughout college sports, and up to today. These athletes have faced backlash for bringing light something that has been an issue and of promonance in America for a long time. For Ali, he faced jail time and a ban from sports, to Kap who hasn’t seen an NFL field since 2016 and some would say has been blackballed from the league all together. Both have had similar reactions to their protest as both were labeled as “traitors” or “Anti-American” by the country that they loved. Athletes today face similar insults from their fellow Americans today. An example of this is when Lebron James and other fellow NBA players were told to just “shut up and dribble” and “sports and politics don’t mix”. Many of us know that this more than just a political issue and I believe it is very American and patriotic for one to stand up and protest for something they believe in. Protest is what our country was built off of and it is what helped us to get here today. Now, we have seen corporations like Nike come out and support players like Kap, NBA players, and NFL players. It is my hope that many of them want the same change as them and are not just in it for the money. Today we even see companies like EA and its game Madden come out and give Kap another shot as they put him back in the game for the first time in a long time. What these many have faced in regards to their own protest and racing awareness to racial injustice in this country, shouldn’t have happened. Now, we know America has faced growing pains in the past, but it is my hope that we will come out as a better nation on the other side of this. Regardless, of what side you student on, we have to nod our cap (no pun intended) to these men for standing up for what they believe in and throwing away the sport they love, so our country can look itself in the face and see that we need change. A good quote I have heard is, “some things are bigger than sports”.

Week Four

When Nike took the risk on Colin Kaepernick they made an effort to start a more political sports company. Michael Baumann highlights this in his article “Nike’s Big Gamble on Colin Kaepernick.” In the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft the San Francisco 49ers took a dual threat Quarterback out of Nevada named Colin Kaepernick. He and starter Alex Smith had a back and forth Quarterback race that took the 49ers to a Super Bowl. Though he performed under average on the field Kaepernick made a stand by sitting in 2016. At the time America had a Black President in office and still had troubles with the underlying issue of American racism. Riots broke out under the tension of another police shooting of an unarmed Black citizen. Kaepernick sat during a preseason National Anthem against the Packers but had little notice to the protest. It wasn’t until he talked to a former US Military member about the best way to use his platform respectfully when his view broke loose. Kneeling for Colin during the National Anthem was his way of protesting Police Brutality of African Americans in the US. Though for many groups this was seen as disrespectful of the American military. After this many others joined his efforts but the backlash was too much and Colin wouldn’t be able to secure another NFL job after that season. With all this controversy still two years later Nike introduced Kaepernick as the face of its 30th anniversary “Just do it” campaign. Per usual this would take some backlash as he was still seen as a controversial figure. The campaign stated the line “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Kaepernick was the perfect person to put behind this ad being that he did exactly this. He believed in dismantling the White supremacist culture even if him speaking out about this would cost him a job. Today Colin Kaepernick has partnered with Disney Plus, and the creator of the 1619 project Nichole Hannah Jones. They are a team with the idea to create content that reflects the views of the Black Lives Matter movement. For this type of support to come within four years is a real positive in such a tough and dark story. Though for Colin we don’t know if he plans to take the field again maybe he has found his calling in the world of activism. 

This week’s readings were centered on the inherent social and cultural identities which majorly characterize the sports world, and how these elements have permanently interlocked entertainment and political activism. The articles analyze the experiences of two professional black athletes who were publicly ostracized, then later glorified, in response to their democratic expressions of protest and social activism. The two athletes, Boxer Muhammed Ali and NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, were the athletic stars of two different generations and they protested the cultural context of two different American settings. But their distinct methods of social activism, which came as a response to the systemic injustice and racial inequality that defined American society,  were both immediately met with harsh criticism by the media, public and political condemnation, monetary loss, and ultimately exile from their beloved sport. The similarity in their periods of exile can be easily juxtaposed, but the most powerful comparison between them lies in the widespread rationalization of their “radical” ideological beliefs that occurred later on in their careers.  Due to his refusal of being drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, Muhammed Ali was regarded by most Americans, both black and white, as “unpatriotic” and a selfish traitor. Kaepernick received similar criticisms, but Ali’s experience was unique due to his actions invoking a federal legal conviction as well as being exiled from the religious and ideological community he proudly identified with. While Colin Kaepernick fortunately received support from a majority of the black community and a large cluster of his colleagues, his name and form of protest became a divisive political talking point and even resulted in his activism becoming the focus of constant scrutiny from the President of the United States, Donald Trump. These temporary, but intensive periods of vocal and printed criticism were regarded as a reflection of the common American opinion. Surprisingly, the socially deemed “radical” nature of the athletes’ ideological values gradually evolved into a politically “moderate” perspective on its own terms. This cultural shift did not occur due to a sudden change of heart; Muhammed Ali nor Colin Kaepernick ever gave into the pressure and developed beliefs that fit within the socially accepted narrative. Without sacrificing their own integrity, even when it seemed like the smartest thing to do, both athletes later on became defined as frontiersman of the sports world and leaders of their generation. Notably, many other prominent black athletes in history have spoken out against racial injustice within their own sport and society, but none of them vocalized beliefs as radical or were given the opportunity for their reputation to recover. Ali and Kaepernick could be viewed as “lucky” because the cultural context surrounding them evolved in their favor gradually overtime. The decreasing popularity of the Vietnam War in Ali’s case, and the growing political prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement for Kaepernick, allowed for these athletes to define their legacy without the potency of controversy.