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Rooting for the Home Team

Sport, Community, and Identity

Daniel A. Nathan

Publication Year: 2013

Rooting for the Home Team examines how various American communities create and maintain a sense of collective identity through sports. Looking at large cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, and Los Angeles as well as small rural towns, suburbs, and college towns, the contributors consider the idea that rooting for local athletes and home teams often symbolizes a community's preferred understanding of itself, and that doing so is an expression of connectedness, public pride and pleasure, and personal identity. Some of the wide-ranging essays point out that financial interests also play a significant role in encouraging fan bases, and modern media have made every seasonal sport into yearlong obsessions. Celebrities show up for big games, politicians throw out first pitches, and taxpayers pay plenty for new stadiums and arenas. The essays in Rooting for the Home Team cover a range of professional and amateur athletics, including teams in basketball, football, baseball, and even the phenomenon of no-glove softball. Contributors are Amy Bass, Susan Cahn, Mark Dyreson, Michael Ezra, Elliott J. Gorn, Christopher Lamberti, Allison Lauterbach, Catherine M. Lewis, Shelley Lucas, Daniel A. Nathan, Michael Oriard, Carlo Rotella, Jaime Schultz, Mike Tanier, David K. Wiggins, and David W. Zang.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

First and most obvious, I need and want to thank the book’s contributors. They are all professionals, bright, talented, patient men and women who understand that sport is an important cultural institution and practice, not just fun and games. Carlo Rotella and David Wiggins, in particular, provided...

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Introduction: Sport, Community, and Identity

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pp. 1-15

Many years ago, I lived in Iowa City, Iowa, a vibrant university town with more than sixty thousand residents. The town is surrounded by seemingly unending miles of corn and soybean fields, and lots of hog farms. One of the things I liked best about living in Iowa City was being part of a graduate...

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1. Basketball and Magic in "Middletown": Locating Sport and Culture in American Social Science

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pp. 17-35

In the 1920s a team of social scientists descended on a “typical” American city. They were determined to unravel the secrets of communal identity and discover the laws that governed culture change. Using methodologies originally practiced by anthropologists to catalog the lifeways of non-Western...

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2. the Biggest "Classic" of Them All: The Howard University and Lincoln University Thanksgiving Day Footbal Games, 1919-1929

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pp. 36-53

African Americans established a number of successful and important separate sports programs during the latter half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Banned from most predominantly white organized sport during this period because of racial discrimination, African...

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3. Bobby Jones, Southern Identity, and the Preservation of Privilege

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pp. 54-67

The Bobby Jones Apparel Company Web site promotes its brand of luxury clothing and accessories using the legend of one of golf’s most beloved players, explaining: “Bobby Jones epitomized what it meant to be a gentleman, and embodied class, grace under pressure, and style.”1 The company’s...

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4. Football Town under Friday Night Lights: High School Football and American Dreams

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pp. 68-79

In 2003, the prolific best-selling novelist John Grisham took a break from legal thrillers to publish Bleachers, a novel about high school football that is a virtual encyclopedia of clichés and stereotypes, including the competing ideas at its center. Has high school football in the southern town of Messina...

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5. Girls' Six-Player Basketball: "The Essence of Small-Town Life in Iowa"

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pp. 80-92

Throughout the twentieth century, more than a million Iowa high school girls played the half-court, two-dribble version of basketball colloquially known as “six-on-six.” Originally conceived to accommodate girls and women’s perceived physical limitations, six-player basketball often lent itself...

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6. Chicago's Game

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pp. 93-107

Some of my earliest memories are of my father playing softball. He manned third base, the hot corner, for a local team in a sixteen-inch ball, no-gloves league. The son of Italian immigrants, my father grew up in a working-class suburb of Chicago in the 1960s. When I was a boy, my grandfather’s hands...

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7. The Baltimore Blues: The Colts and Civic Identity

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pp. 108-124

When I was a teenager, my grandfather gave me a discarded Baltimore street sign. He was born, raised, and lived in Baltimore his entire life. Over the years he had several jobs, including working for the city as a purchasing agent; maybe a fellow city employee gave him the street sign. Scratched and...

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8 The Voice of Los Angeles

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pp. 125-138

“A good evening to you wherever you may be.” The familiar voice almost sings out of the radio, embracing listeners with the warmth of a soft Los Angeles evening. For more than sixty years, the same greeting has welcomed Dodgers fans to pull up a chair and listen to a baseball game. The man...

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9. We Believe: The Anatomy of Red Sox Nation

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pp. 139-156

America does not have a national team. Though the Olympics often generate a national cheering section, in general, root-root-rooting for the home team is regionalized in the United States. Yet some teams are more nationally prominent than others. The Dallas Cowboys enjoyed a national reign...

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10. American Brigadoon: Joe Paterno's Happy Valley

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pp. 157-169

It’s October, and as I’ve done on nearly every autumn Saturday for four decades, I’ve settled in front of a television. As a panoramic shot captures a gorgeous landscape of distant mountains and rolling foothills, ESPN’s announcers reveal that “we are live from Happy Valley.” Scanning the m...

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11. Jayhawk Pride

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pp. 170-181

When the University of Kansas (KU) men’s basketball team loses a game, it upsets me. I’m a big fan. It wasn’t always this way, though. I used to loathe KU basketball. This is the story of someone whose personal evolution as an academic and human being was mirrored by his changing feelings toward...

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12. Finding My Place: A Sports Odyssey

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pp. 182-194

When I was a young girl, I spent many hours by myself. At school I was socially adept enough to avoid complete outcast status—those unfortunates we called “queers.” A smart girl and good athlete, I managed to remain interesting to the popular girls, but never became part of their cliques...

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13. A Philadelphia Nocturne

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pp. 195-204

By day, they are Philly sports fans: rabid hooligans, bellicose malcontents, central-casting slobbering-partisan stereotypes. They boo everyone from Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt to Santa Claus, beat up visiting fans that wear the wrong colors, and provide the national media with a lazy,...

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14. The Cult of Micky Ward in Massachusette

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pp. 205-217

The retired boxer Micky Ward and the movie star Mark Wahlberg, escorted by publicists from Paramount Pictures, were sitting at a round table in a conference room in the Four Seasons hotel in Boston. It was early December 2010; The Fighter, the movie about Ward starring and produced by Wahlberg...

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pp. 219-223

While I was working on this afterword, my mother gave me an article from a recent issue of Sports Illustrated. She ripped it out of a magazine that was in her doctor’s waiting room. Titled “In My Tribe,” it was written by Terry Mc- Donell, the magazine’s managing editor. A series of well-chosen, well-told...


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pp. 225-227


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pp. 229-237

Production Note, Back Cover

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pp. 249-250

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094859
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037610

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013