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The American Dream and the National Game

Leverett T. Smith, Jr.

Publication Year: 2004

This engaging study examines sports as both a symbol of American culture and a formative force that shapes American values. Leverett T. Smith Jr. uses "high" culture, in the form of literature and criticism, to analyze the popular culture of baseball and professional football. He explores the history of baseball through three important events: the fixing of the 1919 World Series, the appointment of Judge Landis as commissioner of baseball with dictatorial powers, and the emergence of Babe Ruth as the "new" kind of ball player. He also looks at literary works dealing with leisure and sports, including those of Thoreau, Twain, Frost, Lardner, and Hemingway.  Finally he documents the emergence of professional football as the national game through the history and writings of former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who emerges as both a critic of the business-oriented society and a canny businessman and manager of men himself.

First paperback edition

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Table of Contents

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pp. xi

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pp. 1-7

WRITING FROM PARIS IN MAY OF 1910, HENRY ADAMS GLOOMILY predicted the end of the usefulness of human intellectual activity. He sought to explain to Barrett Wendell the purpose of his A Letter to American Teachers of History, a volume he had recently sent to fellow members of the American Historical Association....

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Chapter I. Johan Huizinga’s World of Work and Play

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pp. 9-49

LIKE ANY OTHER CONCEPT, PLAY CAN BE UNDERSTOOD IN MANY WAYS. The concept that serves to unite the diverse subject matters of my essay is set forth in Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Homo Ludens was published near the end of Huizinga's life, in 1938, and before we consider his theory of the nature of play, it seems best to consider some...

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Chapter II. How To Live In It

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pp. 51-103

IN THE WORK OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY, THE IMPULSE TO UNDERSTAND human activity in terms of work and play is intense and develops through the course of his writings. His work, in general, seems a long search for a setting within which human action might seem meaningful. The most important manifestation of this impulse is Hemingway's frequent use of the sporting world in the settings of...

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Chapter III. Professional Sports: The Case of Ring Lardner

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pp. 105-126

WE MUST NOW GO BACK A FEW YEARS TO LOOK AT THE WRITINGS OF RING Lardner, at once a creative writer and a baseball enthusiast and reporter. His writings will show how one sport, professional baseball, was understood in the years before the first World War. That Lardner largely gave up writing about and reporting sports after...

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Chapter IV. Professional Baseball: The Black Sox, Judge Landis, Babe Ruth

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pp. 127-207

RADICAL CHANGES TOOK PLACE IN PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL BETWEEN September 1919 and June 1922. In its public image during these years, baseball ceased to be a sport explicitly identified with American culture at large, and began, in the values it projected, to be a sport largely associated with anti-democratic values, much like the...

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Chapter V. Vince Lombardi’s World

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pp. 209-256

THIS FINAL CHAPTER WILL FOCUS ON PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL, A SPORT which has passed professional baseball in popularity in the years since World War II and is thought to have established itself as a successor to baseball as America's national game. Baseball is now a sport which represents to many the "good old days," while...

Chapter Notes

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pp. 257-278


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pp. 279-285

E-ISBN-13: 9780879728779
Print-ISBN-13: 9780879728670

Publication Year: 2004