Fame to Infamy
Race, Sport, and the Fall from Grace
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
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The editors would like to extend our appreciation to everyone who has helped to make this venture possible. Our contributors have graciously given of their time and talent, exceeding all our expectations and putting to rest the long-held myth that enormously talented people cannot and should not be expected...
Foreword: The Power of Nine
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In the summer of 1958, in Kansas City, Missouri, my grandfather, Pop, hooked me on listening to radio broadcasts of the Kansas City Athletics’ baseball games. The small brown plastic radio on the counter of his breakfast room held us there, standing, expecting at any moment to hear the roar of the crowd as the announcer’s voice quickened...
Introduction: Thoughts on Fame and Infamy
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Promising beginnings are one thing most notable athletes share. Such athletes often burst on the scene, raising the specter of a new era for their team or sport. As such, these athletes bring with them hopes and aspirations that fans quickly adopt. And as such, athletes become part of the fabric of everyday existence for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and cities....
Barry Bonds: Of Passion and Hostility
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There are athletes whose reputations become more favorable as time goes on, and there are those athletes who are framed as less likeable over time. And then there is Barry Bonds, whose reputation has evolved from bad to worse over his twenty-one-year career in Major League Baseball. Merely mentioning the slugger’s name engenders the type of passion...
Kirby Puckett: A Middle American Tragedy
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After Kirby Puckett’s death at the age of forty-five in 2006, playwright Syl Jones wrote a play, called simply Kirby, about the Minnesota Twins center fielder. The play, which premiered at the History Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota, in October 2007, traced Puckett’s path from stardom, including his entry into the Major Leagues in 1984...
Don’t Believe the Hype: The Racial Representation of Mike Tyson in Three Acts
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The deep bass and lyrics of rap music announce the fighter’s entry. Sometimes he is accompanied by the sonic force of the rhythms of Public Enemy’s hit song, “Welcome to the Terrordome.”1 Other times, the belligerence of DMX’s “What’s My Name?” blares into the crowd to announce his entrance.2 As it plays, a chiseled sweaty...
Lost in Translation: Voice, Masculinity, Race, and the 1998 Home Run Chase
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After being exalted for their athletic performance and sportsmanship in the 1998 home run chase, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa slowly lost their place on the pedestal reserved for baseball heroes and, specifically, in this case, home run sluggers. A succession of controversies, allegations, investigations, and expos
Branch Rickey: Moral Capitalist
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During most of his career, Branch Rickey was, according to Robert Peterson, “the most successful front-office operator in baseball.”1 Like the moguls who dominated the movies in the 1930s and 1940s, Rickey’s success largely depended on an oligopolistic environment similar to the Hollywood studio system that had Rickey counterparts...
Inextricably Linked: Joe Louis and Max Schmeling Revisited
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Substantive reflection concerning the lives of Joe Louis and Max Schmeling calls for a bit of wordplay, with the first word being respect. Joe Louis and Max Schmeling were used, but they were not respected. They were feted but not respected. They were national and racial symbols of achievement during their collective primes in interwar America and Germany...
Mortgaging Michael Jordan’s Reputation
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Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu understands the consecration of artists as the “magical division” created to distinguish the “sacred” from the “profane.”1 The legitimacy of this magic, however, depends on popular, professional, and critical recognition.2 Michael Jordan’s consecration in basketball culture undoubtedly can be legitimatized popularly...
A Precarious Perch: Wilt Chamberlain, Basketball Stardom, and Racial Politics
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When Wilt Chamberlain announced in May 1955 that he would attend the University of Kansas at Lawrence (KU) on a basketball scholarship, KU fans and the local media celebrated. Standing more than seven feet tall and moving with a grace and agility uncommon to many big men, Chamberlain, a Philadelphia resident...
Jim Brown: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of a Cultural Icon
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In his 2002 HBO documentary, Jim Brown: All American, director Spike Lee declares his subject to be “the greatest football player ever.”1 While Lee’s assessment may be something of a hyperbole, there is no question that James Nathaniel “Jim” Brown is considered to be one of the greatest fullbacks in the history...
Afterword: Sports and the Iron Fist of Myth
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The stories seem to come from the same dark place. Kirby Puckett goes from Minnesota’s cuddly and beloved sports hero to a half-blind, bloated womanizer, despised and dead at forty-five. Jim Brown goes from one of professional football’s most respected players to a brooding, dangerous figure who beats women. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa go...
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Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2010