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Dat

Tackling Life and the NFL

By Dat Nguyen and Rusty Burson; Foreword by Darren Woodson

In a quintessentially American game, for an organization often called America's Team, Dat Nguyen stands as the first player of Vietnamese descent ever to play in the NFL. Yet if asked for his job description, he would probably answer simply, "I tackle." He tackled so well at Rockport-Fulton (Texas) High School that he earned a scholarship to Texas A&M University, becoming the first Vietnamese American football player in school history. As part of the storied "Wrecking Crew," Nguyen's tackling earned him All-American honors and led the Aggies to their first Big 12 title. And, even though he was once deemed too small to play middle linebacker in the NFL, he has earned All-Pro recognition with the Dallas Cowboys. For Dat Nguyen, though, tackling the various obstacles of life—not just running backs—gives him the most pride. He learned how to tackle life from his parents, who narrowly escaped from the North Vietnamese Army in 1975. Nguyen offers the story of his faith, his family, and his career, a true story of the American dream lived out, as an inspiration to others. He recounts his father's decision to flee Vietnam; the boat trip that took his family to freedom; and their eventual settling in Rockport, Texas, where a community of Vietnamese shrimpers established an economic livelihood using skills brought from the old country. He describes the racism his family encountered while he was growing up and how the friendship of one young Caucasian boy and his family overcame prejudice through an invitation to participate in sports. Nguyen's insightful look into the life of a big-time football player offers first-hand glimpses of the personalities and playing (or coaching) styles of many celebrated stars of college football and the NFL. His stories offer excitement, romance (as he pursues his college sweetheart, now his wife), faith, fatherhood, and humor. Dat is a lively, engaging story of growing up in a refugee family, of big-time football, and of human struggle and success.

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Deconstructing Sport History

A Postmodern Analysis

This groundbreaking collection challenges the accepted principles and practices of sport history and encourages sport historians to be more adventurous in their representations of the sporting past in the present. Encompassing a wide range of critical approaches, leading international sport historians reflect on theory, practice, and the future of sport history. They survey the field of sport history since its inception, examine the principles that have governed the production of knowledge in sport history, and address the central concerns raised by the postmodern challenge to history. Sharing a common desire to critique contemporary practices in sport history, the contributors raise the level of critical analysis of the production of historical knowledge, provide examples of approaches by those who have struggled with or adapted to the postmodern challenge, and open up new avenues for future sport historians to follow.

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Democratic Sports

Men’s and Women’s College Athletics during the Great Depression

American public universities suffered tremendous funding cuts during the 1930s, yet they were also responsible for educating increasing numbers of students. The mounting financial troubles, coupled with a perceived increase in the number of “radical” student activists, contributed to a general sense of crisis on American college campuses.
University leaders used their athletic programs to combat this crisis and to preserve “traditional” American values and institutions, prescribing different models for men and women. Educators emphasized the competitive nature of men’s athletics, seeking to inculcate male college athletes (and their audiences) with individualistic, masculine values in order to reinforce the existing American political and economic systems.

In stark contrast, the prevailing model of women’s college athletics taught a communal form of democracy. Strongly supported by almost all female athletic leaders, this “a girl for every game, and a game for every girl” model had replaced the more competitive model that had been popular until the 1920s. The new programs denied women individual attention and high-level competition, and they promoted the development of what was considered proper femininity.

Whatever larger purposes these programs were intended to serve, they could not have survived without vocal supporters. Democratic Sports tells the important story of how men’s and women’s college athletic programs survived, and even thrived, during the most challenging decade of the twentieth century.

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Dixie Walker of the Dodgers

The People's Choice

Written by Maury Allen and Susan Walker

Fred “Dixie” Walker was a gifted ballplayer from a family of gifted athletes. (His father, uncle, and brother all played major league baseball.) Dixie Walker played in the majors for 18 seasons and in 1,905 games, assembling a career batting average of .306 while playing for the Yankees, White Sox, Tigers, Dodgers, and Pirates. Walker won the 1944 National League batting title, was three times an All-Star, and was runner-up for Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1946. He was particularly beloved by Brooklyn Dodgers fans, to whom he was the “People’s Choice.”
 
But few remember any of those achievements today. Dixie Walker—born in Georgia, and a resident of Birmingham, Alabama, for most of his life—is now most often remembered as one of the southerners on the Dodgers team who resented and resisted Jackie Robinson when he joined the ball club in 1947, as the fi rst African American major leaguer in the modern game. Having grown up in conditions of strict racial segregation, Walker later admitted to being under pressure from Alabama business associates when, in protest, he demanded to be traded away from the Dodgers.
 
Written by a professional sportswriter knowledgeable of the era and of personalities surrounding that event, and Dixie Walker’s daughter, this collaborative work provides a fuller account of Walker and fleshes out our understanding of him as a player and as a man. Walker ultimately came to respect Robinson, referred to him as “a gentleman,” and gave him pointers, calling him “as outstanding an athlete as I ever saw.”

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Dusty, Deek, and Mr. Do-Right

High School Football in Illinois

Taylor Bell

From small towns like Metamora, Aledo, and Carthage to East St. Louis and Chicago's South Side, Illinois's high school football fields have been the proving ground for such future stars as Dick Butkus, Red Grange, and Otto Graham. In Dusty, Deek, and Mr. Do-Right, longtime fan and sportswriter Taylor Bell shares the stories of the greatest players, toughest coaches, most memorable games, and fiercest rivalries in Illinois history. Drawing on dozens of personal interviews, Bell profiles memorable figures such as Tuscola's record-setting quarterback Dusty Burk, Pittsfield's brutally demanding yet devoted Coach Donald "Deek" Pollard, and Evanston's Murney "Mr. Do-Right" Lazier, who coached sternly but without prejudice in the racially charged 1960s and '70s. The book also discusses winning programs at schools such as East St. Louis, Mount Carmel, and Joliet Catholic, as well as long-standing rivalries and memorable games in the state playoff and Prep Bowl._x000B__x000B_The ultimate book for high school football fans in Illinois, Dusty, Deek, and Mr. Do-Right is infused with Bell's own love for the game and illustrated with sixty photographs of the players and coaches who made lifetime memories under the Friday night lights.

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ESPN

The Making of a Sports Media Empire

Travis Vogan

Once a shoestring operation built on plywood sets and Australian rules football, ESPN has evolved into a media colossus. A genius for cross-promotion and a near-mystical rapport with its viewers empowers the network to set agendas and create superstars, to curate sports history even as it mainstreams the latest cultural trends. Travis Vogan teams archival research and interviews with an all-star cast to pen an ambitious inside look at ESPN and its times. Vogan focuses on the network since 1998, the year it launched a high-motor effort to craft its brand and grow audiences across media platforms. As he shows, innovative properties like SportsCentury, ESPN The Magazine , and 30 for 30 built the network's cultural caché. This credibility, in turn, propelled ESPN's transformation into an entity that lapped its run-of-the-mill competitors and helped fulfill its self-proclaimed status as the "Worldwide Leader in Sports." Ambitious and long overdue, ESPN: The Making of a Sports Media Empire offers an inside look at how the network changed an industry and reshaped the very way we live as sports fans.

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Fame to Infamy

Race, Sport, and the Fall from Grace

Fame to Infamy: Race, Sport, and the Fall from Grace follows the paths of sports figures who were embraced by the general populace but who, through a variety of circumstances, real or imagined, found themselves falling out of favor with the public. The contributors focus on the roles played by athletes, the media, and fans in describing how once-esteemed popular figures find themselves scorned by the same public that at one time viewed them as heroic, laudable, or otherwise respectable.The book examines a wide range of sports and eras, and includes essays on Barry Bonds, Kirby Puckett, Mike Tyson, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Branch Rickey, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jim Brown, as well as an afterword by noted scholar Jack Lule and an introduction by the editors. Fame to Infamy is an interdisciplinary volume encompassing numerous approaches in tracing the evolution of each subject's reputation and shifting public image.

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The Farmers' Game

Baseball in Rural America

David Vaught

Anyone who has watched the film Field of Dreams can’t help but be captivated by the lead character’s vision. He gives his struggling farming community a magical place where the smell of roasted peanuts gently wafts over the crowded grandstand on a warm summer evening just as the star pitcher takes the mound. Baseball, America’s game, has a dedicated following and a rich history. Fans obsess over comparative statistics and celebrate men who played for legendary teams during the "golden age" of the game. In The Farmers' Game, David Vaught examines the history and character of baseball through a series of essay-vignettes. He presents the sport as essentially rural, reflecting the nature of farm and small-town life. Vaught does not deny or devalue the lively stickball games played in the streets of Brooklyn, but he sees the history of the game and the rural United States as related and mutually revealing. His subjects include nineteenth-century Cooperstown, the playing fields of Texas and Minnesota, the rural communities of California, the great farmer-pitcher Bob Feller, and the notorious Gaylord Perry. Although—contrary to legend—Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball in a cow pasture in upstate New York, many fans enjoy the game for its nostalgic qualities. Vaught's deeply researched exploration of baseball's rural roots helps explain its enduring popularity.

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Founding 49ers

The Dark Days before the Dynasty

The San Francisco 49ers are among the most dynamic franchises, not only in the National Football League but in all of professional sports. They have won five Super Bowl titles and have produced some of football’s most dynamic players in Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott, all of whom were coached by Bill Walsh, one of the game’s most innovative thinkers. The 49ers’ greatness came 35 years after the franchise began in 1946. During those years, they achieved no conference or league titles, even though they produced eight Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, including the celebrated “Million Dollar Backfield.” Offering a detailed look at the 49ers’ prolonged growing pains, from the 1940s through the mid­1970s, Founding 49ers focuses on that mostly unfulfilled time before the DeBartolo family rescued the franchise.

Author Dave Newhouse provides a fascinating look at the 49ers’ early years through the eyes of the players who gave the franchise its foundation. Ex­49ers from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s share their tales within these pages, including two members of the original 1946 team; Lou Spadia, the last surviving member of the 49ers’ original front office; former 49ers coach George Seifert; and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, son of an early 49ers broadcaster.

These mostly forgotten 49ers didn’t win like their successors, but they were highly entertaining, they broke down racial barriers, and they turned San Francisco into a major­league city. Founding 49ers captures the history of those pre­Walsh 49ers like no book before it.</p

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Friday Night Fighter

Gaspar "Indio" Ortega and the Golden Age of Television Boxing

Troy Rondinone

Friday Night Fighter relives a lost moment in American postwar history, when boxing ruled as one of the nation's most widely televised sports. During the 1950s and 1960s, viewers tuned in weekly, sometimes even daily, to watch widely-recognized fighters engage in primordial battle, with the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports Friday Night Fights being the most popular fight show. Troy Rondinone follows the dual narratives of the Friday Night Fights show and the individual story of Gaspar "Indio" Ortega, a boxer who appeared on primetime network television more than almost any other boxer in history. From humble beginnings growing up poor in Tijuana, Mexico, Ortega personified the phenomenon of postwar boxing at its greatest, appearing before audiences of millions to battle the biggest names of the time, such as Carmen Basilio, Tony DeMarco, Chico Vejar, Benny "Kid" Paret, Emile Griffith, Kid Gavilan, Florentino Fernandez, and Luis Manuel Rodriguez. Rondinone explores the factors contributing to the success of televised boxing, including the rise of television entertainment, the role of a "reality" blood sport, Cold War masculinity, changing attitudes toward race in America, and the influence of organized crime. At times evoking the drama and spectacle of the Friday Night Fights themselves, this volume is a lively examination of a time in history when Americans crowded around their sets to watch the main event.

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