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  • The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction
  • Jan Rintala
Delaney, Tim and Tim Madigan. The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2009. Pp. 340. Photos, glossary, bibliography, and index. $39.95 pb.

The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction is exactly what the title asserts. In the book, the authors, Tim Delaney and Tim Madigan, utilize both micro and macro approaches to look at sport in society. It is predominantly a look at sport in the United States, although some attention is given to globalization and its impact. Delaney has taught sport sociology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, while Madigan is an assistant professor in philosophy with an emphasis in applied ethics.

The text has a chapter format similar to most introductory sport sociology texts, with most addressing specific institutions or issues in sport. Chapter 1 provides a general overview of the sociology of sport, including its pervasiveness, definitions of sport (including leisure and play), and a brief consideration of sociology and the assumptions of a sociological perspective. In introductory material, the authors assert that they intend to provide “a critical examination of sport but with an emphasis upon its positive features” (p. 1). This is evident throughout the text; people who are used to more critical examinations of sport, in both theory and tone, will find this text to be different. [End Page 296]

Beginning with the second chapter, each starts with a short story or a hypothetical situation that sets the stage. For example, the chapter on youth sport begins with the saga of Marv Marinovich and his efforts to groom his two sons from birth to be great football players. Not only are the athletic successes presented but also their struggles in the world outside of sport. These scenarios provide a good starting point for discussion of both potential benefits of sport but also the implications of adult involvement in youth sport or when outcomes become more important than process. I found these provided a helpful practical context that may assist students new to the study of sport in recognizing the paradoxes and controversies.

Chapter two addresses social theory and sport. The initial section is on George Herbert Mead and play. This is followed by functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interaction, feminist theory, and BIRG (Basking in Reflected Glory) and CORF (Cutting Off Reflected Failure) theories. This varies somewhat from other introductory approaches which include critical theories (of which feminist theory is one example, together with hegemony theories), and present BIRG and CORF theories, if at all, as part of fan behavior. Not only is hegemony theory per se not covered, I do not recall the concept of hegemony even being mentioned. This is reflective of the intent of the authors to present both a positive and positivist look at sport.

There is a separate chapter on history, including ancient Africa and Asia, the Greeks and Romans, Middle Ages, and the move through the industrial phases. Historians would certainly find this a cursory approach, but it is appropriate for this text. The chapter assists with providing historical context for later topics in the book. A strength, starting with this chapter on history, is that while the big four of football, baseball, basketball, and hockey are given coverage throughout, other sports (extreme sports, for example) are also included.

The fourth chapter includes a presentation of culture and subcultures that is more developed than other introductory texts. The authors consider this to be a unique contribution of their book, and I found this to be a strong feature in bringing to light some of the concepts we often assume people understand. The authors then present a fairly lengthy discussion of sport heroes, their functions, categories, and demise. The emphasis is on the positive role that heroes have, so once again, for those more inclined to critical analyses and perhaps the issues of athletes as questionable role models, the chapter would need some counterpoint.

The remainder of the chapters is pretty standard for this type of text: socialization, youth sport, high school and college sport, deviance, violence, gender, race and ethnicity, economics, politics, religion, and the media. There is also a short final chapter on...


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pp. 296-299
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