- Moments of Impact: Injury, Racialized Memory, and Reconciliation in College Football by Jaime Schultz
Professor Jaime Schultz has produced a wonderful piece of scholarship that weaves together history, sociology, and sports as seen through the complicated politics of racialized memory. The book focuses on three college football athletes, whose memories haunt us today. These athletes––Jack Trice, Ozzie Simmons, and Johnny Bright––are all significant threads in the tapestry of United States college football and, as Schultz argues, race in college football and beyond. Schultz is an adept historian who weaves a compelling narrative that is easy to read as well as interesting and thought-provoking.
Many things were enjoyable about the book, which makes it great reading for the office or during halftime. The pictures included are helpful but it would have been great to see more. Racialized memory is so impacted by visuality that presentation of more images would be beneficial for readers. The introduction and afterword are rewarding in that both help contextualize the case studies. Readers are presented with numerous end notes and a list of published materials. While Schultz lists her archival sources and provides ample notes, the book could stand to be fifty pages longer and include additional discussion about her archival sources, as well as an expanded significance statement. Why focus on these particular athletes (who are each unique, of course) but not Willie Thrower or George Taliaferro? The book leaves unanswered a significance question that could have been better addressed with additional pages in the introduction.
Each of her three substantive chapters focuses on one player and the different mnemonic cartographies associated with them. The chapters could be read alone and would be valuable assignments for undergraduate and graduate courses on sports history, race and sports, and the sociology of sports. Furthermore, each chapter could be compared with the theoretical work of scholars like Bradford Vivian, Greg Dickinson, and Brian Ott to produce rich interactions between memory, forgetting, notions of the public, and specific discursive events. There is much room for reading this book in tandem with others. But here is where an omission presents problems.
Unfortunately, Schultz does not advance any new theoretical ground. While the case studies she highlights are interesting (although all have been previously published in lesser forms in other venues) she misses an opportunity to engage the rich literature devoted to racialized memory. One might expect the works of Ian Baucom, Stephen Best, David Blight, W. Fitzhugh Bundrage, and Paul Gilroy to take center stage, yet this is not the case. Likewise, and of concern, Schultz makes only passing reference to Jim Thorpe, even though Thorpe’s mnemonic cartography is as complicated and racialized as the college football players she has selected.
Lastly, Schultz misses an opportunity to engage the politics of concussions the title and subtitle implicitly suggest. Namely, with impact, injury, and memory highlighted, the reader seems almost compelled to take up the question of concussions in college sports. Yet Schultz gives the reader little link to present day injury and neurological memory discussions. While Shultz writes grippingly about the ways players brutalized Ozzie Simmons, adding another chapter or expanding the afterword to include a discussion of race, sports, and traumatic brain injury would provide a bio-historical linkage to the present day that begs for further discussion. There is quite literally a problem with memory that sports have failed to address which, in turn, impacts perceptions of race, racism, and reconciliation in college football.
History need not push theoretical boundaries, but sometimes better situating a book in theoretical discussions can advance theory and history instead of only history. While [End Page 107] not without misgivings, I whole-heartedly recommend this text to sports, history, and race undergraduate and graduate students, although perhaps not as strongly to scholars. Shultz is to be commended for her prose and her devotion to these three athletes and for reminding us all that memory is never simple.