Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Sports

This week we highlight 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles about Sports

1. Soccer in American culture: the beautiful game’s struggle for status
White, G. Edward. Missouri, 2022

In this timely contribution to the publisher’s “Sports and American Culture” series, White (Univ. of Virginia Law School) traces the development of US soccer, exploring its marginalization vis-à-vis so-called American indigenous sports—gridiron football, baseball, and basketball. Given the expansion, industrialization, and urbanization of the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, White critically questions the early neglect of soccer, deemed a “mere” ethnic sport played mostly by immigrants. Conversely, he also examines the growing success of the game since the 1970s as a participatory and spectator sport. The book’s nine chapters detail the English origins of the game, its ambivalent reception in US schools and colleges, the frustrating attempts to organize and unite the various associations, and the eventual formation of Major League Soccer in 1996. Given the secondary role of women in the early sport, the introduction of Title IX in 1972 helped bring about significant improvements in women’s soccer at all levels—grassroots, national, and international. Now, with increased television coverage and improved facilities, including soccer-specific stadiums, US soccer can claim to be part of the worldwide “beautiful game.” White’s 45 pages of notes include detailed bibliographical references, and black-and-white illustrations accompany the text. View on Amazon

2. Having their say: athletes and entertainers and the ethics of speaking out
Bunton, Kristie. McFarland, 2021

Bunton (Texas Christian Univ.) offers a profound model for analyzing situational communication, addressing key ethical challenges for those who decide to voice political concerns publicly. Celebrities in public view such as athletes and entertainers are the main actors highlighted in this work. Examples range from the case of the Dixie Chicks’ 2003 public opposition to the Iraq War to Colin Kaepernick’s stance against police brutality, expressed by “taking a knee” during performance of the national anthem. Other situations covered involve, for example, Stephen Curry, Taylor Swift, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, LeBron James, and Eroseanna Robinson. Aside from discussing persons of note or influence, the book also ponders the average person’s role and responsibility for “speaking out.” Other themes include the First Amendment and how the courts classify speech, as well as understanding modern modes of communication available to exercise the potential for dissent or develop a practice of political activism or speech. In short, Bunton does a terrific job of outlining specific case studies of political communication in order to portray ethical dilemmas surrounding personal responsibility and public reaction in an ever-evolving society. This book will appeal to many readers, but scholars of political science, philosophy, history, communication studies, and sociology will likely find it exceedingly powerful. View on Amazon

3. Games people played: a global history of sport
Vamplew, Wray. Reaktion Books, 2021

This monograph offers a delightfully quirky, unusually personal take on the history of sport around the world. Covering the history of global sport is an ambitious undertaking, but Vamplew (emer., Univ. of Stirling) gives it his all, exploring a commendable range of sports and a variety of sporting issues. Though he focuses more on Western sport, particularly sport in the US, Europe, and around the former British Empire, he does mention sport in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and other locales. Notably, Vamplew also calls for additional research on indigenous sport in a global context and sport for average people and those who have lost in sporting events. Although he focuses largely on men’s sport, the author does discuss some women’s sporting efforts (e.g., soccer, water sports) but makes almost no mention of transgender athletes’ struggles in the gender binary of sport. The text addresses a wide range of sporting controversies, drawing examples that range from political and sport business narratives to stories of drug issues and gambling activities, among many others. The book provides a fun overview of sport history, and the author’s personal anecdotes amusingly reveal his perspectives and biases. View on Amazon

4. A runner’s journey
Kidd, Bruce. Toronto, 2021

Kidd (emer., Univ. of Toronto) has written a memoir of his accomplished and well-lived life. He employs his personal experiences, particularly in social activism and scholarship, to promote sport for all, kinesiological studies to maximize drug-free performances, and the humanistic analysis of sport and society to advocate for gender and social justice for athletes. Part 1 examines how Kidd’s “teenage prodigy” years as a world-class distance runner, twice winning Canada’s Athlete of the Year award, led to participation at the 1964 Olympic Games. In part 2 (“The Education of an Activist”), Kidd focuses on his years as a social activist, a time of significant involvement in the social democratic Ontario New Democratic Party, which coincided with his brief work in various civil service positions that promoted social welfare. Kidd became involved in many local and worldwide organizations that worked to advance the rights of all athletes, notably the Olympic Project for Human Rights. The third part of the book centers on Kidd’s ongoing efforts to reform Canadian sport, his personal intellectual development leading to a PhD in history at York University, and decades of teaching sport and public policy and working as an administrator in Toronto. View on Amazon

5The brain on youth sports: the science, the myths, and the future
Stamm, Julie M. Rowman & Littlefield, 2021

This well-researched, thoroughly sourced work focuses on the dangers of repetitive brain trauma, particularly in youth contact sports. The chapter organization and accessible format shows a particular strength. The text begins by explaining the pros and cons of youth contact sports participation and why people should care about youth brain injuries. Much of the book centers on the science behind current understandings of several types of traumatic brain injury, arguing that any type of repetitive subconcussive head impact, even those not at the level of concussion or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), can have a lasting, long-term impact on the brain. Another strength of this book is in the author’s clear explanations of the science that informs current understanding of brain injuries, how those injuries happen, and why youthful brains are vulnerable during development. The author deftly dismantles common arguments and myths used by some in defending the current version of youth sports. A primary takeaway is that although people might not know everything, they do know enough to take the threat of brain injury seriously at the youth level and need to make changes now. View on Amazon

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