MORE THAN JUST A GAME: Sports in American Life Since 1945

Kathryn Jay, Author . Columbia Univ. $27.95 (287p) ISBN 978-0-231-12534-5

Taking the insidious influence of sports in culture as a green flag, Jay (an assistant professor of history at Barnard College) drives her thesis through several hairpin turns until she crosses the finish line triumphantly. Jay expertly details the development of sports in America from the almost complete decimation of professional baseball during World War II to the evolution of leisure sports such as golf and the chaotic world of drugs and cheating scandals marking professional sports in the 1990s. In the 1940s, sports provided the language and the models for defining both democratic society and masculinity while at the same time confronting segregation—not always successfully, observes Jay—in the sports world. By the 1980s, athletes played out Cold War tensions on the field, the hockey rink, and the basketball court as the quality of sporting teams supposedly symbolized the political structure of different countries, e.g., the Soviets were brutes and the U.S. athletes were gentlemanly Horatio Algers striving to bring peace to the playing fields. By the end of the 20th century, Jay points out, several sports retained the aura of fair play and democracy of the 1940s—notably NASCAR—while others endured turmoil and scandal. Jay's exciting—sometimes breathless—commentary on the evolution of sports in late 20th-century America touches all the bases, scoring point after point with her lucid insights and evocative prose. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 287 pages - 978-0-231-12535-2
Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-231-50070-8
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