A Whole New Ball Game: An Interpretation of American Sports

Allen Guttmann, Author University of North Carolina Press $0 (233p) ISBN 978-0-8078-1786-5
Guttmann, a professor of Engish and American studies at Amherst and the author of two previous books on sports, attempts ""to set sports within a larger social framework and . . . to use sports for what they reveal about the larger culture.'' Early interesting and well-documented chapters examine the differences between ``pre-Columbian'' (Indian) and ``modern'' sport, and how the Puritans' conflicted attitude toward athletics ``retarded the emergence of modern sports.'' Subsequent chapters provide useful digests of sports history and research, but offer few novel analyses or conclusions and occasionally lack integration and development. The piece on baseball begins with an engaging look at how the sport ``eased the difficult transition from an agrarian to an urban-industrial society,'' but shifts suddenly into a glance at the game's changing economic structure. Likewise, the basketball chapter promises to study the ``proto-typical modern sport'' but deals more with gambling than with the game itself. Guttmann's approach to controversial issues (organized sports for children, the corruption of college athletics, racism, women in sports, injuries, drugs) displays the stereotypical academic's love of theory and disdain for evaluative judgments: ``How should reasonable men and women feel about the trends and tendencies I have attempted to describe? Ambivalent.'' This is a useful text for the student of popular culture, but it offers little for the reflective fan. Illustrations not seen by PW. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 243 pages - 978-0-8078-4220-1
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