I believe I wrote awhile back about being a big sports fan. This upcoming weekend marks my annual tradition (since 1991, over half my life) of traveling to St. Louis with my dad to cheer on our beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Being a fan of them marks the old-time Major League Baseball geography, when his grandfather could only get KMOX on his radio, which led him to be a Cardinals fan in southern Indiana. There was a time when the Cards were the only team west of the Mississippi, and were about as far south as anyone. Plus, having the most world championships outside of the Yankees, it made it easier to draw fans to an exciting and successful team.
However, there is a real disconnect for me when I go to games. I’m among 40,000 other mostly-white people in a city that has a fair share of African-Americans. Oh wait, they are there – but they’re the ones selling $7 Busch beers and probably making minimum wage. It’s basically this dynamic in every city, from what I can tell. U.S. Cellular Field sits near where large housing projects used to sit in Chicago. And the 2006 World Series between the Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers helped to highlight the numbers of African-Americans who reside in the city limits of Detroit, yet how many white people traveled into town for the games. For a brief moment, the biggest fears that us white people probably had those nights were probably how far Albert Pujols or Magglio Ordonez would hit the ball.
In any case, I am finding there is hope for a conscientious sports fan who wishes Catholic Social Teaching values were more part of the picture.
Recently I’ve discovered the writings of Dave Zirin. I would describe him as a sportswriter with a radical political outlook. I don’t always agree with his analysis, but at least he provides an alternative view in the sportswriting industry. And at the very least, he has a vocabulary above seventh grade, a seeming rarity in sportswriting.
Here is a book list that I obtained when I was part of a panel discussion on sports and religion at the GTU last spring. Most of the credit for this list goes to James Parker, who will hopefully be teaching a class on the subject this academic year at the GTU.
- $40 Million Slaves by William C. Rhoden
- Souled Out? How Blacks Are Winning and Losing in Sports by Shaun Powell
- The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis
- A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports Slave by Brad Snyder
- From Season to Season: Sports as American Religion edited by Joseph L. Price
- The Holy Trinity of American Sports: Civil Religion in Football, Baseball, and Basketball by Craig A. Forney
- An Unholy Alliance: The Sacred and Modern Sports by Robert J. Higgs and Michael C. Braswell
- The Great God Baseball: Religion in Modern Baseball Fiction by Allen E. Hye
- Safe at Home: A Memoir of God, Baseball, and Family by Marc A. Jolley
- Rounding the Bases: Baseball and Religion in America by Joseph L. Price
- The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values by James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen
- Reclaiming the Game: College Sports and Educational Values by William G. Bowen
- The Shape of the River: Long Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions by William G. Bowen and Derek Bok
I also stumbled upon the book Shut Out by Howard Bryant. The book details how it wasn’t the Curse of the Bambino that caused the Red Sox to go 86 years without a championship, but rather the racism of the team’s owners (and perhaps fans?) that made them the last team to tap into African American talent, a full 12 years after Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I mean, I’m still a fan at heart and I needed some reasoning on why they were able to beat the Cardinals so easily in the 2004 World Series.