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A Brief History of American Sports


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An in-depth look at the importance of sports to American culture and way of life.

About the Author

Elliott J. Gorn is a professor of history at Brown University. He is the author of The Manly Art: Bare-Knuckle Prize Fighting in America, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America, and editor of Muhammad Ali: The People's Champ.Warren Goldstein chairs the Department of History at the University of Hartford. He is the author of the award-winning Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball.


The authors should have entitled their book A Brief Cultural History of American Sports . Gorn (Miami Univ. of Ohio) and Goldstein (SUNY-Old Westbury), both American studies professors, give a cultural overview of the way sports affect American society and how American society in turn shapes organized sports. One of the author's themes is that most sporting events evolved as social displays emphasizing white male domination and power, with violence, racial bias, sexism, and elitism as natural outgrowths. The text asserts that commercialization has corrupted sports, affected the educational system, and severely damaged the ideal of amateurism. Benjamin Rader's American Sports ( LJ 4/1/83) is a better history, but Gorn and Goldstein offer a rich source of discussion topics for American studies, sociology, or sports history classes.-- Terry Madden, Boise State Univ. Lib., Id.

"We have for too long ignored the critical importance of sports in our continuing national narrative, seeking meaning only in the increasingly stale arena of the state (and its wars and generals and 'great men'). With A Brief History of American Sports, Elliott J. Gorn and Warren Goldstein remind us that the very serious world of play provides a precise mirror of American life and aspiration, a deep, at times painful, but always abiding portrait of who we are." -- Ken Burns, documentary film director, and co-author of Baseball: An Illustrated History "If history were baseball, Gorn and Goldstein would get credit for a triple play: they have skillfully and imaginatively integrated sports into the framework of American culture and society, produced a pioneering work which should have enduring influence, and given us a scholarly history which is delightful to read. It's a terrific book in every way." -- Lawrence W. Levine, University of California at Berkeley

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