King Football: sport and spectacle in the golden age of radio and newsreels, movies and magazines, the weekly & the daily press
This landmark work explores the vibrant world of football from the 1920s through the 1950s, a period in which the game became deeply embedded in American life. Though millions experienced the thrills of college and professional football firsthand during these years, many more encountered the game through their daily newspapers or the weekly Saturday Evening Post, on radio broadcasts, and in the newsreels and feature films shown at their local movie theaters. Asking what football meant to these millions who followed it either casually or passionately, Michael Oriard reconstructs a media-created world of football and explores its deep entanglements with a modernizing American society. Football, claims Oriard, served as an agent of "Americanization" for immigrant groups but resisted attempts at true integration and racial equality, while anxieties over the domestication and affluence of middle-class American life helped pave the way for the sport's rise in popularity during the Cold War. Underlying these threads is the story of how the print and broadcast media, in ways specific to each medium, were powerful forces in constructing the football culture we know today.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
The other day I heard the author on NPR and, as it’s that time of the year, I wanted to read his newest book about the development of college football as it transitioned into the questionable Bowl Championship System (BCS) currently in place. I was overwhelmed with shock and excitement when my local library’s database listed two copies as “available.” Then, of course, the typical disappointment set in when the book was nowhere to be found (I say typical since I’ve come to realize that if you can’t rely on the nation’s third largest library to never have the book you’re looking for, then what library can you rely on?). As Oriard has only written seven books, it was surprising that the library actually had one of them, so I quickly snatched it up. Admittedly, the subtitle inclusion of such terms as “Spectacle…Golden Age…Newsreels…Daily Press…” concerned me quite a bit. However this is a terrific historical text that is in no way some nostalgic-trip-down-memory-lane picture book as the subtitle sort-of implies. If anything, it borders on being too academically rigorous like Harold Seymour’s baseball book that I just couldn’t get through. Oriard’s narrative is much more engaging as it stays away from insane, Seymourian statistics. Instead of stating something like, “There were 2,194 registered baseball players between the ages of 9 and 12 in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood during the 1923 season yielding a mean allotment of one municipal team for every 17.26 players…et cetera.,” Oriard might go with a more effective, “Football was popular that year amongst school-aged children.” The other factor that made this quite palatable – though I was initially unsure – is Oriard’s reliance upon the aforementioned media resources as a vehicle with which to trace how the sport evolved to increasingly dominate the attention and participation of US citizenry. As I have an innate tendency to distrust most journalism from even the likes of The New York Times, Oriard’s use of resources from Some Town in Texas Gazette, goofy stories from Colliers, and, gulp, Hearst newsreels didn’t initially seem like the basis for solid scholarship. But this is indeed a solid narrative, dealing with seemingly all the relevant issues surrounding the game as it transitioned from an elite pursuit of helmetless Yalies to an increasingly padded anyone-from-anywhere population segment over a fifty-year period (well, anyman – not woman, though he deals with that as well). These issues include the Americanization of different ethnic groups, the incremental acceptance of black players during and after Jim Crow, the ongoing debates about the “professionalism” of the college game (including the coverage of various Socialist Dailies), the emergence of the NFL – definitely not a fait accompli circa 1920 – and the role of football as the ultimate expression of “masculinity” in the US (especially during interwar periods) to the logical exclusion of “sissies” and “females” (hilariously, J. C. Leyendecker’s oft-commissioned, early-century cover art that came to represent the ideal, football dude archetype were really paintings of his gay lover!). The use of sundry media sources – as questionable as they might be individually – seems necessary to deal with these myriad social and cultural issues. All of this is poised against such external backdrops as Freudian theory, State Department visa restrictions, the “science” of Eugenics, the Civil Rights movement, World Wars, The Great Depression, fledgling Feminism, and, of course, the insatiable thirst for entertainment in this country. However, unlike many scholarly texts, say, within the discipline of architecture, Oriard doesn’t smother/disfigure the main topic under the weight of too much theoretical/socioeconomic/critical baggage. There’s a thankful exclusion of Heidiggerian quotes (or perhaps more relevantly, Nietzschean “Supermen”) that seem to sneak their way into every proper treatment of bathroom renovation essays...
Review: King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly and the Daily PressUser Review - Michael Grogan - Goodreads
I can't believe I'm the first Goodreader to rate this book! I don't know that I've encountered a long-forgotten 1960s English book about Modern Architecture that wasn't on at least a couple “shelves ... Read full review
IN THE KINGDOM OF FOOTBALL
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