Essay about Independent Reading Assignment

Submitted By ryno55
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Essay 3: Independent Reading Assignment

If you ask any American what their favorite sport is you will find many different answers. But the point being is that almost all Americans have some form of sporting event that they enjoy. In many ways sports embody the identity of what is believed to be an American, whether it be that hard work and dedication leads you to success, or it could be the simple fact that America offers a plethora of diverse sports to choose from. The book A Peoples History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play by Dave Zirin discuses sports from when the first pilgrims witnessed Native Americans playing lacrosse, to the modern day American sports world. But this book also delves into the issues surrounding sports at different times in Americans history, from racism to how politics have influenced the game we see today. Most sports fans have a basic idea of the history of the games they love. But this history is mostly limited to the on field accomplishments of players and teams that we see. Rarely do we hear about the politics and issues surrounding these historic feats. In the beginning sports weren’t even considered sports, they were merely games that helped the common people escape from the hellish lives and work they did on a daily bases. But even in the beginning these games were looked at as a waste of time that could be spent towards god. As time went on in early 18th century America these religious groups, such as the Puritans, became conflicted as to whether these games should be contained or destroyed entirely. Zirin writes “The question raised-and still unanswered-by these nouveau Puritans was whether sports could be moderated or needed to be banished entirely.”(Zirin 4). Zirin’s quote shows that even in its earliest state that sports have had a connection to the ideals of the time. But in the end the “conquerors of the New World” saw these games as a way to develop modern society and also provide a release from work. So from the beginning we see a connection of sports and politics. Sports captivate us in many more ways than people come to realize. Certain moments throughout sports history are considered crucial moments of American history also. One of the most famous moments would be Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. But Zirin points to the fact that the man who brought him to this historic feat, Branch Rickey, acknowledges that it wasn’t because he was the best African American player at the time (most people believed aging Negro League stars such a Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige were) but that he was the best fit or the right “type” of player. They wanted a player who could withstand being harassed and could contain himself when they knew Robinson would have a long road of insults and racial slurs thrown at him. Zirin also points to the political side of this momentous occasion and notes that Robinson was a military man, and how after World War 2 many thought more of African Americans in this country. Zirin states “Given how the war raised the expectations of blacks in America, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the man who smashed the color line was a vet.”(Zirin 98). Robinson was a Veteran and even though he never saw any combat due to a court martial he was later acquitted of, but the government could use him as a symbol of uniting the country in war and in sport. “If [blacks] can fight and die in Okinawa, Guadalcanal, in the South Pacific, they can play baseball in America.” Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, 1946. (Zirin 98). He also notes that Robinsons arrival also showed that by adding African American players to major league rosters would attract more ticket sales, in that African Americans would come to see the games, and that the Dodgers attendance for Robinsons first year rose to an astounding 1.7 million. Racism in sports is not an old issue that is behind us, in the sports