The Seeds of the Imagination: Colin Kaepernick’s Gift

This week in North Philly Notes, we repost a September 27 article from The Con by Grant Farred, author of Long Distance Love, about the NFL’s “Take a Knee” controversy.

In his response to his friend Fredric Jameson’s essay “American Utopia,” Slavoj Žižek makes a case for what is all too often lost in the uproar and turmoil caused by a historical event. What is forgotten, Žižek argues, are those “seeds of the imagination” that first created the conditions that made the event possible; the “seeds of the imagination” are overwhelmed by the event and, without the deliberate act of retrieval, lost to history. Žižek has no timetable, but one suspects that he has a longer view in mind than Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee on the 1 September, 2016. It was in a National Football League (NFL) game for the San Francisco 49ers against the-then San Diego Chargers.

Still, there is a resonance about Žižek’s concept in a moment when there is large-scale support for the decision by NFL players, coaches, owners and an assortment of commentators in response to Donald Trump’s condemnation of the “SOB” players who, following Kaepernick’s example, have kept up the tradition of taking a knee. The bi-racial Kaepernick, adopted by a white family in Wisconsin, took his decision because of police violence and mistreatment of other minorities in the United States. This was not a nation, Kaepernick declared, whose flag or anthem he could honour, this was not a nation to which he could pledge allegiance. Kaepernick was, in this regard, following Jackie Robinson, who had, decades earlier, taken the same stand. As, Robinson said, a “black man” signified very differently to him than it did to white Americans. Unlike Robinson, who made this statement after his career had ended, Kaepernick has paid, like Muhammad Ali, a professional price. Since the end of last season, in a league full of mediocre quarterbacks (and even worse backups), Kaepernick has been out of a job.

However, what Kaepernick brought to the fore was politics. The politics of race, police brutality and the unequal treatment of minorities. In the aftermath of the Huntsville rally where Trump criticised the “sons of bitches” footballers for taking the knee, in this weekend’s NFL games, there was an outpouring of condemnation.

Players, from the usually reliable (Seattle Seahawks’s Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett; Marshawn Lynch, once of Seattle, now of the Oakland Raiders; and so on) to the unexpected (Tom Brady, [New England] Patriot in more senses than one, a Trump supporter to boot; the Dallas Cowboys, albeit taking a knee before the national anthem); coaches, from the admirable (Pete Carroll, Seahawks) to the shocking (Rex Ryan, for whom Huntsville was a Damascus experience); owners, well, other than the Steelers’ Rooney family everyone was a surprise. Shahid Kahn (Jaguars), the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft (like his quarterback Brady a Trump man), Jerry Jones (who participated in the premature knee-taking) to the owners of the Philadelphia Eagles . . . It would seems that the New York Jets’ Woody Johnson, a rather fervent Trump underwriter, is out in the cold by himself. It promises to be a lonely place for Woody. But at least he’ll have the company of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Pittsburgh Penguins, who only represent the whitest sport in America. He’ll have to do without the likes of National Basketball Association (NBA) superstars Lebron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors), who want no part of Trump and his White House. Then there’s Robin Lopez of the Chicago Bulls, whose tweet suggests that he expects Trump to be indicted.

What has been lost sight of, in the nigh universal locking-of-arms, taking-of-knees, and expressions of public outrage by commentators from the normally ebullient Chris Collinsworth to the articulate Bob Costas, from the savvy of CNN’s Bakari Sellers to the erudition of MSNBC’s Brian Williams, is how the entire conversation is being overwhelmed by the discourse of respectability, responsibility and, of course, patriotism. The case has made based entirely on the players’ First Amendment right: the right to free speech; their right to protest animated, of course, by the anger fuelled by Trump’s incendiary call to “fire” the “SOBs”.

The players, almost every commentator announces, are patriotic. They have “great respect” for the American flag. Under no circumstances must their protest be understood as a slap in the face of the military. The players are apparently united in their respect for the nation’s armed services, for the police force and all other state institutions whose members work to keep the country safe.

Whatever happened to the “seeds” of Kaepernick’s “imagination?” Have we already forgotten that Kaepernick, like Ali once did (before his conservatism got the better of him), like Robinson and John Carlos and Tommie Smith, understood, correctly, that the problem is precisely the American nation as it is constituted. To be sure, both Carroll and Costas gave voice to this. And, each in their own way, began from the political premise that racism and institutionalised inequality are ingrained in the nation’s fabric; discrimination of African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities is the very stuff of America – you know, like apple pie.

What is more, the dominant line of defence has been, the NFL players “care” about their “communities” and work very hard to contribute to it. These “communities” are never specified, but one presumes that it has to do with kids, and, almost certainly, with kids in under-resourced neighbourhoods.

But . . .  But . . . None of this matters. None of it.

In fact, the only way in which the First Amendment means anything, has any political purchase, is if it begins from the ground that the players, like every other resident of this country, have rights that are in no way contingent. That is, they are free do as they choose – protest, take a knee, stand with their hand over their heart, raise a clenched first – regardless of whether they are “responsible” citizens given to doing good deeds in their assorted “communities.”

What the discourse of “caring” achieves is to imbricate, relentlessly and repeatedly, the players’ right to protest, their right to give voice to their anger, whether it be against police brutality or against Trump’s racist bullhorn (very much in the spirit of Alabama’s own “Bull” Connor), in the discourse of respectability. Because the players, and the NFL, by extension, are responsible stewards of their “communities,” they are then implicitly immunized against the charge of disloyalty to the nation. Their commitment to their “communities” is the surest sign of their investment in America and its values; because they have “great respect” for cops and “deeply appreciate the sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform” the act of taking a knee on a Sunday afternoon must not be mistaken for a lack of “patriotism.”

Why ever not? Isn’t the very fundament of the rights enshrined in the First Amendment precisely the right to offend? To give offense, again and again? To disrespect the flag, turn your back on the singing of the national anthem or to pour scorn upon American “values?”

In the rush to support or defend the players’ right to protest, what that right means has been reduced to a publicity relations campaign overwhelmed by the discourses of respectability and responsibility. The logic of this defence proceeds from the ground that the players are “worthy” of their rights; they are “upstanding members” of their “communities” who care —  a point with which I am fully sympathetic — about disproportionate police brutality against blacks and the structural inequality that remains a persistent feature of American life.

It does not matter if they are “upstanding” citizens or not. (No one makes the same demands of the owners, those who, like Johnson and Jones and Kraft, remained silent when Trump berated Mexicans as “murderers and rapists,” or advocated predatory sexual behaviour against women, or mocked a specially-abled reporter or . . .). The right to the First Amendment, if it is to have any political salience, must be apprehended as unconditional, something like sovereign. The moment in which support for the players is made to rest upon their socio-political “worthiness,” the discourse of respectability and responsibility veers unthinkingly into political paternalism. Only the “worthy” can give voice to their frustration or anger. Girding this argument is an unreflective and, within the context of the US, historic racism.

Respectability and responsibility (the NFL has its share of miscreants and unsavoury characters, from Lawrence Taylor to Ray Rice to . . .) is installed as the litmus test. There must be no contingency, no dependency upon others burnishing the players’ grievance and anger with their, to mix metaphors, their seal of ethical approval.

There is no need for the players to “nuance” (a term Costas favoured on Monday as he made his way on the talk show circuit) their protest. In fact, they have every right to make, if they so wish, public their disdain for the military or, contrary to what the Steelers so spectacularly failed to do, call one another out, team mate to team mate. Why should one team mate not be divided from another on matters of politics? Why should a league of which, at least, some 70% are black men, not let the mainly white crowds know that they disapprove, in the strongest possible terms, of their – the crowds, as was shown on Sunday and Monday evening – voting tendencies? Why ever not? Why not reiterate the division between black performance (labour, albeit a labour of love, as it is for many) and white consumption? In a moment of historic racial division, it can be argued that the first right is that of enunciating racial difference and the continuing deleterious effect of American racism. From police brutality to the failing Chicago Public School system (ask Chance the Rapper about that) to the intense racial animus that Trump has traded on.

It may very well not, this insistence on the right to unfettered right, to the absolute right to express that right, be the most efficient PR strategy. But, then again, there has never been a protest movement that began by first seeking approval. Or, allowed the fear of sanction to immobilise it. The Montgomery bus boycott, the March to Selma, Ali’s willingness to sacrifice his career because, as he said when he refused induction into the US Army, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong, they never called me Nigger,” owes much to its willingness to offend, to take issue, publicly, with the status quo.

Because of the rush to respectability, because of the visceral impulse to submit to the discourse of patriotism (the first refuge of scoundrels, as I’ve argued elsewhere), Kaepernick’s gift is in danger of being trampled upon. It might serve the NFL players better if they resisted the urge to clothe themselves in the cloak of respectability, if they eschewed the trappings of responsibility.

If, instead, they embraced fully the “seeds” of Kaepernick’s “imagination.” Kaepernick sowed, through his willingness to articulate the politics that informed his act of kneeling, in his stated opposition to the racism that has repeatedly allowed police officers who have ended the lives of black citizens (a point Sellers made on CNN) to be summarily ended without any palpable justice, a seed uncompromised by the desire for respectability. Kaepernick acted as a political “bad boy.”

If that “seed” is lost, if his “imagination” is not properly understood and honoured, if the “seed of his imagination” does not grow into a politics rather than a placatory course of action, then, as Žižek reminds us, there will have been, no matter the amount of ink spilled on this issue, no matter the hours spent trolling the internet or sitting glued to the TV/computer screen offer their opinions on it, fidelity to Kaepernick’s “seed,” to the possibilities a now unemployed quarterback opened up when he first took that knee, in that game more than a year ago against the Chargers.

The only proper way to honour Kaepernick is to recognise the promise of the political “seed” he germinated and then to exceed it. As the Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett senior put it, his NFL-playing sons, Michael and Martellus (tight end for the Green Bay Packers), will continue to protest. Out of one “seed,” potentially another. And so on, and so on. The Seahawks defensive end appears ready to add the force of his political “imagination” to the “seed” Kaepernick planted in San Diego. Who said that defensive ends are the scourge of quarterbacks? Not in this case, one dares hope.

ABOUT GRANT FARRED

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Temple University Press’ Fall 2017 Catalog

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase the books from Temple University Press’s Fall 2017 Catalog.

“A Road to Peace and Freedom”

“A Road to Peace and Freedom”
The International Workers Order and the Struggle for Economic Justice and Civil Rights, 1930–1954

Zecker, Robert M.

The history of the International Workers Order’s struggle to enact a social-democratic, racially egalitarian vision for America

430 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1516-5
cloth 978-1-4399-1515-8

Against Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Against Capital in the Twenty-First Century
A Reader of Radical Undercurrents
Edited by Asimakopoulos, John and Richard Gilman-Opalsky

A broad, nonsectarian collection of anti-capitalist thinking, featuring landmark contributions both classic and contemporary

390 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1358-1
cloth 978-1-4399-1357-4

Against the Deportation Terror

Against the Deportation Terror
Organizing for Immigrant Rights in the Twentieth Century

Buff, Rachel Ida

Reveals the formerly little-known history of multiracial immigrant rights organizing in the United States

382 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1534-9
cloth 978-1-4399-1533-2

Believing in Cleveland

Believing in Cleveland
Managing Decline in “The Best Location in the Nation”

Souther, J. Mark

Do reforms that decentralize the state actually empower women?

210 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1397-0
cloth 978-1-4399-1396-3

Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate

Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate
The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher
Westcott, Rich
Forewords by Monte Irvin and Ray Mackey III

The first biography of arguably the greatest catcher in the Negro Leagues

160 pp • 5.375×8.5 • Fall 2017
cloth 978-1-4399-1551-6

Communities and Crime

Communities and Crime
An Enduring American Challenge

Wilcox, Pamela, Francis T. Cullen, and Ben Feldmey

A systematic exploration of how criminology has accounted for the role of community over the past century

282 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-59213-974-3
cloth 978-1-59213-973-6

The Cost of Being a Girl

The Cost of Being a Girl
Working Teens and the Origins of the Gender Wage Gap

Besen-Cassino, Yasemin

Traces the origins of the gender wage gap to part-time teenage work, which sets up a dynamic that persists into adulthood

238 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1349-9
cloth 978-1-4399-1348-2

Exploiting the Wilderness

Exploiting the Wilderness
An Analysis of Wildlife Crime

Warchol, Greg L.

A contemporary criminological analysis of the African and Asian illegal trade in wildlife


208 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1367-3
cloth 978-1-4399-1366-6

From Slave Ship to Supermax

From Slave Ship to Supermax
Mass Incarceration, Prisoner Abuse, and the New Neo-Slave Novel

Alexander, Patrick Elliot

The first interdisciplinary study of mass incarceration to intersect the fields of literary studies, critical prison studies, and human rights

266 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1415-1
cloth 978-1-4399-1414-4

Latino Mayors

Latino Mayors
Political Change in the Postindustrial City
Edited by Orr, Marion and Domingo Morel
With a Foreword by Luis Ricardo Fraga

The first book to examine the rise of Latino mayors in the United States

312 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper paper 978-1-4399-1543-1
cloth 978-1-4399-1542-4

Love

Love
A Philadelphia Affair

Kephart, Beth

From the best-selling author of Flow comes a love letter to the Philadelphia region, its places, and its people

New in Paperback!
176 pp • 5.5×8.5 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1316-1
cloth 978-1-4399-1315-4

On the Stump

On the Stump
Campaign Oratory and Democracy in the United States, Britain, and Australia Scalmer, Sean

The story of how the “stump speech” was created, diffused, and helped to shape the modern democracies of the Anglo-American world

236 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1504-2
cloth 978-1-4399-1503-5

Phil Jasner

Phil Jasner “On the Case”
His Best Writing on the Sixers, the Dream Team, and Beyond

Edited by Jasner, Andy

Three decades of reporting by famed Philadelphia Hall of Fame sportswriter Phil Jasner

264 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
cloth 978-1-4399-1494-6

Philadelphia

Philadelphia
Finding the Hidden City
Elliott, Joseph E. B., Nathaniel Popkin, and Peter Woodall

Revealing the physical and cultural intricacies of Philadelphia, from the intimate to the monumental

200 pp • 7.875×10.5 • Fall 2017
cloth 978-1-4399-1300-0

Rulers and Capital in Historical Perspective

Rulers and Capital in Historical Perspective
State Formation and Financial Development in India and the United States

Chatterjee, Abhishek

Explains the concomitant and interconnected emergence of “public” finance and “private” banking systems in the context of state formation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

188 pp • 5.5×8.25 • Fall 2017
cloth 978-1-4399-1500-4

Selling Transracial Adoption

Selling Transracial Adoption
Families, Markets, and the Color Line

Raleigh, Elizabeth

Examines cross-race adoptions from the perspectives of adoption providers, showing how racial hierarchies and the supply and demand for children shape the process

274 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1478-6
cloth 978-1-4399-1477-9

Suffering and Sunset

Suffering and Sunset
World War I in the Art and Life of Horace Pippin

Bernier, Celeste-Marie

A majestic biography of the pioneering African American artist

New in Paperback!
552 pp • 6.125×9.25 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1274-4
cloth 978-1-4399-1273-7

Tasting Freedom

Tasting Freedom
Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America

Biddle, Daniel R. and Murray Dubin

Celebrating the life and times of the extraordinary Octavius Catto, and the first civil rights movement in America

New in Paperback!
632 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-59213-466-3
cloth 978-1-59213-465-6

Toward a Pragmatist Sociology

Toward a Pragmatist Sociology
John Dewey and the Legacy of C. Wright Mills

Dunn, Robert G.

An original study that mines the work of John Dewey and C. Wright Mills to animate a more relevant and critical sociology

198 pp • 5.5×8.25 • Fall 2017
cloth 978-1-4399-1459-5

We Decide!

We Decide!
Theories and Cases in Participatory Democracy

Menser, Michael

Argues that democratic theory and practice needs to shift its focus from elections and representation to sharing power and property in government and the economy

360 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1418-2
cloth 978-1-4399-1417-5

Why Veterans Run

Why Veterans Run
Military Service in American Presidential Elections, 1789–2016

Teigen, Jeremy M.

Why more than half of American presidential candidates have been military veterans—and why it matters

320 pp • 6×9 • Fall 2017
paper 978-1-4399-1436-6
cloth 978-1-4399-1435-9

Click here to download the catalog (pdf).

The Audacity of Hoop: The Transformative power of basketball in the lives of young people

This week in North Philly Notes, we post a slideshow of images from Philadelphia Youth Basketball‘s recent event with Craig Robinson and The Audacity of Hoop author Alexander Wolff. 

Last weekend, Philadelphia Youth Basketball (PYB), a non-profit organization dedicated to building a premiere youth development center in North Philadelphia, hosted a groundbreaking event entitled “The Audacity of Hoop: The Transformative power of basketball in the lives of young people.”

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The event featured Craig Robinson, Milwaukee Bucks Vice President of Player and Organizational Development and former Oregon State and Brown men’s basketball coach and renowned journalist Alexander Wolff, a former Sports Illustrated senior writer and author of the book The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama. Robinson, the brother of Michelle Obama, is also in president Obama’s inner circle of basketball aficionados and is featured prominently in Wolff’s book. The conversation was moderated by former Sports Illustrated executive editor B.J. Schecter.

“We are thrilled that two of the preeminent names in basketball came to Philadelphia to talk about the transformative power of the game,” said Philadelphia Youth Basketball’s Chairman of the Board and retired Ballard Spahr partner John Langel. Adds PYB President and CEO Kenny Holdsman. “I could not think of two better people to carry on a high-level conversation about the potency of the game in the lives of kids and communities.”

The event,  tipped-off a huge weekend of basketball in Philadelphia with the first-ever Ivy League men’s and women’s basketball tournaments at the Palestra. The were discussions of The Audacity of Hoop basketball and the community, coaching and mentorship and tradition, as well as diversity in the game and what it teaches everyone who touches it.

“Basketball is the ultimate meritocracy,” said Holdsman. “The game honors diversity and disrespects the typical dividing lines of race, economic circumstance and even neighborhoods. None of that matters when you step on the court. Nobody knows that better the Craig Robinson and Alex Wolff.”

About Philadelphia Youth Basketball
Philadelphia Youth Basketball is a passionate, diverse, and committed group of organizers and investors who have come together to build a premiere, basketball-based youth development program, organization and center to empower young people, especially those from under-resourced families and communities, to reach their potential as students, athletes, and positive leaders.

Temple University Press staff picks for Black History Month

This week in North Philly Notes, Temple University Press staff members select their favorite titles for Black History Month

Ann-Marie Anderson, Marketing Director

I was totThe_Parker_Sisters_emboss_smally captivated by Lucy Maddox’s The Parker Sisters! In 1851, the two free black sisters were kidnapped from a farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and sold back into slavery for a full year. Their story reads like a novel with twists and turns at every angle as the true story of the two young sisters unfolds. True freedom was not to be had for many African Americans during that time, and for both the free and fugitive living in border areas like here in Pennsylvania and nearby Maryland, danger lurked everywhere. Slave catchers were a mighty force, getting legal and illegal assistance from both black and white. Through newspaper accounts, diaries, and courtroom documents, Maddox traces the sisters harrowing experiences and provides a glimpse into what life was like in mid-19th century America.

Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager

I’m a complete sucker for Sandra Bullock and her film The Blind Side. But after reading Matthew Hughey’s The White Savior Film, I can’t look at this (or any other) film about racial uplift the same way again. Hughey’s cogent unpacking of “saviorism” has prompted me to call it out whenHughey_front_012814_sm I write about film, and also to find films that eschew this trope that perpetrates stereotypes about race, class (and even gender). Reading Hughey’s book makes me even more conscientious of racial equality in film. And “The DuVernay Test,” named for African American filmmaker Ava DuVernay (I Will Follow, Selma), was devised to monitor films to ensure “African Americans and other minorities have fully realized lives rather than serve as scenLayout 1ery in white stories.” The current Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, which features a trio of female African American mathematicians playing vital roles at NASA, passes the DuVernay test, and despite scenes of saviorism, is decidedly not a White Savior film. These women were real people whose abilities paved their way to success. Incidentally, Hidden Figures also evokes another Temple University Press title, Swimming Against the Tideby Sandra Hanson, about African American girls and science education, which also demands reader’s attention.

Mary Rose Muccie, Director

Aden_2.inddThousands of people come to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia each year to visit the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the nation’s first White House, known as the President’s House.  There they’ll also see the only memorial to slavery on federal land.  As Roger Aden explains in his book, Upon the Ruins of Liberty: Slavery, the President’s House at Independence National Historical Park, and Public History, the memorial’s location is more than a gesture. When he came from Virginia to live in the President’s House, George Washington brought with him nine African slaves and later found a loophole in Pennsylvania state law that allowed him to avoid granting them their freedom.  The stories of freedom and liberty associated with the events that took place in Philadelphia rarely if ever acknowledged the existence of the slaves present as history was being made, and Aden’s book speaks to the importance of expanding the “history” commemorated at the site and describes the perhaps unexpected issues around doing so.  Its discussion of the sometimes uncomfortable presentation of this piece of our history speaks to many of the threads woven into Black History Month and to the need to change what we’re taught about how the notion of  liberty was applied.

Ryan Mulligan, Editor

Layout 1We’ve seen sports serve as an intensely visible and symbolic ground to showcase the slow march towards progress that has, in fits and starts, propelled black history. In sports we’ve seen exclusion become segregation, participation met with resistance, success met with fear, and finally and most ironically racial pride become national pride. This last transition is visible in the distance between now and the 1968 Olympics, when Tommie Smith scandalized America by celebrating his gold medal in the 200-meter dash with a raised fist gloved in black as the National Anthem played. That scandal forced spectators to reconcile America’s progress with its work to be done, that if it wanted to take pride in its native son’s achievement, it would also need to hear his protest. This seems to me emblematic not only of a step in black history but also in the telling of black history. Black history, taught and learned well, cannot be restricted to a story white people tell about statuesque historical figures frozen in time but must give a platform for those figures to speak for themselves. That is why I’d like to call attention to Silent Gesturewhich Temple published 10 years ago in which Tommie Smith tells his own story and his silent gesture takes on a living voice.

Aaron Javsicas, Editor in Chief

Tasting Freedom_AD(12-16-09) finalDan Biddle and Murray Dubin’s Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America is a masterfully told story about this important figure in both Philadelphia and American history. Catto’s heroic activism and tragic murder at the hands of a racist mob on election day in 1871 foreshadowed the century of civil rights struggle to come. As Philadelphia prepares to unveil a statue memorializing Catto’s life later this spring on the grounds of City Hall, please consider picking up a copy of this engrossing and important biography.

Temple University Press’ Spring 2017 Catalog

This week in North Philly Notes we showcase our Spring 2017 catalog of books and journals!

 

What Temple University Press staff wants to give and read this holiday season

This week in North Philly Notes, the staff at Temple University Press suggest the Temple University Press books they would give along with some non-Temple University Press titles they hope to read this holiday season. 

Mary Rose Muccie, Director

audacity-of-hoop_smGive: As a recent Press tweet suggested, I’d give Alexander Wolff’s The Audacity of Hoop to those on my list who’ve been in a funk since November 8.

Read:  A review of Maria Semple’s new book, Today Will Be Different, pointed me to an earlier book, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and I’ve had it on my list ever since. I love smart, witty, satirical contemporary novels and this looks to be just that.


Karen Baker, Financial Manager
building-drexel_032816_smGive:
 Boathouse Row  by Dotty Brown and Building Drexel, edited by Richardson Dilworth and Scott Gabriel Knowles, as both of these books are beautiful. Since all of my family are born and raised in Philadelphia, they will make great gifts for them.

Read: A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans. This book was just brought to my attention because it is about to be made into a movie, and it looks like a fun read.

 

 

Aaron Javsicas, Editor-in-Chief

boathouse-row_smGive: Boathouse Row, by Dottie Brown. We at Temple University Press have done our part to make holiday gift giving a little easier on Philadelphians this year. Dottie is a terrific writer who is passionate about rowing, the book is gorgeous, and it’s the first full exploration of this fascinating and unique Philadelphia institution. Giving Boathouse Row is practically a required act of Philadelphia civic pride.

Read: American Amnesia, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. These authors argue we have apparently forgotten how a “mixed economy” — with a substantial role for public intervention as well as for free markets — was crucial to achieving American prosperity in the twentieth century. It’s hard to know where we’re headed these days, but with seemingly everything up for grabs this looks like the sort of fundamental civics lesson we could all use.

Sara Cohen, Editor

Ghostly Encounters_smGive: I’ll be giving folks copies of Dennis and Michele Waskul’s Ghostly Encounters.  It’s fascinating, readable, and (at least as far as I’m concerned) nothing says “holiday season” like ghosts.

Read:  I’ll be reading Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl and Tom McCarthy’s Remainderthe latter of which I received as an early holiday gift from a good friend.

 

 

 

Ryan Mulligan, Editor

will-big-league-baseball-survive_smGive: Will Big League Baseball Survive? The World Series this year brought in so many viewers and gave them such a sublime show at just the moment that football looks like it might be losing a shade of its luster. Will baseball fandom remain arcane to casual audiences? Is a breakthrough imminent, possible, or even necessary? Lincoln Mitchell sees the path forward. His book is perfect for the baseball evangelists I know.

Read: Colson Whitehead’s NBA-winning (no – we’re not talking about sports anymore) Underground Railroad and Zadie Smith’s new Swing Time (read her speech on hope and history ) in fiction and I’m curious about Michael Lewis’s take on Kahneman and Tversky in The Undoing Project.


Nikki Miller, Rights and Contracts Manager

Give: Dotty Brown’s Boathouse Row, which takes you through the history of rowing with beautiful pictures along the Schuylkill.  It offers a relaxing balance of history and storytelling which makes it a perfect read for the holiday season.
Read: The holidays give me an excuse to lay by the fire and reread my favorite book: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.


Joan Vidal, Senior Production Editor

suicide-squeeze_smGive: Suicide Squeeze: Taylor Hooton, Rob Garibaldi, and the Fight against Teenage Steroid Abuse, by William C. Kashatus. This important story of the tragic steroids-related suicides of two up-and-coming student-athletes is an essential addition to the continuing education on the widespread problem of steroid abuse among young people.

Read: I hope to receive The Boys from Eighth and Carpenter, by Tom Mendicino, a novel about two brothers who grow up in 1960s South Philadelphia and then go their separate ways: one staying and taking over their father’s barbershop and the other moving away and becoming a high-society lawyer. When life goes awry, they reveal the strength of the bond between them.


Kate Nichols,  Art Manager
Give: I would give George Lipstiz’s How Racism Takes Place.
 
Read: I have already given myself Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (through a donation to WXPN).

Dave Wilson, Senior Production Editor

City in a Park_smGive: I thoroughly enjoyed working on and reading City in a Park: A History of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park System by Lynn Miller and Jim McClelland. The authors recount a fascinating story of the birth of the park system, and I found myself wanting to visit the many places and houses so vividly depicted by the authors. The accompanying talks the authors gave made me more aware of one of the world’s greatest park systems, one that I didn’t fully appreciate until I had read this book.

 

 

Ann-Marie Anderson, Marketing Director

possessive_investment_rev_ed_smGive: I’d like to give a few of my friends copies of The Possessive Investment of Whiteness, by George Lipsitz, a book that illustrates the injustices suffered by and the advantages of white supremacy.

Read: I’m trying to catch up on my reading, so from the 2015 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books list, I just bought Loving Day by Mat Johnson to read over the holiday break.  Peace and love to all this holiday season!

 

 

 

Emma Pilker, Editorial Assistant

framing-the-audience_smGive: Framing the Audience by Isadora Anderson Helfgott, to my art history colleagues. Anyone interested in the social history of art will appreciate Helfgott’s analysis of pivotal 20th century movements that shaped today’s art world.

Read: I have been putting off reading Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller because of the heavy themes, but the end of the year is the perfect time to commit to some historical reflection and cultural

 


Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager

consuming-catastrophe_smGive: Considering how 2016 was, Timothy Recuber’s Consuming Catastrophe: Mass Culture in America’s Decade of Disaster an appropriate gift. Recuber looks at how the media covered four crises–the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech shootings and the 2008 financial crisis–and how our concern for the suffering of others help soothe our own emotional turmoil.

south-philadelphia

Read: I just started read Michael Chabon’s Moonglow, which actually acknowledges a Temple University Press book–Murray Dubin’s South Philadelphiaas source material for the depiction of South Philadelphia in the book. This video of Chabon, made during his Free Library of Philadelphia appearance on December 8 opens with him talking about how Dubin’s South Philadelphia influenced his “autobiographical novel.”

Looking at the past to see Major League Baseball’s future

This week in North Philly Notes, Lincoln Mitchell, author of Will Big League Baseball Surivive? considers how MLB has changed since Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world.”

On November 23rd of this year, 90 year old former big league pitcher Ralph Branca died. Bianca was a solid pitcher, winning 88 games with a very respectable 3.79 ERA over 11 year seasons in the 1940s and 1950s. Branca, however, is mostly remembered for giving up the most famous home run in baseball history. He was the relief pitcher who gave up a three run home run to Bobby Thomson in the bottom of the 9th inning of the third and final game of a playoff series to determine the National League pennant in 1951. Even casual baseball fans have seen the clip of Thomson running the bases, Branca looking dejected and the Giants fans at the old Polo Grounds in northern Manhattan going crazy while announcer Russ Hodges keeps repeating “the Giants win the Pennant.”

That was, by any measure a great game, unless I suppose, if you were a Brooklyn Dodger fan. Thomson’s home run highlighted the Giants comeback after trailing by 4-1 in the last inning. Five future Hall of Famers, including Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays, played in that game between two teams who had been rivals for over half a century. The game was further immortalized by Dom DeLillo who opened his Cold War Epic The Underworld with a fictional scene of Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, Toots Shor and J. Edgar Hoover sitting together at that game.

Perhaps the most interesting and overlooked statistic about that game is that there were 20,000 empty seats for this most exciting and anticipated of games. Baseball fans today assume that big league baseball was always played by the best players in the world in front of full stadiums, but for much of baseball’s history that was not true. Ironically, while baseball played a bigger role in our culture then—it is hard to imagine any home run in the 21st century becoming as widely remembered as Thomson’s or known as the “shot heard ‘round the world’—it was a much smaller industry.

will-big-league-baseball-survive_smThis is significant because to understand where Major League Baseball (MLB) is going, it is essential to understand how it got to be where it is. In 1951, only a few years after Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Dodgers, baseball at the major league level, was still a game played entirely in the northeast and Midwest in mostly empty ballparks. Integration was still in its nascent stage as there were informal limits on the number of African-American players on each team, and Latinos with dark skin were still almost entirely excluded.

Baseball’s journey to becoming a multi-billion dollar industry with the best players from the baseball-playing world vying for lucrative spots on 30 teams in North America was a complex one. Baseball did some things well, like being ahead of the national curve on integration and adapting well to new technologies, notably the internet, but it also encountered problems such as its mishandling of the steroid crisis while poor attendance remained a problem as recently as the 1990s when baseball considered eliminating two teams.

The recently concluded season ended on a high note as the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908. The final game of the World Series between the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians drew more viewers than any game in the last quarter century. Since the World Series, the major baseball story has been the efforts to renegotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the players and the owners. The most visible issues that have been raised with regards to the CBA thus far have been the possibility of adding a 26th player to big league rosters and introducing an international draft for all amateur players around the world.

These issues, however, are only very dim reflections of the bigger challenges baseball will confront in the coming decade or two. In the last 10-20 years globalization has brought more top players from everywhere in the world to MLB, but as globalization continues, many baseball loving countries, particularly those with some economic power, will chafe at this system, while MLB may realize that concentrating entirely in North America leaves many markets untapped. Similarly, new technologies and ways of consuming information will make lucrative cable contracts a thing of the past while MLB will need to find ways to more efficiently monetize its impressive advanced media products. Additionally, as fewer American children grow up playing more than one sport, fewer Americans grow into adulthood with a working knowledge of the game, raising important questions about how baseball will find the next generation of fans.

The last decade or two have been almost a perfect storm for MLB. Cable revenues have remained high while advanced media has brought in even more money. Globalization has made the best players available to American teams, while not being quite powerful enough to challenge American baseball hegemony; and there are still enough middle aged and older Americans who grew up with the game to fill stadiums and watch the postseason on television. This won’t continue and how baseball responds to these changing conditions will determine the future of this complicated and rarely fully understood American institution.

 

 

 

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