Reflections on the AFL and its merger with the NFL

This week in North Philly Notes, Charles Ross, author of Mavericks, Money, and Men, blogs about the AFL and the growth of the NFL.

As I sat watching the NFL draft I couldn’t help but think about the AFL and its merger with the NFL in 1970.  Pro football is clearly the most popular sport in America and that popularity is largely due to the rival leagues calling a truce and becoming one.  The last two teams to win the Super Bowl were original AFL teams–New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, and interestingly they struggled to achieve success as members of the AFL.  They never won an AFL Championship but the Patriots have won four Super Bowls and the Broncos three.  Maybe more importantly Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams probably didn’t anticipate the teams that made up the so called “foolish club,” being valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, when the original franchise fee was $25,000.

Mavericks_smEvery original AFL team including the two expansion teams have played in the Super Bowl, however, there are two NFL teams that have never had that experience, the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Again the Browns and Lions picked early on Thursday night, both teams since the merger have arguably struggled to field strong teams led by great quarterbacks and solid defenses, the usual ingredients necessary to reach the pinnacle of a successful pro football season.  The draft was virtually parallel to the percentage of African American players in the NFL, in essence the overwhelming majority of players selected were black.

The two universities that I owe much of my professional success had a historic night.  The Ohio State University where I received my Ph.D. had five players selected in the first round and the University of Mississippi where I have spent the last twenty years since leaving OSU, had three players selected in round one for the first time in school history.  Three of the five players from Ohio State were African American and all three from the University of Mississippi, of course having five players selected in round one for perennial power OSU was not necessarily a surprise.  But for the University of Mississippi to have three players chosen was, unfortunately the controversy that surrounded offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil’s fall to the Miami Dolphins because of posts on his social media page dominated the media’s focus and took the spotlight off what both programs had achieved.

Arguably the growth of the NFL since the merger is a real testament to pro football’s marriage to television.  The medium of television helped to increase the value of franchise’s, players contracts, coaches contracts, and profits from owners.  Large amounts of money fuel these relationships and ultimately the same relationships at the collegiate level.  Billy Cannon signed his contract to play for the Houston Oilers instead of the Los Angeles Rams after the Sugar Bowl in 1960, on New Year’s Day.  Cannon had agreed to contracts with both the Rams and the Oilers which was a NCAA violation, and he signed his contract on television under the goalposts when the game ended.  This was great publicity for the AFL and set the tone for the next six year war between the AFL and NFL.  The saga of Tunsil also played out on national television but like Cannon many fans will want to know more about this young man and his ability to be successful on the football field during this upcoming season.  The Miami Dolphins think he will be successful and so do I.

A lot has changed since the merger but one thing has not, the success of teams will be established on the field.  Publicity both positive and negative will continue to characterize aspects of what is now America’s favorite sport, in many ways the NFL has reached a zenith where the only competition is itself.  Pro football is not competing against the NBA or even major league baseball, its chief competition now is its own public perception.

 

Students’ views on Obama, Basketball, and Alexander Wolff’s book

This week in North Philly Notes,  six students from  Rebecca Alpert’s Honors Sports and Leisure in American Society class at Temple University write about meeting with The Audacity of Hoop author Alexander Wolff. 

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Marcus Forst, Physics major

President Obama has been in office for nearly half my life. Although I only see Obama as he is presented by the media, I feel that I know a little bit about the person that is Barack Obama. Basketball connects me with Barack Obama; I see him as a person instead of a figure because I identify with his interests.

The Audacity of Hoop, written by Alexander Wolff, is a window into Obama’s relationship with basketball—a close up look at the person that I had previously imagined. I had the opportunity to speak with Wolff about his experience writing the book as well as about the content itself. I asked if basketball would still have been an effective means for Obama to connect with common people—and distance himself from a purely intellectual image—had he been extremely good at basketball. My thinking was that Obama’s normalcy in basketball contributes to making him seem human and relatable. Mr. Wolff responded by saying that if Obama had been an incredible basketball player, he likely would not have been a politician. He stressed the crossroad in Obama’s life in which he decided to move away from dreams of basketball stardom and turned towards college and a future in politics, albeit while carrying with him “the love of the game.” Wolff added that Obama has used this story of a crossroads throughout his presidency in order to encourage young black males to strive for success in more traditional careers, while still bringing a love of basketball with them.

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Catherine Devlin, Biology major

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Alexander Wolff, the author of The Audacity of Hoop, before his promotional presentation about the book. He talked, of course, about the important role that basketball played throughout Obama’s campaign and presidency (the basis of his book). One of the most fascinating discussion points, for me, was his description of the campaign and the racial divide Americans experienced. The historic 2008 election of the first African American president will forever be remembered as a turning point in our history. The road to Obama’s election, though, was anything but easy.  According to Wolff, basketball was a deliberate and imperative part of the campaign that cannot be ignored. In 2008, Americans were looking for reassurances. The early questions into Obama’s citizenship, however, were not the main concern for the campaign. Surprisingly, the population of Americans who needed the most reassuring consisted largely of African Americans.

As Wolff put it, “How do you win African Americans just because you’re an African American?” We often have this intrinsic distrust of politicians that can end up either making or breaking a campaign. Images of Obama playing games of pickup basketball eventually gave the African American community the confidence to believe that Barack Obama was just a regular guy looking to make a difference. Wolff also discussed the intricate balance between portraying Obama as an “Average Joe” and avoiding playing into the stereotypes associated with being an African American male who plays basketball. The ingenious strategy was to introduce the candidate as a politician first and then slowly introduce his love of basketball in small groups of voters who had come to know him quite well. Obviously, the Obama campaign was able to find just the right middle ground.  Winning over enough Americans to be elected the leader of the nation is certainly not an easy feat. Being an African American candidate presented extra challenges for his campaign, but Barack Obama managed to make history.  The groundbreaking strategies on the road to the White House were, according to Wolff, only aided by Obama’s genuine love of America’s favorite game. It seems only fitting, then, to document as Alexander Wolff has done so beautifully, the unique and successful relationship between basketball and America’s first African American president.

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Bridgette Devlin, Biology major

Recently, I interviewed Alexander Wolff, Sports Illustrated writer and author of The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama. In the book, Wolff tracks basketball’s involvement throughout Barack Obama’s campaign and Presidency so far. One section, specifically, focuses on “Baracketology” – Obama’s annual NCAA March Madness bracket. So, what makes these brackets so important? Alexander Wolff thinks it’s all about Obama’s political strategy, relatability, and legacy.

The author easily listed examples of how the President’s March Madness picks can seem politically charged. Obama received criticism over his brackets’ large proportion of swing states and frivolity. Despite pushback from across many spectrums, Wolff says the yearly bracket simply conveys Obama’ sincere love of the game. Wolff described the tradition of inviting the champions to the White House to meet with the Obamas. He easily bantered with the teams. He jokes with the players and the coaches, proving that he keeps up-to-date with both the game and the latest league news. Regardless of his motivations, Obama’s NCAA bracket has provided him an opportunity to connect with the American people, showing them he is an average, relatable, and trustworthy person. Wolff notes that Obama’s connection to basketball and the tournament comes across as incredibly genuine, not as though we are being “spun” by an expert politician/manipulator. Wolff even goes so far as to speculate basketball’s influence on Obama’s Presidential legacy: “Will Obama be remembered as the President who shared his brackets with us?” Perhaps “Baracketology” will become a tradition, carried on by the next Commander-in-Chief as a way to reach the American people. The once-criticized practice has now become commonplace political strategy.

The author conveys in his book as well as in his interviews that Obama is very much an agent of change. During his Presidency, he has created a coalition to bring a much-divided nation together, often using basketball as his starting point and common thread. The sport has even given the public a glimpse into Barack Obama’s personal life, providing the entry point into his youth, career, and marriage. Obama’s connection to basketball has become intertwined with his legacy in many senses. I would venture to say that the same is true for Alexander Wolff, whose own legacy will surely include not only basketball, but also the Age of Obama.

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Austin Zwolenik, Biology major

Wolff’s writing, filled with comparisons and analysis is somewhat atypical in informative books, as they usually only lay out facts with no real opinion written by the author. The Audacity of Hoop caters to the people that subscribe to the acronym “tl:dr,” meaning: too long; didn’t read. Wolff even addressed this type of thinking in his talk as he referenced the style in which The Audacity of Hoop was written. It is a coffee table book filled with many pictures to tag along with the writing. This writing medium is excellent for the purpose of creating a dynamic where the pictures explain what words sometimes cannot.

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Long Duc Nguyen, Management Information Systems major

I had a great chance to meet the author of The Audacity of Hoop, Alexander Wolff. The author gave us some insights on President Obama, his campaign, and how the President’s use of sports affects American society. When President Obama fills out the March Madness bracket, it shows that he is just another person with the love for sports and creates a sense of trust among the African-American community. The most interesting story that the author told us is how Barack Obama, through his qualities on the basketball court, won the heart of the demanding Michelle Robinson.

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Isabella Menzies, Early Childhood Education major

While interviewing Alexander Wolff, the author of The Audacity of Hoop, I asked what brought his attention to the fact that Barack Obama had used basketball as a campaign strategy. Wolff stated that the influence of basketball on Obama’s campaign first grabbed his attention in 2008. He noted that he had always been interested in politics and basketball, so the potential intersection of those two entities allowed him to investigate a story that brought together both of his interests. Wolff acknowledged that he initially questioned if he had just strained to make connections between basketball and Obama’s campaign. Nonetheless, evidence of the influence that the former had on the latter (and vice versa) grew, and Wolff ultimately concluded that Obama had used basketball to connect with voters. Such a conclusion enabled me to realize the intentional (rather than coincidental) nature of the relationship between politics and sports.

Temple University Press’ Year of Glory

This year Temple University Press received a dozen honors and accolades for its books, authors, and publishing program. We are pleased (and humbled) to be recognized by so many scholarly associations. Below is a compilation of the awards we received during the 2015 calendar year.

Press Award:

Temple University Press was especially pleased to be selected by the Association of American Geographers to receive the AAG Publication Award for 2016. This prize is conferred in recognition of exceptional and outstanding contributions to the discipline by publishers. It read:

At a time when many smaller university presses are shrinking, Temple University Press has distinguished itself by its continued commitment to and excellence in publishing insightful, thorough, and well written scholarship and research in Geography and Urban Studies.

The relationship between the Temple University Press and the discipline of geography goes back to the founding of the Press in 1969. Since that time, the Press has continued to publish important and innovative work on current social issues. Their publications in geography are focused on urban, political, and human geography.

Today, the geographic works published by the Temple University Press are recognized with major awards from a wide variety of organizations. Two recent publications in geography were awarded the “Outstanding Academic Title” by Choice Magazine.  Urban Studies titles have received awards from major academic and professional organizations in Anthropology, History, Sociology, Urban Studies and Planning, among others.

For their long-term commitment to publishing excellent research in geography, we honor Temple University Press with the AAG Publication Award.

Book Awards

Conceiving MasculinityLiberty Walther Barnes received the British Sociological Association’s Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness Book Prize for her book Conceiving Masculinity: Male Infertility, Medicine, and Identity 

Softly with Feeling_smEdward Berger was honored with the Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ Award for Excellence in the category of Best Historical Research in Recorded Jazz, 2015 for his book Softly, with Feeling: Joe Wilder and the Breaking of Barriers in American Music.

Mobilizing Gay Singapore_sm Lynette Chua’s Mobilizing Gay Singapore: Rights and Resistance in an Authoritarian State received the Distinguished Book Award from the Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association, 2015.

Reverse Engineering_sm Reverse Engineering Social Mediaby Robert Gehl won the Nancy Baym Book Award 2015, given by the Association of Internet Researchers for the best work in the field of Internet Studies.

Dominican Baseball_sm The North American Society for the Sociology of Sport presented its 2015 Outstanding Book Award to Dominican Baseball: New Pride, Old Prejudice by Alan Klein.

Chilean New Song_sm J. Patrice McSherry received the 2015 Cecil B. Currey Book Award from the Association of Third World Studies for her book, Chilean New Song: The Political Power of Music, 1960s-1973.

MinichCompFinal.indd The Modern Language Association’s 2015 Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary Cultural Studies was awarded to Julie Avril Minich for her book, Accessible Citizenships: Disability, Nation, and the Cultural Politics of Greater Mexico.

Blue Juice_FNL_sm Patricia Morris’s Blue Juice: Euthanasia in Veterinary Medicinereceived the Midwest Sociological Society’s 2015 Distinguished Book Award.

Making a Global Immigrant_sm Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn’s Sunset Parkby Tarry Hum, received an Honorable Mention from the Association of Collegiate School’s of Planning‘s Paul Davidoff Award, 2015.

Disability and Passing_sm Dea H. Bolster, a contributor to Disability and Passing: Blurring the Lines of Identityedited by Jeffrey A. Brune and Daniel J. Wilson, received the Disability History Association Award for Best Book Chapter 2015.

Lifetime Achievement Award

1615_reg Green blackboard Knowledge LTD_sm The American Sociological Association convened its Marxist Sociology Lifetime Achievement Award, 2015 to the late Randy Martin, author of three Temple University Press titles, Financialization of Daily Life, Under New Management: Universities, Administrative Labor, and the Professional Turnand Knowledge LTD: Toward a Social Logic of the Derivative

 

Temple University Press Holiday Sale

Temple University Press is preparing for the holidays with our Annual Holiday Book Sale! Visit us at Temple University’s Diamond Club Lobby (lower level of Mitten Hall) December 2-4 from 11:00 am-2:00 pm to get reduced prices on all our books!

Meet City in a Park authors Jim McClelland and Lynn Miller on December 3 from 12:00 pm-2:00 pm!

Meet The New Eagles Encyclopedia author Ray Didinger on December 4 from 11:00 am-12:30 pm!

TUP Holiday sale 2015

Ray Didinger’s recap of the E-A-G-L-E-S season opener

This week in North Philly Notes, Ray Didinger, author of The New Eagles Encyclopediarecaps the Eagle’s season opener against Atlanta. 

A season of high hopes opened with a shocking disappointment as the Philadelphia Eagles dropped a lackluster 26-24 decision to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. The Eagles offense, which was so dynamic in the pre-season, did not show up until the second half and by then coach Chip Kelly’s team was already in a 20-3 hole. They rallied but ultimately fell short.

“We played a lot better in the second half, but we did not come to play in the first half,” Kelly said. “We didn’t play very well in the first half at all.”

The New Eagles Encyclopedia_smThe Eagles were a popular pre-season pick to make the NFL playoffs and possibly play their way into Super Bowl 50. They were the highest scoring team in the league in their four exhibition games and with quarterback Sam Bradford making his first regular season start, the Eagles figured to roll against a lightly regarded Atlanta defense. Instead, they couldn’t get anything accomplished early.
The Eagles had only six first downs in the first half compared to 16 for the Falcons and they were outgained almost two to one. The Falcons had 244 yards in the first half to the Eagles 125. In the second half, the Eagles got their offense untracked and Bradford completed 21 of 25 passes for 219 yards as he brought the team back, but in the final minute his pass bounced off the hands of receiver Jordan Matthews and was intercepted by safety Ricardo Allen icing the victory for Atlanta.
“It just felt like we were playing behind the sticks all day,” Bradford said, referring to the numerous penalties the Eagles committed (they had 10 in the game for 88 yards) which forced the team into long yardage situations. “We couldn’t really get anything going on first down. We were in too many second-and-longs.”
DeMarco Murray made his Eagles debut in the defeat. Murray was the NFL’s leading rusher last season playing for Dallas and he scored two touchdowns against the Falcons, but he finished the game with just nine yards on eight carries. Matthews led all receivers with 10 catches for 102 yards.
The Eagles trailed most of the game but they had a chance to pull ahead with three minutes remaining. They trailed 26-24 but they had third-and-one at the Atlanta 26 yard line. Kelly called for a handoff to Ryan Matthews, a running back acquired from San Diego in the off-season. Matthews was stopped for no gain so Kelly had to make a decision. Should he go for it on fourth down or send kicker Cody Parkey into the game to try a 44-yard field goal? A successful kick would have given the Eagles a 27-26 lead. Kelly went for the field goal, but Parkey’s kick was wide to the right.
“The ball was right in the middle of the field,” Kelly said. “I didn’t think it was a tough one. He’s hit those before.”
“It was my fault,” Parkey said. “There’s no rhyme or reason. I’m human and I missed.”
It was a disappointing performance overall by the Eagles marked by sloppy play, poor tackling, dropped balls and mental mistakes. It makes their home opener Sunday against division rival Dallas even more important. If fans are looking for a silver lining, there is this: The last time the Eagles won the NFL championship was 1960 and that year they lost their opener to Cleveland, 41-24. They came back the next week and defeated Dallas 27-25 to start a nine game winning streak.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary edition of The Phenomenology of Dance by Maxine Sheets-Johnstone

ThePhenomenologyofDance050715 international-national Flyer-thubHow useful is the 50th anniversary edition of The Phenomenology of Dance to USABP members?

This book is clearly not a book about therapy, body-oriented or otherwise. It may nevertheless be of considerable interest to dance therapists as well as body-oriented therapists in general by providing an experience-based analysis of movement and dance, and hence thought-provoking reflections on movement and dance. The book’s finely detailed descriptive analysis of movement is complementary to the graphic analysis of movement that constitutes Labananalysis. In addition to its finely detailed descriptive analysis of movement, the book concerns itself with dynamics, rhythm, and expression, each in separate chapters, and elaborates in experiential ways Susanne Langer’s philosophy of art as a matter of “form symbolizing feeling.” In particular, though Sheets-Johnstone diverges methodologically from Langer’s analytical approach, following instead the rigorous methodology of phenomenology, The Phenomenology of Dance prospers greatly from her insights into how the qualitative dynamics of movement in dance come to symbolize forms of human feeling.

The 50th anniversary edition also includes a lengthy new preface that addresses what Sheets-Johnstone sees as present-day issues in research studies and writings on movement and dance, most notably but not exclusively, the lack of recognition of kinesthesia as a sense modality, and with it, a lack of attention to the qualitative realities of movement. Sheets-Johnstone furthermore shows the value of dance to be dance in and of itself. She thus shows that dance is not a means to lofty goals of education, but that an education in dance–and hence the study of movement–is of prime value in and of itself.

In her first life, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone was a dancer/choreographer, professor of dance/dance scholar. That life has continued to inform her life as a philosopher and interdisciplinary scholar in near 80 articles in humanities, art, and science journals, and in nine books, all of which attest in one way and another to a grounding in the tactile-kinesthetic body. She has several articles in psychotherapy journals, among which Body, Movement and Dance Psychotherapy, American Journal of Dance Therapy, Psychotherapy and Politics International, and Philoctetes (the latter a journal co-sponsored by the New York Psychoanalytic Institute), as well as articles on movement and dance and on animation in journals such as Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences and Continental Philosophy Review.

She has given guest lectures and keynotes in the states and abroad and is scheduled in 2016 as a guest speaker at the International Human Science Research Conference in Ottawa, the European Association Dance Movement Therapy Conference in Milan, and the European Association of Body Psychotherapists Conference in Greece. She was awarded a Distinguished Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University in the UK in the Spring of 2007 for her research on xenophobia, an Alumni Achievement Award by the School of Education, University of Wisconsin in 2011, and was honored with a Scholar’s Session at the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy Conference in 2012. She has an ongoing Courtesy Professor appointment in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon.

Only Fans Can Ban Racism Among European Soccer Spectators

This blog entry reprints Sportista co-author Andy Markovits’ January 9 column from The Huffington Post about racism and sports.

Perhaps the most promising factor in the recent incident involving Kevin-Prince Boateng — the Ghanaian-German midfielder for the venerable Italian soccer club AC Milan, kicked the ball into the stands and walked off the field in the middle of the game after having reached his limit of being subjected to the vile racial abuse by some fans of Milan’s opponent Pro Patria — was the loud and demonstrative cheer that other Pro Patria fans accorded the Milan players when they joined Boateng in solidarity thus ending the game.

One thing is quite clear: The open — even prideful — use of the ugliest racist invectives imaginable that has become a ubiquitous staple of Europe’s soccer grounds will not disappear via legal steps and institutional interventions by the relevant authorities such as teams, leagues and federations. Rather, they will only do so if and when the fans themselves will find such language and behavior unacceptable. Only the fans can raise the threshold of shame which will eliminate this scourge and make the public expression of racism an iron-clad taboo. What European soccer needs is a “London, Ontario” moment in which a racist fan who had abused Wayne Simmonds, a black Canadian hockey player for the Philadelphia Flyers, by, among others, throwing a banana on the ice was turned in by other fans which subsequently led to the racist fan’s prosecution by the authorities. As long as a majority of fans tacitly tolerates racist invectives towards players (and opposing fans) by a vocal and assertive minority that often enjoys legitimacy for being viewed as the team’s only true and most loyal fans, this scourge will not disappear from Europe’s soccer stadia.

Taking pride in racist chants and behavior is, after all, not part of general European culture and discourse. Indeed it barely exists in any other European sports besides soccer. Why there? Because winning in this most important cultural icon attains a special importance, especially for men. And this constitutes the toxic brew.

Since sports are almost always adversarial, and since they are competitive contests, winning plays a crucial role. The importance accorded to winning creates an atmosphere in which contestants and their supporters will do everything to achieve victory. This includes deriding the opponent, taunting him, making him uncomfortable and insecure, trash talking and “getting into his head”. After all, these are among the most powerful components of what is “home field advantage,” “the 12th man” to stay with football (of the American or Association variety). And who is to decree what constitutes permissible language and behavior in the act of exercising partisanship? If fans can make fun of a contestant’s looks or the colors of his uniform, who is to say that they cannot deride his race? Who is to draw the line of properness and with what logic?

The more important the sport’s cultural standing is in a society, the more important winning in it becomes. With soccer being by far the most culturally dominant sport in Europe (and Latin America as well, where European-style fan behavior is also commonplace) winning in it becomes paramount and non-negotiable. As to the role of men: they have been massively overrepresented in the production and consumption of soccer (and similar culturally dominant team sports) since its modern incarnation in the late 19th century. Women remained excluded from the sports world on both sides of the Atlantic until the major changes wrought by the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s which, in the meantime, have rendered women close to men’s equivalents in terms of their numerical presence as athletes. However, women’s involvement as fans has thus far assumed a different trajectory in that their following of sports varies both in its quantity and texture from that of their typical male counterpart.

Moreover, it is on this dimension that there exists a major difference between the venues in American team sports and European soccer with the former featuring a much larger presence of female spectators compared to the latter’s continued paucity, especially on the grounds of lesser pedigreed teams. And even though the ugliest expressions of racism, xenophobia and homophobia have been subdued — though far from eliminated — at Europe’s top-tier leagues where appearances do matter for the global product that these leagues are hawking to a global audience, the event from Pro Patria’s ground which caused Kevin-Prince Boateng to exit from his torment remains quite the norm in the venues of European soccer’s lesser leagues. Not coincidentally, there are far fewer female spectators attending matches in these leagues as there are in the fancy stadia of the top leagues. There is no question that a larger percentage of female spectators in European soccer would help diminish, if not eliminate, the abominable behavior and language that have continued to mar “the beautiful game” as soccer fans so proudly — and quite plausibly — like to tout this sport. It would not be the first time that women would assume the role of men’s civilizing agents in human history.

Sportista_smAndrei S. Markovits teaches at the University of Michigan. His latest book is SPORTISTA: FEMALE FANDOM IN THE UNITED STATES co-authored with Emily Albertson and published by Temple University Press.

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