In honor of the start of the 2012 Olympics tonight, we offer you a selection of our favorite sports books.
This subtly funny video, "What Cricket Looks Like to Americans," is going around today in honor of the Olympic's UK hosts. If Americans really want to understand cricket, both the game and its cultural context, they must read C.L.R. James's classic Beyond a Boundary, originally published in 1963. Writing in The Nation, Mark Naison called it, “a book of remarkable richness and force, which vastly expands our understanding of sports as an element of popular culture in the Western and colonial world.”
Many of the athletes competing in the games will be truly transnational citizens, playing on a team in one country, while trying for Olympic glory under the different flag of their birth. Sports like soccer, baseball, and golf have tremendous global appeal. Rachael Miyung Joo's book Transnational Sport: Gender, Media, and Global Korea looks in particular at Korean athletes and events and explores how global sport has helped shape what it means to be Korean.
The journal SAQ has published two special issues in which scholars take sports seriously. In Real Sports, scholars who are also fans write on boxing, baseball, sports radio, and father-son bonding. And in The Pleasure Principle, contributors explore the issue of sports as a form of pleasure, from the thrill of the World Cup to the hype of the Super Bowl, sport represents a singular source of social belonging and communal enjoyment—sometimes as intense as religious faith.
Finally, don't forget to read, or re-read, our previous post on anthropologist Katrina Karkazis's research on the controversial new form of sex testing of female athletes at the Olympics. Enjoy the games!