Proceedings from The 30th Annual Conference of the Sport Literature Association, June 26–29 2013

The 30th Annual Conference of the Sport Literature Association

Monmouth, NJ, June 26-29 2013

Proceedings edited by Kyle Belanger and Jeremy Larance

sport-literatureJune 26 (Wednesday)

8:45-9:15 Introductions

Dr. Stanton Green (Monmouth University), Dean of the McMurray School of Humanities & Social Sciences

Duncan Jamieson (Ashland University), SLA President

9:15-10:30 Panel I: Cool Runnings

Chair, Richard Crepeau (University of Central Florida)

Tim Morris (University of Texas at Arlington)
“Running Away and Hiding in the Bathroom: Sport in the Novels of Jean-Philippe Toussaint”

Belgian novelist Jean-Philippe Toussaint writes short, enigmatic, desultorily plotted novels of wandering.  In his best-known works, the prize-winning The Bathroom, Running Away, and The Truth about Marie, the main character takes flight from unspecified malaise and travels, often at high speed, across inhospitable postmodern settings.

All three novels make use of a central sport scene which seems, frankly, digressive (respectively: tennis, bowling, and horse racing). But as theorist Pierre Bayard notes, digressions are in the eye of the reader.  Perhaps these novels are actually sport stories delivered in the form of *nouveaux romans*.

Connie Ann Kirk (Writer)
“Driving the Narrative: The Auto-Biographies of Mario Andretti and Jackie Stewart”

Perhaps two of the best-known names in motorsports are American Mario Andretti and the self-described “wee Scot,” Sir Jackie Stewart.  Both are world champion racers in Formula 1 – Andretti winning that honor once in 1978 and adding several other titles in IndyCar and elsewhere to his trophy case.  Stewart took the F1 world championship no fewer than three times (1969, 1971, 1973).  What many people outside the world of motor racing may not know, however, is that each of these sportsmen in his own way had to overcome severe personal hardships in his youth that made his accomplishment on the world stage later on in life all the more remarkable.

From his pictorial autobiography, Andretti, for example, readers learn that the Italian-American immigrant had the extraordinary experience as a youth of spending time in a European internment camp during World War II.  In Stewart’s full-length narrative Winning Is Not Enough, readers hear about the pain and stigma of having undiagnosed dyslexia in 1940s Scotland through the multi-champion’s detailed, first-hand account of what that experience felt like for him as a schoolboy.

In their two very different autobiographies, each racer (presumably each with the help of a ghost writer) chronicles his life story from its earliest days to the present. This paper will describe the differences in narrative structure, strategy, and storytelling techniques used in the two autobiographies through a compare and contrast analysis.  The analysis will highlight literary and stylistic features of both narratives and, through that, offer commentary on common themes and how they relate to other racer auto/biographies.  Through this study, and with a nod to critical theory in autobiography, some observations may be made about the unique characteristics of the racer auto/biography genre, and from that, possibly additional light may be shed on autobiography in sport, in general.

Duncan R. Jamieson (Ashland University)
“The Metal Cowboy”

For the last twenty years Joe Kurmaskie has delighted bicyclists and armchair travelers.  Beginning with The Metal Cowboy (a nickname he acquired from an elderly, blind farmer in Montana) Kurmaskie has written five books of bicycle adventure in the United States and Canada and around the world.  He has ridden alone, with friends and gone on a cross-Canada jaunt with his wife and kids in tow.  He views himself “as an errant adventurer taking the road less traveled.”  Others view him as Charles Kuralt on a bicycle.  According to one reviewer, “As Melville is to the sea, Mark Twain to the raft, and Kerouac to the car, Joe Kurmaskie is to the bike.”  Someone else describes his books as being about bicycles as much as Don Quixote is about windmills.  In any event, he is a sports adventurer who makes his living writing.

10:45-12:00 Panel II: Media Matters

Chair, Angie Abdou (College of the Rockies)

Kyle Belanger (Springfield College)
“First she works the locker room, then she dances with interpretation: Michelle Seaton’s hierarchicaldissection”

The worlds of sports and the sports media are ones brimming with unwritten hierarchy and codes: those based in age, gender, merit and sexuality, among others. Each of these topics are broached in Michelle Seaton’s essay, “How to work a locker room,” first published in 2009 in the University of Memphis’ literary journal The Pinch, then reprinted in The Best American Nonrequired Reading that same year.

As a member of the sports media (she is a contributor the weekly National Public Radio sports program “Only a Game”), as well as a creative nonfiction instructor with Grub Street, Inc., a nonprofit writing center in Boston, Seaton is keenly aware of the previously-identified hierarchies. Not so surprisingly, “How to work a locker room” is an essay that weaves each of those broad sets of issues together within the scope of one real-life journalistic assignment.

Most interesting to me, though, is not how Seaton, herself, sees the essay. In fact, it is the way this essay is interpreted by its readers that most fascinates me. While young male sports writers tend to interpret the essay as one about merit, veteran female sports writers read more deeply into the gender issues therein. Finally, the young female sports writer who read the essay had a difficult time separating the two atop the primary undercurrents of the narrative.

Scott Peterson (Wright State University)
“Uses of Actuality: A Comparison of 2004 ALCS Fiction & Journalism”

Fans, whether movie or baseball, will have two different impressions of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS; Drew Barrymore playing tag with security after dropping over Fenway’s center field wall and three small plays that turned a series from a rout into a historic comeback. Fever Pitch (2005) weaves actual events from the game, including the walk, the steal, and the single, into the unlikely romance between a rabid baseball fan and a driven female executive to create a “faction.” Although it is not a typical “big game,” this particular contest has been treated extensively in journalism, non-fiction, film, Broadway musicals, and short fiction. This paper asks three questions: 1) Does Game 4 of the ’04 ALCS meet the definition of literary journalism by qualifying as “slow news” or “news that lasts”? 2) What actual events from Game 4 are used? and 3) What is the meaning/impact of those actual events?

Borrowing from Alice Trindade’s definition of literary journalism and Thomas B Connery’s “Paradigm of Actuality,” this paper examines the role of actual events from Game 4 of the ’04 ALCS in treatments from several media. Sources for discussion included an Internet search of coverage of the game, non-fiction books by King & O’Nan and Catsam (2004, 2005), Dresser’s Johnny Baseball (2011), and three stories from Final Fenway Fiction (2012). The uses of actuality included historicism, anti-historicism, and various commentaries on fan culture.

Lorin Shellenberger (Virginia Tech)
“Damaged Desire in ESPN The Magazine’s ‘Bodies We Want’”

This essay argues ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issues” (an annual special issue dedicated to the athletic body and typically featuring photographic spreads of nude athletes from various sports) consistently depict athletes, particularly female athletes, as objects of the gaze, reinforcing the long history of women as the surveyed. Far from celebrating the athletic form, ESPN’s “Body Issues” rely on relationships of biopower that capitalize on the differences in social presence between men and women. Little research addresses the visual representation of athletes in popular media, and my article incorporates theories of spectatorship and psychoanalytic theory to demonstrate how viewers of these images are encouraged to view athletes as spectacles, and in particular, to view women, African American, and disabled athletes as exotic others. Using a Foucauldian analysis, this essay promotes increased attention to new media literacies in order to critically assess the social and cultural ramifications of these images.

1:30-2:45 Panel III: Nonfiction I

Chair, Mark Noe (Pennsylvania College of Technology)

Derek Paar (Springfield College)
“Four Thousand Greyhounds and Jackie the Leprechaun: Meditations on Love and Cruelty”

Every Columbus Day weekend for the past fifteen or so years, roughly four thousand retired racing greyhounds and their adopters have gathered in Dewey Beach, Delaware, for a four-day party of costumed dogs and costumed people.  Quite by accident I stumbled on the scene ten years ago, and, two years later, intentionally visited it all again, this time imagining myself as an embedded reporter in a foreign land.  This story is a series of snapshots and images from that trip and the feelings it generated within me.

David Kilpatrick (Mercy College)
“The Rebirth of the Cosmos: Myth, Memory and the Mimetic Impulse in Sport”

The New York Cosmos remain American soccer’s most iconic team, despite not having played a competitive league game since 1984.  Playing in the North American Soccer League from 1971 to 1984, the signing of Pelé in 1975 brought the global game to the bright lights of Broadway, and suddenly soccer seemed the sport of the future in America. But “the sport of the 80s” went bust in 1985, the league folding, not with a bang but a whimper. Yet the legacy of the Cosmos remains like a spectre, forever haunting the present with the remembrance of glory days. The documentary film Once in a Lifetime (1994) brought the legend to screen, raising the question of repeatability. But the film itself inspired the purchase of the rights to the Cosmos’ identity in 2010. With the motto “Twice in a Lifetime” serving as inspiration, the Cosmos will return to play in the 2013 season of the revived NASL (which resumed competition in 2011). If history repeats, will it be a return to glory or a sequel of tragic failure? What role does narrative play in this revival? As the Club Historian of the Cosmos, I am actively engaged in this representation, collecting stories from past players, staff and fans, to bridge the past towards a future. This paper will describe those efforts as examples of sport’s mimetic impulse, the desire to re-present the sporting past in mythopoetic mode.

Hugo Dos Santos (Hillel Yeshiva High School)
“Varsity Letters, Senioritis, and Graduation: Teaching Sport-Lit to High School Students”

The New York Cosmos remain American soccer’s most iconic team, despite not having played a competitive league game since 1984.  Playing in the North American Soccer League from 1971 to 1984, the signing of Pelé in 1975 brought the global game to the bright lights of Broadway, and suddenly soccer seemed the sport of the future in America. But “the sport of the 80s” went bust in 1985, the league folding, not with a bang but a whimper. Yet the legacy of the Cosmos remains like a spectre, forever haunting the present with the remembrance of glory days. The documentary film Once in a Lifetime (1994) brought the legend to screen, raising the question of repeatability. But the film itself inspired the purchase of the rights to the Cosmos’ identity in 2010. With the motto “Twice in a Lifetime” serving as inspiration, the Cosmos will return to play in the 2013 season of the revived NASL (which resumed competition in 2011). If history repeats, will it be a return to glory or a sequel of tragic failure? What role does narrative play in this revival? As the Club Historian of the Cosmos, I am actively engaged in this representation, collecting stories from past players, staff and fans, to bridge the past towards a future. This paper will describe those efforts as examples of sport’s mimetic impulse, the desire to re-present the sporting past in mythopoetic mode.

3:00-4:15 Panel IV: The Wide World of Sports

Chair, Julian Meldon D’Arcy (University of Iceland)

Thomas Bauer (University of Limoges)
“Dominique Braga’s literary stride”

 During the 1924 summer and the Paris Olympic Games and one month to the day before the big 5000-metre race final, a young writer of Brazilian origin published in the Gallimard publishing house a sports novel called 5000. Due to the selection of his topic and originality of his poetics, Dominique Braga caused a lot of ink to flow in the press and his novel is an unforeseen success to say the least. Sports and literary critics were unanimous and his novel had an important place in some columns between June and November 1924. Moreover, contrary to other novels that sank into oblivion,  5000 is still alive in memories and in particular in the memories of some academics who never grow tired of emphasizing its atypical nature. To understand the reasons of such a certainly modest but effective success, it is necessary to identify the major contribution of this book. What is new and amazing in the style, the narrative framework or textual architecture? How can it stand compared with other avant-garde novels of that time? What are the trade secrets? These are the questions this paper will try to answer showing that the hero of this novel, the runner called Léon Monnerot, borrows his portrait to the 5 000-metre race Olympic champion in Anvers (1920), i.e. the Frenchman Joseph Guillemot.

Jamie Dopp (University of Victoria)
“Haunted by Bill Spunska: Roy MacGregor’s The Last Season”

On the website for The Screech Owls, his successful series of juvenile hockey novels, Roy MacGregor acknowledges that in 1995, when he published the first book in his series, the most popular juvenile hockey books on the market were those of Scott Young.  Young’s classic trilogy, he writes, though 40 years old by then, was still selling well and was “excellent reading.”  A number of aspects of The Screech Owls series seem to consciously update (or even parody) elements from Scrubs on Skates, Boy on Defense, and Boy at the Leafs Camp.  This is something you’d expect, of course, given the popularity of Young when MacGregor started his series, and given the fact that MacGregor, in The Screech Owls, takes up the some genre—of juvenile hockey literature—so long identified in Canada with Young.

More surprising—at least it was for me when I first read it—is that MacGregor’s 1984 adult hockey novel, The Last Season, also seems to pick up on and respond to elements from Young’s trilogy.  This is most evident in the parallels MacGregor creates between his protagonist, Felix Batterinski, and Young’s protagonist in Boy on Defense and Boy at the Leafs Camp, Bill Spunska.  Both Felix and Bill, it turns out, are big hard-hitting defenseman from Polish-immigrant families; they both start playing in small-town environments and both achieve success greater than their more skilled peers because of their competitive drive.

The Last Season is the first “serious” novel in Canada about hockey.  Like the texts that have been part of the boom in hockey literature in more recent years, The Last Season reveals the extent to which the meaning of hockey in Canada has been (and continues to be) a site of ideological struggle.  Broadly speaking, this struggle pits the pool of cultural meanings that has gathered around hockey, and that is now commonly referred to by scholars as “the hockey myth,” against a series of other meanings that challenge that same myth—that reveal, especially, the other realities of hockey that are excluded by the myth.

The parallels between Felix and Bill allow MacGregor, in The Last Season, to explore the other side of some key aspects of the hockey myth in Canada.  In this paper, I’d like to focus on two aspects in particular.  First: MacGregor’s treatment of Felix’s Polish-immigrant background directly challenges the idea that playing hockey is a shortcut for immigrant boys to acquire Canadian identity—a foundational element of the hockey myth.  And second: MacGregor’s treatment of Felix’s competitive drive, particularly how it manifests itself in extreme violence on the ice, challenges the rationalization of violence that is part of the hockey myth and is also a major part of the last book of Young’s trilogy.

Carina Staudte (University of Flensburg)
“If Handball were easy it would be called soccer”

In this presentation I will explore team handball from a German perspective. Indeed, even though soccer is the sport most associated with Germany, team handball has become immensely popular in certain areas. In contrast, it is almost unknown in the U.S. To better understand not only the sport itself, but also its impact on the German culture, I will outline the German perspective on sport, in general, and compare it to the United States’ understanding. In this discussion it will become evident that the German skepticism to sport evolved from a historical misuse of sport, which resulted in a general mistrust of mass-sport events. In contrast, American sport happenings are often embraced to express patriotic feelings. I will then explore the extent to which handball is used in fictional and non-fictional literature in Germany. Here, it will become obvious that the major focus lies on instructional textbooks for teachers and coaches, and (auto)biographies. Fictional literature is scarce, and limited to children’s books, thus mirroring the beginning of sports literature in America. Since handball gained national popularity after the national team’s unlikely victory in the 2007 world championship, I will furthermore make an excursion to the documentary “Projekt Gold,” which documents the journey of the German national team on its way to win the 2007 world championship.

6:15-7:30 Poetry Session I

  • Martín Espada (University of Massachusetts-Amherst)
  • Don Johnson (East Tennessee State University)
  • Matthew Nickel (SUNY-New Paltz)
  • H. R. Stoneback (SUNY-New Paltz)

June 27 (Thursday)

9:00-10:15 Panel V: Drama

Chair, Dennis Gildea (Springfield College)

Dianne Berg (Tufts University)
“Speaking Poniards: the Rhetoric of Renaissance Swordplay in Shakespeare’s Early Plays”

This paper highlights the intersections between early modern theatrical and fencing cultures by juxtaposing Shakespeare’s deployment of swordplay rhetoric with the instructional literature to which it frequently refers, both directly and obliquely. As the most popular spectator sport of the early modern period, fencing occupied an important place in Elizabethan and Jacobean society, and prizefights were often held in the same Bankside theatres that staged Shakespeare’s plays. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, an influx of European swordplay manuals contributed to the growing enthusiasm for continental techniques in some quarters, and fueled xenophobic mistrust of foreign influences in others. Popular interest in and debate about the practice informed both legislative and polemical literature, and spilled over into the works of contemporary playwrights; an appreciation for the Renaissance audience’s familiarity with the language and culture of fencing permits a greater understanding of the sword’s place in the early modern imagination. Placing Shakespeare’s representation of civilian violence within the intersecting contextual frameworks of contemporary ideas about personal honor, emerging nationalist ideology, and the weaponry available in early modern London, I will illuminate the socio-cultural significance of swordplay in the English Renaissance, whether the servants’ humble swords and bucklers in Romeo and Juliet, or the “unbated and envenom’d” rapier that determines the outcome of a Danish prince’s final duel.

Hannah Tichansky (Monmouth University)
“Game Cancelled: Hope, Hardship & Sports Ethos in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running”

In August Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle,” the play “Two Trains Running” chronicles the lives of several individuals during the height of Pittsburgh’s 1960s race riots. When the character of Memphis visits the mythic Aunt Esther, he leaves with the advice that “If you drop the ball, you’ve got to go back and pick it up.” Despite (or perhaps because of) the hardships of the setting, each member of the “team” of characters often perseveres through the values and imagery that sports provides. Within the restaurant that the entirety of the play takes place, the characters have formed a kind of hyperreality, one that is isolated from the harsh “outside world.” Much like the idealistic sandlot games of Americana youth, this “team” both assumes and hopes that the comfort and regularity will last forever. This team spirit, solidarity, and self-sacrifice give the characters strength, all the while falling within the context of the racial struggles of the 1960s. Despite this wish, the “outside world” awaits with both comedic and agitating realities. The paper will offer a critical study the play, examining how the ideology and vocabulary of sports has permeated itself into the minds of those undergoing hardship in Wilson’s work.

Lacey Worth (University of Iowa)
“Putting Play to Work: Game and Empire in Richard Harding Davis’s Soldiers of Fortune”

Many historians and literary critics have noted the importance of masculine labor to the imperial project in turn-of-the-century America. However, fewer critics have noted how political and literary discourse of the period transformed recreation or play into an act of labor which was in turn conscripted into imperialist projects. This essay discusses the ways in which the rhetoric of games or recreation is deployed as a trope for imperial control in Richard Harding Davis’s Soldiers of Fortune (1897), which dramatizes the events leading up to the Spanish-American War in its portrayal of an imaginary country called Olancho. While the novel’s depictions of recreational diversions—like card playing and football—present games as a means of constructing a national American identity centered on domination and competitiveness, allusions to games and amusement also foreground the important role of mediation as a means of comprehending and controlling the peripheral subject. In addition, the novel (as a leisure commodity itself) similarly seems to operate as a mode of “recreational” identity construction, especially in those moments when it asks the reader to participate in the ludic space of the text.  In this way, the novel demonstrates the important role that recreation, games, and sport played as a means of both encoding national identity and perpetuating imperial structures of domination.

10:30-11:45 Creative Session

Chair, Duncan R. Jamieson (Ashland University)

Richard McGehee (The University of Texas)
“Miracle in Parque Chas: Inés Fernández Moreno’s Milagro en Parque Chas”

Shelly Sanders (Abilene Christian University) & Scott Peterson (Wright State University)
From That Was Everything

Bruce Pratt (The University of Maine)
Memories of Paradise

1:00-2:15 Panel VI: The Man, The Myth…the Legend

Chair, Michele Schiavone (Marshall University)

Carolyn Fortuna (Rhode Island College)
“Shifts in Perspective: Archetypal Horseracing in Hemingway, Smiley, and Gordon”

The unreliable narrator of Hemingway’s “My Old Man” provides a useful focus for study of the essentially mythic views of horse racing portrayed in two contemporary books:  Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven and Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule.  Like Hemingway, these later writers draw on archetypes within a horse racing track to emphasize the tensions between innocence and experience, hero and outcast, power and self-realization, quest and fall, meaning and form; but the horse racing track also embodies the power of the human will to endure trials as part of the journey to transform.

Matthew Nickel (SUNY-New Paltz)
“Tracking, Hunting, and Religion: Ernest Hemingway & Under Kilimanjaro”

This paper will examine Hemingway’s posthumously-published African memoir Under Kilimanjaro, a narrative based on Hemingway’s experiences in Africa during his 1953-1954 trip with his wife Mary. Under Kilimanjaro surveys a mature Hemingway who becomes a living part of the people, of the place. His attitude toward game is informed by his role as Game Warden of a Shamba. It is his responsibility to protect livestock, crops, and through his direct engagement with place he develops a profound sense of community with the locals. The book contains some of his most laughable scenes, and Hemingway’s invention of his own tribal religion shared with the other hunters certainly offers comic relief. But there are serious aspects to Hemingway’s experiences in Africa, and informed readers know that this trip to Africa preceded the infamous plane crashes. Beneath the lighthearted surface of the novel is the impending doom of the crashes and of the possibility of death. Thus, Hemingway’s text deals not only with hunting and living in Africa but also with the spiritual consequences of life and death.

My analysis will consider: 1) the art of hunting and tracking; 2) the sacramental way Hemingway seeks to live with the country and its people; 3) the communion-centered hunt and the hunters’ new tribal religion; 4) the serious spiritual implications of life and death and of spilling blood in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. In the wake of his crashes and toward the end of his life, Hemingway wrote his African book, and even in the presence of death, Hemingway was able to craft a novel with a profoundly redemptive vision centered on sacrifice and love.

H. R. Stoneback (SUNY-New Paltz)
“Hunting with Hemingway: The View from Torcello”

This paper could carry an alternate title: “Duck-Hunting, Duck-Talking, Disgruntled Hunters, Hunting Dogs, Art, Architecture, Aristocratic Young Ladies and Old Warriors, War, Love, Death, and Redemption  in Hemingway’s Across the River and Into the Trees: Or, Why Colonel Cantwell Can’t Duck The Last Judgment.” That title, too long for any program listing, covers all the bases and indicates that my primary focus here will be the extraordinary sport scenes, the duck-hunting chapters which serve as the envelope, the beginning and end of Hemingway’s most controversial novel.

This paper will deal with: 1) details of the hunting scenes; and 2) the ways in which Hemingway’s hunting motifs converge and resonate with his motifs of war, love, and the novel’s overarching theme of the “grace of a happy death.” From the vantage point of a long-established Hemingway scholar, I will survey the critical readings and misreadings of the novel; bring to bear on the discussion significant variations in the Across the River manuscript materials; and draw on my intimate knowledge of place and the novel’s setting: the Venetian Lagoon and the numinous island of Torcello, with the famous mosaic of The Last Judgment in the 9th/11th century Basilica, which Hemingway knew well. I will consider what Giancarlo Ivancich—brother of Adriana, the model for Renata in the novel—meant when he told me in 1986, when I visited with him at his ruined (bombed by Allied planes) Villa Biaggini Ivancich: Hemingway and my teen-aged sister Adriana loved each other, but they were never lovers. In his novel, he tried to center on her everything that he knew and felt about art and religion, love, war and death. He tried but failed because it was too much weight to place on her.

2:30-3:45 Panel VII: Baseball-Deja-Vu All Over Again

Chair, Scott Peterson (Wright State University)

Kenneth Sammond (Farleigh Dickenson University)
“The Dodgers as Evolving Literary Motif in Imagining 1950s Brooklyn”

This paper uses Benedict Anderson’s theory of “imagined communities,” first proposed in 1983, to explore the ways that the Brooklyn Dodgers have become an intrinsic part of how fictional narratives construct Brooklyn in the 1950s.  Focusing on two novels, William Heuman’s 1954, Strictly from Brooklyn, and Alan Lelchuk’s 1990, Brooklyn Boy, this paper explores how the Dodgers were employed as a literary motif.  This motif drives the action of each narrative and provides a basis upon which we can apprehend and comprehend the way of life experienced in this borough during this era.  While each work uses the Dodgers to suggest the chronological and geographic contexts in their narratives, each work also references this team to signify the ways of life and the personalities of the characters distinct to how Brooklyn is imagined—a place jammed with individuals who were, in the words of essayist Phillip Lopate, “combative, wry, [and] resilient.”

Ultimately, this study reveals that the use of the Dodgers in fiction evolved over time. Heuman’s story, better known through the novel’s excerpt, “Brooklyns Lose” (which appeared in the first issue of Sports Illustrated), employs first-person perspective of a working-class Brooklynite, Manny Keefe, whose personal foibles and dreams echo the team’s tribulations and promise. Lelchuk’s more complex narrative uses a young boy’s love for the team to comment on the political theater of that era, proposing that the Dodgers and their fans represent the ideal that fair play wins out in the end.

Will Bishop (University of Kansas)
“‘Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?’: The New York Yankees and the 1960s”

Jim Bouton’s memoir about his 1969 season pitching in the Major Leagues, Ball Four (1970), is most remembered for its frank portrayal of many unseemly and previously-unspoken elements of clubhouse culture and, more particularly, for generating controversy for exposing some of the weaknesses of New York Yankee hero Mickey Mantle.  The book is more than an expose, however, as it captures much of the generational conflict occurring in American culture in the late 1960s.  Styling himself as something of a baseball representative of the counterculture, Bouton spends much of his narrative pointing out the failings of the baseball “Establishment,” its ethic of macho heroism and emphasis on hard work over creativity and innovation.  More specifically, the New York Yankees organization is consistently portrayed as the epitome of this “out-of-touch” old guard.  Once baseball’s most successful team from the mid-1920s through the mid-‘60s, the Yankees’ sharp decline in the late ‘60s was contemporary to Ball Four’s publication, and coincided with the general fall from favor of  the World War II generation’s value system among American “Baby Boomers.”  By linking the perceived collapse of the Yankees and the older generation’s values, Bouton effectively provides the countercultural answer to the “All-American” presentation of the team in texts like The Pride of the Yankees (1942).  This both solidifies the Yankees’ role as a cultural icon of a “traditional,” pre-counterculture America, and suggests that this great cultural shift played itself out in the world of baseball in addition to more obvious areas of countercultural influence.

Adi Angel (Ball State University)
“‘I Used to Have a Mock-Up of a Ball Park, but it Only Got in the Way’: Examining the Fetishization of Knowledge and the Spectacle in Robert Coover’s The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.”

Robert Coover has been hailed as one of the great postmodernist authors emerging from the 1960s, but his 1968 novel The Universal Baseball Association has received limited critical response. Much of the material responding to the text emerged in the late 1970s, reaching a head at the end of the 1990s, and has largely focused on Henry’s imagined world as a means of escape by highlighting the divergent narratives of the public and private within the text. However, the existing literature does not sufficiently address the commodification and fetishization of knowledge that occurs in the novel. This paper aims to discuss this gap in the literature by examining Henry’s imagined reality as a product of his alienation from the material world, and by reading the game as a product of Henry’s spatial alienation within a world of spectacle. In order to more fully understand how knowledge is commodified and fetishized in the text, this paper will establish the connections between the imagined realities of Henry’s game and the real knowledge that is obtained through his active exercise of consciousness. Specifically, this paper seeks to explore the text in such a way as to illustrate how consciousness functions as an activity, “a practice which works on that experience to transform it into truth,” that enables the creation of Henry’s alternate world. By re-examining Henry’s imagined world as a result of his spatial alienation, this paper seeks to bring to light a new critical perspective on Coover’s seminal baseball text.

4:00-5:00 Poetry Session II

Chair, Don Johnson (East Tennessee State University)

  • Linda Kittle (Washington State University)
  • Philip Raisor (Old Dominion University)
  • Ron Smith (St. Christopher’s School)

June 28 (Friday)

9:00-10:15 Panel VIII: Nonfiction II

Chair, Jeremy Larance (West Liberty University)

Addie Beth Denton (Writer)
From 108 Stitches: A Girl Grows up With Baseball

Kathleen Sullivan Stephens (The University of Texas at Arlington)
“Welcome to Our World, White Boy” from Our White Boy

Stephen Hanley (Writer)
“Sport in Siena”

10:30-11:45 Panel IX: [American] Football

Chair, Shelly Sanders (Abilene Christian University)

Dennis Gildea (Springfield College)
“Soft Music, Poetry, and Clair Bee’s 1940 LIU Football Team”

Clair Bee, better known as a successful basketball coach, also coached football at Long Island University. His 1940 Blackbird team opened with a pair of 6-0 wins, but Bee was concerned that “pre-game jitters” and “fear of failure” were preventing his players from reaching their peak. To control his team’s nervousness, Bee took a step that was highly unusual for the time: He engaged the services of a sports psychologist who began a program of “mental conditioning.” To ensure that the players entered each game relaxed and unafraid of the prospect of failure, Bee’s psychologist banned the squad from listening to “swing music,” and he counseled them “to cast aside their inhibitions and read poetry to each other aloud.” “Soft music and poetry” would rest their brains’ “motor areas.” LIU finished the season with a 5-1 record. Bee’s interest in psychology also figures in one of his Chip Hilton novels, Ten Seconds to Play (1955). Chip seeks the wisdom of a State University psychologist to help him cure a starting end’s anxiety and lack of courage on and off the field. This essay studies Bee’s use of sports psychology in reality and fiction.

Julian Meldon D’Arcy (University of Iceland)
“Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Bloody Monday, and the Origins of Football Fiction”

For many readers of American football fiction the conventional wisdom is that the genre appeared in the 1890s as a result of the emergence of the “Frank Merriwell”  phenomenon, the short stories by R.H. Davis, Frank Norris, Willa Cather, and Dorothy Canfield,  the Harvard stories of Kitzinger Post, the Yale novels of Seymour Wood, and Burr McIntosh’s 1895 novel Football and Love: A Story of the Yale-Princeton Game of ’94. Moreover, all of these works were ultimately indebted to the best-selling British novel of 1857, Tom Brown’s Schooldays. By 1912 and Owen Johnson’s Stover at Yale, the genre was fully established.

A closer look at some early texts containing football writing and fiction reveals a slightly different narrative, however, for a study of Thomas Wentworth’s Higginson’s essays and editorial work, especially publications between 1858 and 1867 and the appearance of William Tucker Washburn’s, Fair Harvard: A Story of American College Life (1869), George Henry Tripp’s, Student Life at Harvard (1876), and Mark Sibley Severance’s Hammersmith: His Harvard Days (1878) reveal that some of what later became standard features of American football fiction had been established well before the 1890s, and that some of them even pre-dated, in essence, both the Civil War and the more famous “Tom Brown” novels of Thomas Hughes.

Jason Zerbe (University of Mississippi)
“‘all that just for playing a game’: Professionalization and Progress on William Faulkner’s Gridiron”

Despite William Faulkner’s claim that the whole of his Snopes trilogy was envisioned “at once like a bolt of lightning lights up a landscape,” a curious episode in the trilogy’s first volume, which focuses on an ambitious Ole Miss student-athlete turned sexually obsessed rural schoolteacher, doesn’t seem to have been envisioned until shortly before it was incorporated into novel during the final writing and pulling together process, which began in 1938 (University 90; Holmes 78). There is, after all, no intimation of Labove’s story in any of the short stories reworked into The Hamlet (1940), or in Father Abraham (1926), Faulkner’s initial attempt to bring Flem Snopes and the world of Frenchman’s Bend to life.  However, Faulkner betrays his awareness of a national debate focusing on the professionalization of college football in The Wild Palms, the novel he completed before turning his attention to The Hamlet. What I hope to reveal in this paper, then, is that Faulkner’s integration of the Labove episode evinces his continued engagement with popular discourses surrounding the subsidization of amateur athletes and, more importantly, his recognition of the instrumentality of college football, and sports more generally, in uniting the purportedly backward South with a nation desperate for a greater sense of cohesion.


June 29 (Saturday)

9:00-10:15 Panel X: The Great Outdoors, Eh?

Chair, Kyle Belanger (Springfield College)

Angie Abdou (The College of the Rockies)
“‘Air this thin turns anyone into a mystic’: Extreme Sport as Metaphor for Political Disengagement in Steven Heighton’s Every Lost Country”

The opening pages of Every Lost Country are based loosely on a real mountaineering incident that occurred in September 2006 in the Nangpa La, a high pass on the border of Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. After witnessing a shooting, some climbers were forced to decide whether to attempt to help those injured or to continue on their quest for the summit. The decision divided the party. This incident–as rendered by Steven Heighton-provides an intersection between politics and mountaineering that allows readers to explore the ethics of extreme sport. Are the climbers obligated to act upon the injustice they witness? Should they abandon their own goals and expend energy in an attempt to help reduce the suffering of strangers? Is pursuing the climb, despite what they have witnessed, self-indulgent? If so, are these athletic goals reduced to a means of (and, in the context of the novel, metaphor for) disengaging from the troubling realities of the world? Might there be any redeeming qualities of such disengagement? This single incident provides a microcosm in which to address the larger question: What is the draw of extreme sport and does it always amount to a type of disengagement from the world and can any value be found in this type of withdrawal? I will consider edgework theory to explore these issues as they are portrayed in Steven Heighton’s Every Lost Country, while also attempting to articulate what a fictional rendering of this event contributes to the conversation about risky-sport, a discussion that is usually left to the social scientists. I will also (briefly) discuss how this issue is explored in two other recent Canadian novels about mountaineering: Above All Things by Tanis Rideout and Ice Fields by Thomas Wharton.

Fred Mason (University of New Brunswick)
“Running there and back again: Assessing early ultrarunning memoirs”

In recent years, utrarunning (running and racing beyond the marathon distance), has seen major growth in the number of races and participants  (Hoffman, Ong & Wang, 2010).  Concomitant with this has been a veritable explosion of non-fiction books about ultrarunning, with at least 23 books published since 2009 alone, and a handful of them reaching the bestsellers list. Ultrarunning has historical roots in pedestrianism and 6 day professional races in the early 1900s, but its current form has been around, if a small sub-culture, since the first running boom of the 1970s.  This paper assesses ‘early’ memoirs and autobiographies written by ultrarunners, dating from the 1970s until the early 2000s. In many cases, races discussed were small, more local affairs, and the authors often engaged in challenge and journey runs rather than races.  This paper critically pursues themes coming out of these early memoirs, including pain and transcendence, the building of community and culture, notions of extreme-distance endurance running as “natural” and addictive at the same time, and visions of inward journeys that map onto the character development of traditionally heroic quests.   The ultimate aim is to compare themes from the early works, while putting nostalgia aside, with books written in this decade, in a time of clear growth, change and commercialization.

Cory Willard (University of Waterloo)
Fly Fishing as Environmentalism: Making the Case for Fly Fishing Film

There are many interconnected terms within the branches of environmental criticism, but even so, within the various categories of ecocriticism, critical regionalism, and bioregionalism there remains an ongoing and overlapping conversation that stresses attention to inseparable connections between texts and places, environments and ecologies. The goal of an ecocritical perspective is, then, to get a critical understanding of the history, geography, literature, and cultural meanings of places; to see the ecology, the vertical depth, and interconnectedness of places and to respond with criticism that is immersed and aware of relationships between ecological and cultural communities. To the fly fisher, the stream can very much represent the altar of a secular worship, as the ecological web of relationships on the planet invites seeing and participating with the world in a sort of cyclical religiosity. For that to be possible, though, one must have the inspiration for a change or affirmation of perception and film is certainly one such opportunity to be inspired. This essay shall argue that the act of fly fishing and the work of fly fishing communities—with their various engagements with land, waterways, and artistry—stand as an example of an embodied place connectedness that promotes ecological awareness, activism, and a bond with the sacred through fly fishing.  In particular, fly fishing films are becoming an important expression in the growing genre of ecocinema by offering viewers an imaginative conduit for environmental education, action, and place connectedness.

10:30-11:20 Panel XI: Film

Chair, Joyce Duncan (East Tennessee State University, Editor in Chief of Aethlon)

Christopher Fahy (Boston University)
“No Big Game?: Theme and Variation in the Baseball Film Genre”

Baseball films belong to a genre with many common themes.  Among them are the ballplayer as hero, triumph in the big game, the virtue of family life, father-son ties, greedy owners, cantankerous managers, cynical sportswriters, eccentric ballplayers, and crazed fans.  The film version of The Natural, in particular, consciously employs these motifs.  Bull Durham, by contrast, employs and subverts these films: there is no heroism, no big game, and a passionate love affair replaces wholesome family life.  These films represent the antipodes, both work as entertainment.  Most other baseball films occupy a niche between the two, using the archetypal power of the themes but (hopefully) avoiding cliché by developing variations off of them.  Notable examples are The Bad News Bears, Bang the Drum Slowly, and Moneyball.  It is the development of both theme and variation that makes the genre interesting; it is the tension between them that keeps it alive.

Amanda Kehrberg (The University of Oklahoma)
Winner of the 2013 Lyle Olsen Graduate Student Essay Contest
“Aesthetics and Athletics: Staring at Difference in ESPN the Magazine’s ‘Bodies We Want’”

In its heyday, the classic Hollywood musical encapsulated the utopian sensibility of the American Dream. Since the decline of this genre’s popularity, the sports film has assumed the cultural significance of the musical in its reinforcement of normative American values and the nostalgic representation of American history. The two entertainment genres share an emphasis on both spectacle and the sometimes tenuous separation between spectator and participant. What to the musical was a song and dance, to the sports film is game day. Drawing on the work of film scholars from Altman (1988) to Feuer (2002), this essay analyses how contemporary sports films have absorbed both the cultural functions and syntax of the classic Hollywood musical, including the feel of utopia, the myths of spontaneity, integration and audience, and the spectacle of – in this context – the male body. The shift in the visual representation of the male body as spectacle is traced both to the rise of an American body culture and fashion advertising trends in the 1980s and ’90s. The essay concludes that the sports genre embodies – as did the musical before it – the dual celebration of both individual and community quintessential to the paradigms of democracy and capitalism as shared systems in support of individual triumph. Symbolically, the field replaces the stage as an ideal space for negotiating homogeneity within an increasingly complex global society.

11:20-1:00 Business Meeting

    • Due to increases in both printing and postage, the Association voted to raise membership rates slightly . The new rate will take effect with the 2013-2014 academic year as follows: Institutional [$125], Individual [domestic, $70; international $80]; and retiree/students [$30]. Lifetime memberships will be $425.00. Any institution or individual that options the electronic pdf format rather than the print form of the journal will receive a 10% discount.
    • We will explore the possibility of putting the journal online.
    • We will soon be indexed through Proquest in addition to LA84, MLA, Humanities Index , Gale, and Ebsco.
    • Issue 29:2 will be a second anthology, featuring editorial selections from 1 4:2 through the current issue and available for classroom adoption.
    • Members voted on future conference venues and hosts and they are set, as follows:
      • 2014: College of the Rockies in Cranbrook and Fernie, British Columbia [Angie Abdou, host and Jamie Dopp, program chair]
      • 2015: East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN [Don Johnson and Joyce Duncan, hosts]
      • 2016: University of New Brunswick, Frederickton, NB [Fred Mason, host]
      • 2017: Wheeling, WV [Jeremy Larance, host]
      • 2018: Lawrence, KS [Phil Wedge, host]
      • 2019: Dobbs Ferry, NY [David Kilpatrick, host]

1:00-1:50 Panel XII: Boxing

Chair, Tim Morris (University of Texas at Arlington)

James R. Holzmeister (Auburn University)
“Sports Literature as Vehicle for Social Change: A Study of Professional Boxing, Boxing Novels, and Class Antagonism in Late Victorian England”

The later nineteenth century represents a watershed in the formation of modern English society and modern professional boxing. The period in which English professional boxing rises to social prominence also witnesses the rise of associated social ideologies critical to the foundation of future English society. Interestingly, the period also witnesses the emergence of the first English boxing novels. The present paper will seek to explain connections between these phenomena of sport, literature, and society through a utilization of J.P. Sartre’s writings on professional boxing and Jeffrey Hill’s assertion of narrative as a critical vehicle through which sport is imbued with socio-cultural meaning. The paper will forward late Victorian boxing novels as a significant contribution to the process through which class antagonisms came to be understood through the ideology of professional boxing. Instances of social conflict in three late Victorian boxing novels, G.B. Shaw’s Cashel Byron’s Profession, and A.C. Doyle’s Rodney Stone and The Croxley Master, will be presented as a means to examine how Victorian boxing narratives utilize sport to characterize and regulate social conflict. By focusing on narrative depictions of social conflict and the utilization of boxing’s competitive logic, the novels will be forwarded as significant contributions to the process of negotiating class and social conflict in later Victorian England. Ultimately, the paper will argue that the late-Victorian boxing narrative represents not merely a manner of rationalizing social conflict, but also the ideological means through which English society sought to overcome problems of class in the early twentieth century.

Michele Schiavone (Marshall University)
“Boxers as Fictional Characters: Jack Johnson and Stanley Ketchel”

Stanley Ketchel, a middleweight champion nicknamed “The Michigan Assassin,” boxed in the first decade of the 20th century. Ranked by RingMagazine in 2004 as the 8th greatest middleweight of all time, Ketchel was probably best known for his intense fighting style, his bout with heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in 1909, and the fact that he was murdered at the age of 24. Ketchel has been written about through the decades since his death. The subject of conversation in a 1933 Hemingway story, Ketchel was written about by Nat Fleischer, editor of RingMagazine, as well as John Lardner in a classic essay for True magazine. In recent years, Ketchel has been the subject of four books: one novel, two biographies, and one hybrid biography-novel. Besides his legendary boxing career, Ketchel’s good looks, his multi-faceted personality, and the speculation surrounding his murder have inspired books that provide different portraits of the boxer. The best of these recent books is James Carlos Blake’s novel The Killings of Stanley Ketchel (2005).

2:00-2:50 Panel XIII: Cricket

Chair, Frank Fury (Monmouth State University)

Jeremy Larance (West Liberty University)
“From Muggleton to Gad’s Hill: Charles Dickens and the Fictionalization of Nineteenth-Century Cricket”

The cricket chapter from Charles Dickens’s ThePickwick Papers, first published as a novel in 1837, is highly regarded as one of the first great fictional depictions of cricket in literature. Over the years, the novel has attained something akin to canonical status among cricket-lit enthusiasts, even though most experts agree that Dickens did not appear to understand the game or its rules. And while much has been written on The Pickwick Papers in this regard, scholars have generally avoided the likelihood that Dickens swiped a significant portion of his cricket narrative from previously published sources. In this presentation, I will argue that Dickens did—in fact—borrow a great deal of his cricket stories from other authors and artists, especially from the playwright Frederick Reynolds and the illustrator Robert Seymour. I will also briefly discuss how the cricket motif gradually evolved in the Dickensian canon and how cricket eventually became a significant part of the author’s construction of his own family’s “English” identity.

Jeffrey R. Villines (University of Virginia)
“The Twenty-Two Yard State: Cricket as a Nation in Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland”

In Joseph O’Neill’s 2008 novel Netherland, Hans van den Broek, a Dutch-born British transplant to America, struggles with his national identity in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Aloof to a fault from global and political concerns, Hans is accused of extreme self-interest by those around him—straining his interpersonal relationships to the point of his marriage’s dissolution. At the same time, his budding friendship with part-time New York cricket promoter Chuck Ramkissoon reveals a similar moral aloofness, as Hans refuses to admit any wrongdoing on the part of his friend, even after he witnesses Chuck’s more violent and criminal interests. This paper argues that all of these concerns—Hans’s search for a national identity, his withdrawal from world events, and his willing blindness toward his friend’s actions—have a common cause: Hans’s allegiance to cricket. Putting Marlyebone Cricket Club and International Cricket Council rules in conversation with Thomas Pain and Baron Montesquieu, this paper further demonstrates how the structure of the sport itself mirrors governmental forms, and how, in O’Neill’s novel, it serves not only as an ersatz government for the narrator and protagonist, but as one which approaches Utopia—at least, the sort of Utopia Hans needs.

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