The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993 Page: 159

Book Reviews

Essays on Sport Hzstory and Sport Mythology. By Allen Guttmann et al. Edited by
Donald G. Kyle and Gary D. Stark. Introduction by Jack W. Berryman.
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990. Pp. 154. Acknowl-
edgments, introduction. $25.50.)
I can see the old man now, leaning back in his office chair in the history de-
partment at the University of Texas. His eyes are closed, and he is pondering
the frontier and the people who made it. Walter Prescott Webb was the dean of
frontier historians, and the significance of his work is honored each year by the
Walter Prescott Webb Memorial Lecture series at the University of Texas at Ar-
lington. The lectures in 1989 revolved around the role of sport in human so-
ciety, the importance of sport history, and the meaning of sport in the human
psyche. Allen Guttmann is one of the contributors. A major figure in sports
history, Guttmann describes the work of one Marcelo Mario Suarez-Orozco,
who provided an explanation for why Argentinian soccer fans are given to
obscene chanting during matches. Guttmann paraphrases Suarez-Orozco as ar-
guing that
the fans employ sexual metaphors to boast of their virility and to sneer at the
opposition's alleged homosexuality. The soccer goal is not a symbolic vagina, as
in the silly essay by Stokes, but rather a symbolic anus, which must be defended
from penetration. (p. 151)
This in the name of Walter Prescott Webb? The old man must be rolling over in
his grave.
Please don't misunderstand. The book Essays on Sport Hzstory and Sport Mythol-
ogy is outstanding, and Guttmann's essay is brilliant. But how the profession has
changed since Walter Prescott Webb's days! In 1928 Bernard Baruch, the fa-
mous Wall Street financier, remarked that when "news from the financial sec-
tion of the newspaper makes it to the front page, we're all in trouble." The
stock market crashed a year later, the news was headlines, and the country was
in trouble. Today, the news from the sports section regularly makes its way to
the front page. We are a society and culture obsessed with sports, and histo-
rians are now trying to come to terms with what has become a national obses-
sion. This is important stuff, very important stuff, and the book makes that
Essays consists of several independent lectures. Donald Kyle's "E. Norman
Gardiner and the Decline of Greek Sport" critiques the historian who created
the mythology surrounding Greek sport-that its purity was unsullied by mate-
rialism, professionalism, and violence. Kyle is not so sure. In fact, he suspects
that Gardiner's theories were badly warped by his own faith in amateurism,
athleticism, and Victorian Hellenism. Stephen Hardy's "Entrepreneurs, Struc-
tures, and Sportgeist: Old Tensions in a Modern Industry," takes to task many
contemporary historians who argue that modern sport is essentially different
from its ancient counterparts. Hardy looks at people like James E. Sullivan, Al-
bert Goodwill Spalding, and Senda Berenson and concludes that modern
sport, like ancient sport, faces a continuing tension between winning and fair
play, aggressiveness and control, freedom and technique, and the individual


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993, periodical, 1993; Austin, Texas. ( accessed February 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.