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A Fan's Life
The Agony of Victory and the Thrill of Defeat
Paul Campos
University of Chicago Press, 2022
A lifelong sports fanatic plumbs the depths of the fan mindset, tracking the mania from the gridiron to the national political stage and beyond.

The Pass. The Curse. The Double Doink. A sports fan’s life is not just defined by intense moments on a field, it’s scarred by them. For a real fan, winning isn’t everything—losing is. The true fans, it’s said, are those who have suffered the most, enduring lives defined by irrational obsession, fervid hopes, and equally gut-wrenching misery. And as Paul Campos shows, those deep feelings are windows not just onto an individual fan’s psychology but onto some of our shared concepts of community, identity, and belonging—not all of which are admirable. In A Fan’s Life, he seeks not to exalt a particular team but to explore fandom’s thorniest depths, excavating the deeper meanings of the fan’s inherently unhappy life.
A Fan’s Life dives deep into the experience of being an ardent fan in a world defined more and more by the rhetoric of “winners” and “losers.” In a series of tightly argued chapters that suture together memoir and social critique, Campos chronicles his lifelong passion for University of Michigan football while meditating on fandom in the wake of the unprecedented year of 2020—when, for a time, a global pandemic took away professional and collegiate sports entirely. Fandom isn’t just leisure, he shows; it’s part of who we are, and part of even our politics, which in the age of Donald Trump have become increasingly tribal and bloody. Campos points toward where we might be heading, as our various partisan affiliations—fandoms with a grimly national significance—become all the more intense and bitterly self-defining. As he shows, we’re all fans of something, and making sense of fandom itself might offer a way to wrap our heads around our increasingly divided reality, on and off the field.

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A Farewell to Heroes
Frank Graham Jr. Foreword by W.C. Heinz
Southern Illinois University Press, 2003
Originally published in 1981 and long out of print, this dual autobiography covers five unforgettable decades of the New York sporting life from 1915 to 1965. Told initially from the point of view of Frank Graham, premier sportswriter for The New York Sun, A Farewell to Heroes also includes the chronicles of Frank, Jr., who picks up the narrative as he becomes a sports journalist in his own right.  

Frank Graham, Sr., was a self-taught writer known for his uncanny ability to capture the high drama of a game-winning play or the color of a fight mob’ s conversation in spare, straightforward prose. As a reporter, he covered the rough-and-tumble Giants of John McGraw’ s day and continued through boxing’ s greatest era, spanning the reigns of Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis.

As the younger Frank tells more of the story, we watch Lou Gehrig take Babe Ruth’ s place as the Yankees’ star and then trace his glorious career to its tragic conclusion. We see firsthand the legendary Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson and boxing’ s brief but golden age on television in the 1950s.


Aided by sixteen photographs and preserving the most masterful of his father’ s writing while adding to it the best of his own, Frank Graham, Jr., has given the sports fan A Farewell to Heroes, perhaps the ultimate sports reminiscence of a time when the romance of sport gave life a golden hue, when heroes still roamed the earth.


“ In what he calls this ‘ kind of dual autobiography,’ he is his father’ s son, having learned to look and listen as his father did and still go his own way,” says W. C. Heinz, longtime sportswriter for The New York Sun, in his new foreword to this paperback edition.



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Fast Break to Line Break
Poets on the Art of Basketball
Todd Davis
Michigan State University Press, 2012

If baseball is the sport of nostalgic prose, basketball’s movement, myths, and culture are truly at home in verse. In this extraordinary collection of essays, poets meditate on what basketball means to them: how it has changed their perspective on the craft of poetry; how it informs their sense of language, the body, and human connectedness; how their love of the sport made a difference in the creation of their poems and in the lives they live beyond the margins. Walt Whitman saw the origins of poetry as communal, oral myth making. The same could be said of basketball, which is the beating heart of so many neighborhoods and communities in this country and around the world. On the court and on the page, this “poetry in motion” can be a force of change and inspiration, leaving devoted fans wonderstruck.


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Faster, Higher, Stronger, Comrades!
Sports, Art, and Ideology in Late Russian and Early Soviet Culture
Tim Harte
University of Wisconsin Press, 2020
The revival of the Olympic games in 1896 and the subsequent rise of modern athletics prompted a new, energetic movement away from more sedentary habits. In Russia, this ethos soon became a key facet of the Bolsheviks' shared vision for the future. In the aftermath of the revolution, glorification of exercise persevered, pointing the way toward a stronger, healthier populace and a vibrant Socialist society.
With interdisciplinary analysis of literature, painting, and film, Faster, Higher, Stronger, Comrades! traces how physical fitness had an even broader impact on culture and ideology in the Soviet Union than previously realized. From prerevolutionary writers and painters glorifying popular circus wrestlers to Soviet photographers capturing unprecedented athleticism as a means of satisfying their aesthetic ideals, the nation's artists embraced sports in profound, inventive ways. Though athletics were used for doctrinaire purposes, Tim Harte demonstrates that at their core, they remained playful, joyous physical activities capable of stirring imaginations and transforming everyday realities.

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Female Gladiators
Gender, Law, and Contact Sport in America
Sarah K. Fields
University of Illinois Press, 2004

Female Gladiators is the first book to examine legal and social battles over the right of women to participate with men in contact sports. The impetus to begin legal proceedings was the 1972 enactment of Title IX, which prohibited discrimination in educational settings, but it was the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the equal rights amendments of state constitutions that ultimately opened doors. Despite court rulings, however, many in American society resisted—and continue to resist—allowing girls in dugouts and other spaces traditionally defined as male territories. 

Inspired, women and girls began to demand access to the contact sports which society had previously deemed too strenuous or violent for them to play. When the leagues continued to bar girls simply because they were not boys, the girls went to court. Sarah K. Fields's Female Gladiators is the only book to examine the legal and social battles over gender and contact sport that continue to rage today.


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Fields of Play
Sport, Race, and Memory in the Steel City
Robert Hayashi
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2023
A Pittsburgh Sports History Centering Issues of Race and Economic Disparity 

Americans love sports, from neighborhood pickup basketball to the National Football League, and everything in between. While no city better demonstrates the connection between athletic games and community than Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the common association of the city’s professional sports teams with its blue-collar industrial past illustrates a white nostalgic perspective that excludes the voices of many who labored in the mines and mills and played on local fields. In this original and lyrical history, Robert T. Hayashi addresses this gap by uncovering and sharing overlooked tales of the region’s less famous athletes: Chinese baseball players, Black women hunters, Jewish summer campers, and coal miner soccer stars. These athletes created separate spaces of play while demanding equal access to the region’s opportunities on and off the field. Weaving together personal narrative with accounts from media, popular culture, legal cases, and archival sources, Fields of Play details how powerful individuals and organizations used recreation to promote their interests and shape public memory. Combining this rigorous archival research with a poet’s voice, Hayashi vividly portrays how coal towns, settlement houses, municipal swimming pools, state game lands, stadia, and the city’s landmark rivers were all sites of struggle over inclusion and the meaning of play in the Steel City. 

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The Final Season
The Perseverance of Pat Summitt
Maria Cornelius
University of Tennessee Press, 2016
With 1,098 wins and eight national championships, Lady Vol Coach Pat Summitt has left a remarkable legacy of perseverance, leadership, and passion for the game—but her victories on the court aren’t the only legacy she has left in her wake.

Since the beginning of her career as Lady Vol head coach at twenty-two years old, Pat Head Summitt effectively established the University of Tennessee Lady Vols as the top women’s athletics program in the nation. The winningest coach in the history of NCAA basketball, Summitt overcame one obstacle after another on the road to every victory, but it is the lives she has impacted along the way that tell the story of her true legacy. Forever a role model for young women, expecting nothing but the best from her players and from those around her, her legacy has never faltered—not even during her final season as head coach, when she faced her fiercest adversary yet: the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

In The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt, Maria M. Cornelius tells the story of her final coaching season through the eyes of those who know her best, from players to support staff to Summitt’s closest friends and advisors. Beginning with the diagnosis that shook the Tennessee community in the summer of 2011 and continuing through to the final game of the 2011–12 season, The Final Season presents readers with a behind-the-scenes look at the conclusion of Summitt’s coaching career, detailing from the perspective of a sports writer how her diagnosis impacted her players and her staff as well as her fans.

With forewords by former Lady Vol Candace Parker and Swish Appeal editor Mike Robinson, The Final Season reveals how Summitt’s remarkable story of perseverance not only united a team of young women but also brought an entire sports following together, revealing an incredible support system that spanned far beyond Summitt’s Tennessee community. The coach’s determined spirit, selfless love, and sense of humor shine through the pages of Cornelius’s book, painting for readers the picture of a beloved leader and detailing the personal moments of defeat and triumph that make Summitt a true champion.

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Finished Business
My Fifty Years of Headlines, Heroes, and Heartaches
Ray Didinger
Temple University Press, 2021

Ray Didinger opens his lively memoir Finished Business with the Philadelphia Eagles’ upset win in Super Bowl LII. When the Eagles finally hoist the Lombardi Trophy, Didinger does his best to straddle the emotions of a working reporter and a long-suffering Philly fan. His ability to do that is why he has built up such a loyal following.

Didinger began following the Eagles as a kid, hanging out in his grandfather’s bar in Southwest Philadelphia. He spent his summers at the team's training camp in Hershey. It was there he met his idol, flanker Tommy McDonald. He would later write a play, Tommy and Me, about their friendship and his efforts to see McDonald enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Didinger has been covering the Eagles as a newspaper columnist or TV analyst since 1970. Over the years, he wrote sports for the Philadelphia Bulletin and the Philadelphia Daily News. He later produced Emmy Award–winning documentaries for NFL Films before transitioning to sports talk radio and TV analysis.

In five decades, across multiple media platforms, he has interviewed everyone from Hank Aaron, Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali, Julius Erving, Jack Nicklaus, to Mike Schmidt, as well as writing film scripts for Hollywood stars such as Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin. He went to the White House with the U.S. Olympic team and even explored the bizarre world of professional wrestling.

His stories, told in his familiar, breezy style, capture his enthusiasm for sports and his affection for the fans who still mourn the pennant that eluded the Phillies in 1964. Didinger has become synonymous with Philadelphia sports, and his memoir is as passionate as an autumn Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.


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The First Lady of Olympic Track
The Life and Times of Betty Robinson
Joe Gergen
Northwestern University Press, 2014

The 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam were the first in which women—over the objections of many, including Pope Pius XI and the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin—were allowed to run in the marquee track events.

Equally remarkable is the story behind the first female gold medal winner in the 100-meter dash, sixteen-year-old American Betty Robinson. A prodigy running in just her fourth organized meet, Robinson stunned the world, earning special praise from the president of the 1928 American Olympic Committee, General Douglas MacArthur. But Robinson’s triumph soon became tragedy when in 1931 she was involved in a life-threatening plane crash. Unable to assume a sprinter’s crouch, she nevertheless joined fellow pioneer Jesse Owens at the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics, and achieved further glory on the relay team. Journalist Joe Gergen’s The First Lady of Olympic Track rescues an exceptional figure from obscurity.


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Fitness in American Culture
Images of Health, Sport, and the Body, 1830-1940
Kathryn Grover
University of Massachusetts Press, 1989
The quest for physical health and fitness has a long history in the United States. From spinach to shredded wheat to patent medicines, from calisthenics to bicycling to organized sports, Americans have searched vigorously and with great imagination for health, vitality, and physical perfection. Focusing on the period from 1830 to 1940, this collection of essays by six distinguished historians explores Americans' fascination with health and sport, a preoccupation that continues even today in the current diet and fitness craze. In his introduction, Harvey Green discusses one of the major ironies of this period: that the "progress" and achievements Americans sought in the economic and technological spheres were in fact endangering their health and weakening the entire body politic. The rapid technological changes taking place in the world forced many people to alter fundamentally their thinking about the importance of health and physical fitness not just for themselves as individuals but also for the good of society. Other topics explored include changing attitudes toward fitness and wellness, how advertising reflected health concerns, iron as a symbol of vitality and strength, the increasing specialization of foods, and the advent of organized and competitive sports.

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Freddie Steinmark
Faith, Family, Football
By Bower Yousse and Thomas J. Cryan
University of Texas Press, 2015

Freddie Steinmark tells the story of a legendary University of Texas football player whose courage on the field and in battling cancer still inspires the Longhorn nation.

Freddie Steinmark started at safety for the undefeated University of Texas Longhorns in 1969. In the thrilling “Game of the Century,” a come-from-behind victory against Arkansas that ensured Texas the national championship, Steinmark played with pain in his left leg. Two days later, X-rays revealed a bone tumor so large that it seemed a miracle Steinmark could walk, let alone play football. Within a week of the Arkansas game, his leg was amputated.

A gritty, undersized player, Steinmark had quickly become a fan favorite at Texas. What he endured during the Longhorns’ memorable 1969 season, and what he encountered afterward, captivated not only Texans but the country at large. Americans watched closely as Steinmark confronted life’s ultimate challenge, and his openness during his battle against savage odds helped reframe the national conversation surrounding cancer and the ongoing race for a cure.

Written with unfettered access to the Steinmark family and archives, Freddie Steinmark: Faith, Family, Football is the exploration of a brief but full life, one that began humbly but ended on a grand stage. It is a fitting tribute to a legendary Longhorn whose photograph, emblazoned with the word “Heart,” flashes on the Freddie Steinmark Scoreboard’s Jumbotron prior to each home football game in UT’s Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium at Joe Jamail Field.


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Friday Night Fighter
Gaspar "Indio" Ortega and the Golden Age of Television Boxing
Troy Rondinone
University of Illinois Press, 2013

Friday Night Fighter relives a lost moment in American postwar history, when boxing ruled as one of the nation's most widely televised sports. During the 1950s and 1960s, viewers tuned in weekly, sometimes even daily, to watch widely recognized fighters engage in primordial battle; the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports Friday Night Fights was the most popular fight show. Troy Rondinone follows the dual narratives of the Friday Night Fights show and the individual story of Gaspar "Indio" Ortega, a boxer who appeared on prime-time network television more than almost any other boxer in history. From humble beginnings growing up poor in Tijuana, Mexico, Ortega personified the phenomenon of postwar boxing at its greatest, appearing before audiences of millions to battle the biggest names of the time, such as Carmen Basilio, Tony DeMarco, Chico Vejar, Benny "Kid" Paret, Emile Griffith, Kid Gavilan, Florentino Fernández, and Luis Manuel Rodriguez.

Rondinone explores the factors contributing to the success of televised boxing, including the rise of television entertainment, the role of a "reality" blood sport, Cold War masculinity, changing attitudes toward race in America, and the influence of organized crime. At times evoking the drama and spectacle of the Friday Night Fights themselves, this volume is a lively examination of a time in history when Americans crowded around their sets to watch the main event.


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From Honolulu to Brooklyn
Running the American Empire’s Base Paths with Buck Lai and the Travelers from Hawai’i
Joel S. Franks
Rutgers University Press, 2022
From 1912 to 1916, a group of baseball players from Hawaiʻ i barnstormed the U.S. mainland. While initially all Chinese, the Travelers became more multiethnic and multiracial with ballplayers possessing Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, and European ancestries. As a group and as individuals the Travelers' experiences represent a still much too marginalized facet of baseball and sport history. Arguably, they traveled more miles and played in more ball parks in the American empire than any other group of ballplayers of their time. Outside of the major leagues, they were likely the most famous nine of the 1910s, dominating their college opponents and more than holding their own against top-flight white and black independent teams. And once the Travelers’ journeys were done, a team leader and star Buck Lai gained fame in independent baseball on the East Coast of the U.S., while former teammates ran base paths and ran for political office as they confronted racism and colonialism in Hawaiʻ i.

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A History of Women and Sports in Latin America
By Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel
University of Texas Press, 2019

Latin American athletes have achieved iconic status in global popular culture, but what do we know about the communities of women in sport? Futbolera is the first monograph on women’s sports in Latin America. Because sports evoke such passion, they are fertile ground for understanding the formation of social classes, national and racial identities, sexuality, and gender roles. Futbolera tells the stories of women athletes and fans as they navigated the pressures and possibilities within organized sports.

Futbolera charts the rise of physical education programs for girls, often driven by ideas of eugenics and proper motherhood, that laid the groundwork for women’s sports clubs, which began to thrive beyond the confines of school systems. Futbolera examines how women challenged both their exclusion from national pastimes and their lack of access to leisure, bodily integrity, and public space. This vibrant history also examines women’s sports through comparative case studies of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, and others. Special attention is given to women’s sports during military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s as well as the feminist and democratic movements that followed. The book culminates by exploring recent shifts in mindset toward women’s football and dynamic social movements of players across Latin America.


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