Understanding American Sports  book cover
1st Edition

Understanding American Sports

ISBN 9780415443654
Published August 24, 2009 by Routledge
456 Pages

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Book Description

Since the nineteenth century the USA has served as an international model for business, lifestyle and sporting success. Yet whilst the language of sport seems to be universal, American sports culture remains highly distinctive. Why is this so? How should we understand American sport? What can we learn about America by analyzing its sports culture?

Understanding American Sports offers discussion and critical analysis of the everyday sporting and leisure activities of ‘ordinary’ Americans as well as the ‘big three’ (football, baseball, basketball), and elite sports heroes. Throughout the book, the development of American sport is linked to political, social, gender and economic issues, as well as the orientations and cultures of the multilayered American society with its manifold regional, ethnic, social, and gendered diversities.

Topics covered include:

  • American college sports
  • the influence of immigrant populations
  • the unique status of American football
  • the emergence of women’s sport in the USA

With co-authors from either side of the Atlantic, Understanding American Sports uses both the outsider’s perspective and that of the insider to explain American sports culture. With its extensive use of examples and illustrations, this is an engrossing and informative resource for all students of sports studies and American culture.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. An Introduction to the United States  2. The Evolution of American Sports  3. A Nation of Immigrants  4. The Relevance of Baseball  5. Football Games  6. Sport Organisations and Institutions – Colleges, Schools and Professional Leagues  7. Physical Education and Sports in American Schools  8. Professional Sport – Development and Organization  9. Fitness and Recreational Sport  10. Sport and Race  11. Women and Sport: The Long Road to Liberation  12. The Cultural Importance of Sports Heroes  13. Sport, Media, Consumption  14. Sport as Big Business

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Gertrud Pfister is Professor of Sport and Social Sciences at the Institute for Exercise and Sport Sciences, Copenhagen University, Denmark. She was president of the International Society for the History of Physical Education and Sport (1984-2000) and is currently President of the International Sport Sociology Association. She serves as a member of the editorial boards for several international academic journals including The International Journal of History of Sport¸ the European Journal of Sport Sciences, and the European Physical Education Review.

Gerald R. Gems, is Professor of Health and Physical Education, North Central College, Naperville, Illinois, USA. He is past president of the North American Society for Sport History, member of the board of the International Society for the History of Physical Education and Sport, book review editor of the Journal of Sport History and author of numerous books and more than 100 articles.


"To avoid repetition, the authors offer cross-references and provide references to other resources on some topics. Throughout, boxes give readers snippets of information about significant figures, events, and ideas along with some primary sources."Choice,  L. A. Heaphy, Kent State University