JOCK CULTURE, U.S.A. by Neil D. Isaacs


Email this review


A long, unhappy squawk about the American ""jockocracy."" Isaacs, Professor of English at the Univ. of Maryland and the author of Checking Back (1977), an appreciative history of the NHL, sees sports as the ""subvertor"" of those values it professes to embody: fair play, cooperation, team spirit, respect for one's opponents. He sees our novelists from Fitzgerald to Roth to Mailer hypnotized by jocks, caught up in fantasies of potency, heroism, instinctual living. Few grasp the truth of That Championship Season, the jock-debunking basketball play, that ""the lessons of sports are irrevelant to life; the world of experience is a travesty of the sports model."" Under the guise of discipline à la Woody Hayes, Isaacs sees only mindless authoritarianism. As a branch of the entertainment industry, moreover, pro sports competes for the ""entertainment dollar,"" subsuming the game to the profit motive. In the universities, the goal of mens sana in corpore sano has long since been abandoned as athletic departments rush to churn out ""professionalized, ghettoized, depersonalized"" money-makers. Things are no better elsewhere. A self-serving ""paramilitary"" bureaucracy rules the Olympics and power-hungry coaches warp the Little Leagues. The charges go on and on. . . and Isaacs calls to witness any number of sports personages (the book evolved out of a course). The presentation ranges unevenly from clever to muzzy, but the moral is clear: jock values stand in antithesis to humanistic values. None of it is as new or upsetting as it should be.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1978
Publisher: Norton