HOW WE PLAY THE GAME: Why Sports Dominate American Life by Richard Lipsky

HOW WE PLAY THE GAME: Why Sports Dominate American Life

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As an insecure adolescent, Lipsky took refuge in basketball. As a hard-pressed ghetto teacher and Ph.D. candidate with marital woes, he regained his ""faith and courage"" when Willis Reed limped on court, in the sixth game of the 1969 playoffs, and led the Knicks to victory over the Lakers, ""the emotional peak of my life."" Now he's combed the literature--from Frederick Exley (A Fan's Notes) to Neil Isaacs (Jock Culture, USA) to Mickey Mantle and Joe Namath--and, turning the accumulated insights into banal generalities, produced what he calls ""a political theory of American sports."" There's a chapter on The Game as Ritual Drama (which ""provides a visible symbolic resolution of the struggle between individual success and the cooperative ethics of the community""); another chapter on the effect of team allegiance in producing ""political and social integration""; a chapter on the role of sports in fostering ""a sense of national identity"" which ""legitimizes the activities of political elites."" The sports hero, in turn, enables the fan ""to live in a symbolic life among abstractions""--""an abdication to those people who are able to concretely mold public policy for their own interests."" And sports language--look at Nixon!--permeates political life. None of these ideas is new, of course, or without foundation (however little they cohere as a ""theory""). What Lipsky thinks he's added is a balanced perspective: the potential positive influence of sports if we would but allow ""the beauty of the playground to spill over and transform the world in the euphoria of play."" That muzzy sentence, however, is all we hear of it--unless Lipsky means the US ice hockey triumph at Lake Placid, with which he concludes the book, as an example. Otherwise, second-hand ideas inflated (by Lipsky's own experience?) and laid end-to-end.

Pub Date: Dec. 30th, 1980
Publisher: Beacon