My Global Sports Cultures Syllabus

 This fall, I’ll be inaugurating a new course at Michigan: Comparative Literature 100: Global Sports Cultures.  The aims of the course include introducing students to a necessarily narrow slice of global sports culture, familiarizing them with concepts useful in thinking critically about sports, and developing what you might call their “literary skills” as critical readers and clear, coherent, thoughtful and honest writers.

We’ll take C. L. R. James’ rhetorical question from Beyond a Boundary—“What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?”—as our guiding challenge.  And, to meet that challenge, we’ll refer to Ben Carrington and David Andrews more fleshed out description of the tasks of students of sport:

“to think about sport as an escape from everyday life whilst understanding that no cultural activity is completely autonomous from societal constraints, to examine sport as a form of cultural struggle, resistance, and politics whilst recognizing that it is also compromised by forms of commodification, commercialization, and bureaucratic control, and to consider sport as an embodied art form that is formed in relation to both intrinsic and extrinsic goals and rewards that sometimes over-determine the stated aims of participants” (“Introduction: Sports as Escape, Struggle, and Art” from Blackwell Companions in Cultural Studies Volume 37: Companion to Sport [John Wiley and  Sons, 2013])

I’ve learned so much in doing the research to prepare the course syllabus, including how much I don’t know about global sports culture and how many brilliant writers, journalists, scholars, athletes, and film and video directors there are out there who know a great deal and generously share their knowledge in interesting ways.  I’m very excited to teach the course and so thought I’d share the basic reading schedule for the course, the fourteen weeks of which I’ve grouped, by lecture topic, into four broad units.

(A note on the course format: I offer a lecture to the entire group of 100 students on Mondays.  They then break into 5 different discussion sections of 20 students each.  Those sections meet on either Tuesdays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Fridays.  As you’ll see, I’ve front loaded the week’s reading assignments, leaving Thursdays and Fridays to the discretion of the instructor and students of each individual discussion section.)


Unit I: The Basics

Week 1: Global Sports Cultures, The Case of Cricket

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 9.8 READ: Ben Carrington and David L. Andrews, “Introduction: Sports as Escape, Struggle and Art,” from Blackwell Companions in Cultural Studies Volume 37: Companion to Sport (John Wiley and Sons, 2013), pp. 1-16 (PDF in CTools).READ: Allen Guttman, “Introduction” and “Cultural Imperialism” from Games and Empires: Modern Sports and Cultural Imperialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 1-11 and pp. 171-188 (2 PDFs in CTools).
T 9.9 or

W 9.10


  1. WATCH: “How to Play Cricket” (YouTube link in CTools).
  2. WATCH: “ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 Best Moments” (YouTube link in CTools).
  3. READ: C. L. R. James, “Preface” and “The Window” from Beyond a Boundary ((Durham: Duke University Press, 2013), pp. 1-20 (PDF in CTools).
  4. READ: Allen Guttman, “Cricket,” from Games and Empires: Modern Sports and Cultural Imperialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 15-40 (PDF in 2 parts in Ctools).
Th 9.11 or

  1. 9.12

Week 2: Play, The Case of Running

Date What to read or watch at home
M 9.15 READ: Johan Huizinga, “Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon, “from Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1949), pp. 1-27 (PDF in 2 parts in CTools).
T 9.16or

W 9.17

  1. WATCH: “PSA: Save the Children – Running Around the World” (Save the Children Canada, 2009) (YouTube link in CTools).
  2. WATCH: “The Race” clip from the film Children of Heaven (Iran, d. Majid Majidi, 1997) (YouTube link in CTools).
  3. READ: Haruki Murakami, “Who’s Going to Laugh at Mick Jagger,” from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (New York: Vintage, 2008), pp. 3-23 (PDF in CTools).
  4. READ: Randolph Feezell, “A Pluralist Conception of Play,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport2 (2010): pp.147-165 (PDF in CTools).
Th 9.18or

F 9.19

Week 3: Constraints, The Case of James Naismith

Date What to read or watch at home
M 9.22 READ: Bernard Suits, “The Elements of Sport” in The Philosophy of Sport: A Collection of Original Essays, Ed. by Robert G. Osterhoudt (Urbana: Human Kinetics, 1973), pp. 49-64 (PDF in CTools).
T 9.23or

W 9.24

  1. READ: James Naismith, “The Need for a New Game” and “The Origin of Basketball” from Basketball: Its Origin and Development (Lincoln: Bison Books, 1996), pp. 29-64 (PDF in CTools).
  2. WATCH: “1980 D. J Baseline Sccop” (YouTube link in CTools)
  3. READ: Dave Hickey, “The Heresy of Zone Defense,” from Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy (Los Angeles: Art Issues Press, 1997), pp. 155-162 (PDF in CTools).
  4. READ: Allen Guttman, “Basketball” from Games and Empires: Modern Sports and Cultural Imperialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 97-119 (PDF in CTools).
Th 9.25or

F 9.26

  Week 4: Creativity, The Case of Roger Federer 

Date What to read or watch at home
M 9.29 READ: Emma L. Jeanes, “’Resisting Creativity, Creating the New: A Deleuzian Perspective on Creativity,” Creativity and Innovation Management 15.2 (June, 2006): pp. 127-134 (PDF in CTools).
T 9.30or

W 10.1

  1. WATCH: “Roger Federer Moments — Backwards and Away DTL Forehand” (YouTube link in CTools).
  2. WATCH: “Roger Federer — Top 10 Ridiculous Inventions” (YouTube link in CTools).
  3. READ: David Foster Wallace, “Federer as Religious Experience,” The New York Times August 20, 2006 (PDF in CTools).
  4. READ: Teresa Lacerda and Stephen Mumford, “The Genius in Art and in Sport: A Contribution to the Study of Aesthetics in Sport,” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport2 (2010): pp. 182-193 (PDF in CTools)
Th 10.2or

F 10.3

Unit 2: Society 

 Week 5: Values, The Case of the Hand of God

Date                                       What to read or watch at home
M 10.6 READ: J. S. Russell, “Is There a Normatively Distinctive Concept of Cheating in Sport (or anywhere else)?” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 41.3 (2014): pp. 303-323 (PDF in CTools).
T 10.7or

W 10.8

  1. WATCH: “Diego Maradona — The Hand of God Goal (mano de dios)” (Youtube link in CTools).
  2. READ: Brian Phillips, “Aesthetics and Justice,” from The Run of Play (PDF in CTools).
  3. READ: Claudio Tamburrini, “The ‘hand of God’?” from The Ethics of Sport: A Reader, Ed. by Mike McNamee (New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 132-144 (PDF in CTools).
  4. READ: Allen Guttman, “Soccer,” from Games and Empires: Modern Sports and Cultural Imperialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 41-70 (PDF in 2 parts in CTools)
Th 10.9or

F 10.10


Week 6: Writing Interlude

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 10.13 NO LECTURE – Fall Study Period
T 10.14or

W 10.15

Workshop Midterm Papers
Th 10.16or

F 10.17

Workshop Midterm Papers

Week 7: Organization, The Case of the NCAA

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 10.20 READ: D. Stanley Eitzen, “The Sociology of Amateur Sport: An Overview” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 24.2 (1989): pp. 95-104 (PDF in CTools).
T 10.21or

W 10.22

  1. READ: Claudia Wilken, “O’Bannon et al vs. NCAA” (Ruling) (PDF in Ctools)
  2. READ: Steve Eder and Ben Strauss, “Understanding Ed O’Bannon’s Suit Against the NCAA,” The New York Times, June 9, 2014 (PDF in CTools).
  3. READ: Brian Phillips, “The Northwestern Case: An Explainer,” Grantland, April 1, 2014 (PDF in CTools).
  4. READ: Taylor Branch, “The Shame of College Sports,” The Atlantic Monthly (October 2011) (PDF in CTools).
Th 10.23or

F 10.24


Week 8: Market, The Case of Michael Jordan 

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 10.27 READ George H. Sage, “Political Economy and Sport,” in Handbook of Sports Studies, Ed. by Jay Coakley and Eric Dunning (London: Sage, 2006), pp. 260-276 (PDF in CTools).
T 10.28or

W 10.29

  1. WATCH: “Jordan Ads’ (YouTube link in CTools).
  2. READ Walter LaFeber, “The Globalization of Michael Jordan,” “New Frontiers — and Inner Cities,” and “’The Greatest Endorser of the Twentieth Century’ or ‘An Insidious Form of Imperialism’?” from Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism (New York: Norton, 2002), pp. 49-74, 90-111, and 130-164 (PDF in CTools).
  3. READ C.L. Cole, “Nike’s America/America’s Michael Jordan,” in Michael Jordan, Inc.: Corporate Sport, Media Culture, and Late Modern America, Ed. by David L. Andrews (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001), pp. 65-103 (PDF In CTools).
Th 10.30or

F 10.31

 Week 9: Media, The Case of Venus Williams

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 11.3 READ:, Eileen Kennedy and Laura Hills, “Introduction” and “Analyzing Media Sport” from Sport, Media and Society (New York: Berg, 2009), pp. 1-30 (PDF in CTools).
T 11.4or

W 11.5

  1. WATCH: Venus VS (D. Ava Duvernay, 2013) (Amazon link in CTools).
  2. READ: Jessica Luther, “Return to Indian Wells,” Sports on Earth, January 24, 2014 (PDF in CTools).
  3. READ: Nancy E. Spencer, “From ‘Child’s Play’ to ‘Party Crasher’: Venus Williams, racism and professional women’s tennis,” in Sport Stars: The Cultural Politics of Sporting Celebrity, Ed. by David L. Andrews and Steven J. Jackson (London: Routledge, 2001), pp. 87-101 (PDF in CTools).
Th 11.6or

F 11.7

Unit III: Politics

Week 9: Power, The Case of the 1968 Summer Olympics

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 11.10 READ: Allen Guttman, “The Olympic Games,” from Games and Empire: Modern Sports and Cultural Imperialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 120-138 (PDF in CTools).
T 11.11or

W 11.12

  1. WATCH: “1968 Summer Olympics, Black Power Salute” (YouTube link in CTools).
  2. LISTEN: “Mexico ’68: A Movement, a Massacre and the 40-Year Search for Truth” (RadioDiaries link in CTools).
  3. READ: Eric Zolov, “The Harmonizing Nation: Mexico and the 1968 Olympics,” in In the Game: Race, Identity, and Sports, Ed. by Amy Bass (New York: Palgrave, 2005), pp. 191-217 (PDF in CTools).
  4. READ: Dave Zirin, excerpt from A People’s History of Sport in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play (New York: The New Press, 2008), pp. 156-175 (PDF in CTools).
  5. Amy Bass, “The Race between Politics and Sport,” from Not the Triumph But the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), pp. 1-35 (PDF in CTools).
Th 11.13or

F 11.14

 Week 10: Autonomy, The Case of Muhammad Ali

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 11.17 READ: C.L.R. James, “Black Power,” (1967) (PDF in CTools)
T 11.18or

W 11.19

  1. WATCH: When We Were Kings (1996, D. Leon Gast, United States) (YouTube link in CTools).
  2. WATCH: “1967 “What’s My Name??? part 2” (YouTube link in CTools).
  3. READ: Dave Zirin, “Rumble, Young Man, Rumble: Muhammad Ali,” from What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States, 53-72 (PDF in CTools).
  4. READ: Grant Farred, “Muhammad Ali, Third World Contender,” from What’s My Name? Black Vernacular Intellectuals (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), pp. 27-93 (PDF in CTools).
Th 11.20or

F 11.21


Week 12 

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 11.24 NO LECTURE – Thanksgiving Break
T 11.25or

W 11.26

Class held at instructor’s discretion
Th 11.27or

F 11.28

NO CLASS Thanksgiving Break

Unit IV: Ethics 

 Week 13: Watching, The Case of the WNBA

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 12.1 READ: Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, “Fascinations,” from In Praise of Athletic Beauty (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 150-201 (PDF in CTools).
T 12.2or

W 12.3

  1. WATCH: WNBA Promos (Youtube link in CTools).
  2. READ; Stacey Pressman, “WNBA: Will Not Be Accepted,” com (PDF in CTools).
  3. READ: Graham Hays, “Why are men afraid of the WNBA?” com (PDF in CTools)
  4. READ; Joe Lisec and Mary G. McDonald, “Gender Inequality in the New Millenium: An Analysis of WNBA Representations in Sports Blogs,” Journal of Sports Media2 (Fall 2012) pp. 153-178 (PDF in CTools).
  5. READ: Catherine McCabe, “Gender Effects on Spectators’ Attitudes Toward WNBA Basketball,” Social Behavior and Personality3 (2008): pp. 347-358 (PDF in CTools).
Th 12.4or

F 12.5


Week 14: Storytelling, The Case of Bill Simmons 

Date What to read or watch at home:
M 12.8 Jonathan Culler, “Narrative,” “Performative Language,” and “Identity, Identification, and the Subject,” from Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 82-120 (PDF in CTools)
T 12.9or

W 12.10

  1. Selections from Bill Simmons, The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy (New York: ESPN Books, 2010), pp. 3-56 (PDF in CTools)
  2. “Court of Opinion” from New York Magazine, December, 2009 (PDF in CTools)
  3. FreeDarko Collective, “Arbiters of Amazement” and “Afterword,” from FreeDarko Presents…The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010), pp. 205-211 (PDF in CTools)
  4. Noah Cohan, “Rewriting Sport and Self: Fan Self-Reflexivity and Bill Simmons’s The Book of Basketball,” Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture2 (2013): 133-145 (PDF in CTools)


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