American History through American Sports

From Colonial Lacrosse to Extreme Sports

by Danielle Sarver Coombs and Bob Batchelor


Why did it take so long for soccer to take hold in the United States? Who is the NFL's best running back of all time? Why are Americans fascinated with mixed martial arts, extreme sports, and NASCAR? Why is race still an issue in professional sports more than half a century after integration?

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Cover image for American History through American Sports

December 2012


Pages 944
Volumes 3
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Popular Culture/Sports, Recreation, and Leisure

Filled with insightful analysis and compelling arguments, this book considers the influence of sports on popular culture and spotlights the fascinating ways in which sports culture and American culture intersect.

This collection blends historical and popular culture perspectives in its analysis of the development of sports and sports figures throughout American history. American History through American Sports: From Colonial Lacrosse to Extreme Sports is unique in that it focuses on how each sport has transformed and influenced society at large, demonstrating how sports and popular culture are intrinsically entwined and the ways they both reflect larger societal transformations.

The essays in the book are wide-ranging, covering topics of interest for sports fans who enjoy the NFL and NASCAR as well as those who like tennis and watching the Olympics. Many topics feature information about specific sports icons and favorite heroes. Additionally, many of the topics' treatments prompt engagement by purposely challenging the reader to either agree or disagree with the author's analysis.


  • Comprises original essays by noted sports historians, writers, and journalists
  • Presents informed, unapologetic analysis that sheds light on controversial issues, such as race, doping, economics, and globalization
  • Provides a comprehensive examination of sports history, from traditional fan favorites like baseball to newly-popular ones such as NASCAR, mixed martial arts, and extreme sports
  • Illuminates the role of new media and the Internet in American sports
Author Info

Danielle Sarver Coombs, PhD, is assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University, Kent, OH. Danielle has worked as a brand researcher and consultant for a number of top advertising agencies and brands, including Payless, Scripps Networks, Paramount Home Video, and the American Museum of Natural History. Since returning to academia, Danielle's research has focused on sports and branding. She earned a doctorate in mass communication and public affairs from the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University.

Bob Batchelor, PhD, is assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University and academic coordinator of its online master's program in public relations. He received his undergraduate degrees at the University of Pittsburgh, his master's degree at Kent State University, and his doctorate in English at the University of South Florida. Batchelor is the author or editor of 21 books, including 3 volumes in Greenwood's "Popular Culture through History" series: The 1900s, The 1980s, and The 2000s. In addition, he edited Greenwood's four-volume American Pop: Popular Culture Decade by Decade; Praeger's three-volume Cult Pop Culture: How the Fringe Became Mainstream; and Praeger's three-volume American History through American Sports. His published work also includes articles in Radical History Review, The Journal of American Culture, The Mailer Review, The American Prospect Online, and Public Relations Review, as well as many book chapters. Batchelor is a member of the editorial advisory boards of The Journal of Popular Culture and the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, and was recently named director of marketing and promotion for The John Updike Childhood Home Museum in Reading, PA.

Table of Contents

Volume 1: Creating Sports Culture: Beginnings Section One – Critical Issues 1. America Plays: Sports in Colonial Times – Russ Crawford 2. Holy Cow! How the Advent of Early Sports Broadcasting Dramatically Changed How Professional Sports Teams in the United States Are Marketed – Ric Jensen 3. Sports as Spectacle: Early Athletes as Popular Culture Icons – Ray Gamache 4. Professional Sports: Big Money and Sports as an Industry – Brad Schultz 5. Cables, Speakers, and Screens: The Development of Technology in Sports Broadcasting – Alex Kupfer Section Two – The Big Four 6. Four Yards and a Cloud of Dust: The Greatest Running Back in Football History – Kaitlin Krister 7. Baseball: The Nation's First National Pastime – Adam G. Capitanio 8. Jackie Robinson: The Patron Saint of American Sports – Leslie Heaphy 9. The Yankee Dynasty – Donna Waller Harper 10. The Babe: Reconsidering America’s First Sports Legend – Gina Anne Conley 11. A Concise History of Early Baseball – Scott Reinardy 12. Cobb’s Ghost: An Argument for Baseball’s Greatest Hitter – Lori Amber Roessner 13. Organized Chaos: The Early History of Professional Basketball -- Jim Fisher 14. Soccer on the Pond: Hockey’s Role in Young America – Melanie Formentin Section Three – Outside the Lines 15. Soccer Means Football Here: Why the World’s Game Never Made it to the US – Glen M.E. Duerr 16. Fight Night: Boxing’s Popularity in the Early Twentieth Century – Joe Marren 17. Reintroducing the Olympics: Making Track and Field Relevant – Ben Dettmar 18. The Tobacco Spittin’, Moonshine Runnin’ History of Early NASCAR – William Matthew McCarter 19. Gentlemen, Start Your Engines: Early American Automobile Racing – Norma Jones 20. Mountain Bike: Californians Reinvent Bicycling – Frédéric Savre Volume 2: Sports at the Center of Popular Culture: The Television Age Section One – Critical Issues 1. ESPN: Television Transforms Sports Culture – Patrick Sutherland 2. Spectacle: Creating Sports Icons in a Media-Saturated World – Leigh H. Edwards 3. Marvel Comics’ Sports Comics in the first half of the 1990s – Rob G. Weiner 4. It’s About the Shoe: Nike and the Endless Sneaker Wars – Yuya Kiuchi 5. Defense Wins Championships: Sports Philosophies and Folk Wisdom – Patrick Mayock 6. It’s in the Game: The History of Sports Video Games – Andrew Baerg Section Two – The Big Four 7. The Super in the Super Bowl – Michael Mooradian Lupro 8. Bowled Over: The BCS and the Ongoing National Champion Controversy – Chris Sweeney 9. My NFL: The Fantasy Football Craze – Jesse James Draper 10. More Than the Crack of the Bat: “Walk-on Music” and Popular Music in Major League Baseball – Mathew Bartkowiak and Yuya Kiuchi 11. Visualizing the National Pastime: Lew Fonseca and the Birth of the MLB Film Bureau – Andrew G. Harrington 12. Greg Maddux as Genius and the Sublimated Homosexual Desire of American Baseball Fans – Josef Benson 13. Saving the NBA: Bird, Magic, and Jordan Rescue Professional Basketball – Justin D. Garcia 14. The Great One: Wayne Gretzky’s Enduring Legacy – Peter Fontana Section Three – Outside the Lines 15. Soccer Moms and Football Dads: Sports and the Daily Life of American Youth – Jana Mathews 16. When Pele was King: The rise and fall of the North American Soccer League – Glen .E. Duerr 17. Professional Wrestling: Creating America’s Fight Culture – Eero Laine 18. The Gold: The Olympics in the Modern Age – Stephan Wassong 19. Tiny Dancers: Olympic Gymnastics Captivates the World – Axel Kupfer and Stephan Wassong 20. Rubbing is Racing: The New Nascar – P. Huston Ladner 21. Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, Let’s Go Racing…Girls? Female NASCAR Drivers – Norma Jones 22. The Intimidator and Junior: The Legacy of the Earnhardts – P. Huston Ladner Volume 3: Sports in a Digital Age Section One – Critical Issues 1. Wired: Sports and the Digital Age – Steve Fox 2. Social Media: Athletes, Teams, and Fans Collide Online – Randall W. Monty 3. Social Media, Spaghetti Westerns, and Modern Spectator Sports – Nicholas David Bowman 4. Doping: Deviant Behavior and the Consequences of Drugs in Professional Baseball – Salvador Murguia 5. The Demise of Amateur Sports: College Athletes in the Modern Age – Alexandra Dellas 6. Out of Bounds: Professional Athletes, New Media, and Violence Against Women in the Twenty-First Century – Natalie Carter Section Two – The Big Four 7. All Football All the Time: The Role of Media in the Rise of NFL Fanaticism – Gordon Gibb 8. The World’s Game?: Baseball and Globalization – Craig Greenham 9. Why I Hate the Yankees – Gary Gershman 10. LeBron James, ESPN, and ‘The Decision’ – Gordon Gibb 11. The World Catches Up: Basketball as a Global Game – Martin J. Manning 12. Banking on “Sid The Kid” and “Alex The Great”—The National Hockey League Turns to Two Young Stars As Its Saviors – Ric Jensen 13. Do We Still Play on Ice: The NHL’s Warm Weather Movement – Stephen P. Andon 14. The Great Outdoor Game: NHL Finally Gets Marketing Right – Melanie Formentin Section Three – Outside the Lines 15. “Beckhamania:” David Beckham's Evolution from Skilled Athlete to Global Superstar – Danielle Sarver Coombs 16. Don’t Tread on Me: Soccer in the USA – Danielle Sarver Coombs 17. Reopening the Curtain on Rugby in America – Ray Schuck 18. Digital Sports Fans, Lance Armstrong, and Virtual Communities – Andrew R. Meyer 19. Pushing the Limits: Ultra-marathons, Ironman, and the Modern Athlete – Matt Mihalka 20. In the Octagon™: Mixed Martial Arts Comes to Life – Miles Adam Park 21. Adrenaline Rush in a Bottle! The Growth and Mainstreaming of Extreme Sports – Norma Jones

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