Violence in Sports

Date: Mon, 26 Aug 1996
From: Jim Naughton
Subject: violence in sports

Re the proposal to discuss violence in sports: Perhaps this is not quite on point, but I am gathering string for a story on acts of violence (or other instances of criminal behavior) by college athletes. I'd welcome any tips, be they from the police blotter or the scholarly literature.

Jim Naughton
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Date: Tue, 27 Aug 1996
From: Eric Kam

Mr. Naughton:

If you are compiling literature on college athletics and violence, you must examine what occured at a collegiate hockey game in eastern Canada. Although I cannot remember the two universities who participated in the game, the result was that a poor call by the referee resulted in virtual gang violence by the injured team against the official. They swarmed around the referee in a circle and began to taunt and assualt him both verbally and physically. This resulted in a massive investigation by both the Police and the CIAU executive. In fact, Ken Dryden, the former Montreal Canadiens goaltender and an attorney, was brought in to learn of the behaviour and render a verdict against the schools in question.

Eric Kam
York University

Date: Tue, 27 Aug 1996
From: Tom D. Lee

Mr. Naughton,

In your recent querry, you not only asked about recent stories, but scholarly works dealing with violence in sport. Have you looked at Robert J. Higgs' "God in the Stadium: Sports and Religion in America"? While the book may not be exactly what you had in mind, Higgs attempts to create an overarching view of sport and culture that weaves together religion, sport, professionalism, the university, and the basic threads of American history, including violence. If not immediately useful for your purposes, Higgs' book might spur your thinking on the subject of violence or move it in new directions.

While on the subject, would anyone else who has read Dr. Higg's book care to comment? Without reviewing it, I will say that I appreciated the effort to bring so many themes together into one study, and Dr. Higgs deserves credit for many of the insights included in his attempted synthesis. However, I fear that the overarching paradigm -- the knight/shepherd dichotomy -- may be too simplistic, and as an historian in training, I do have reservations about the evidence. Often supporting broad generalizations, Higgs' evidence seems better suited to the support of more restricted pronouncements about specific times or regions. For instance, I do not believe that most contemporary historians of the frontier would accept the idea that the American frontier was monolithic or that any one time or place was truly representative of the frontier experience elsewhere, yet Higgs relies heavily on evidence from the Old Southwest for his argument about America at large. Still, I found the work well worth reading, and having studied under Dr. Higgs, I appreciate the effort he has made.

Date: Tue, 27 Aug 1996
From: Tim Morris

I'd suggested this topic to Judy Hakola a while ago and I should probably elaborate: I'd like to get the ideas of others interested in sport literature on the prevalence of violence in sport-related texts. It seems to me that violence-- deliberate or accidental--appears in novels and other texts about sport in great disproportion to its occurrence in actual sport, particularly in North America, where our sporting events are relatively mild, innocuous, and highly policed / undersurveillance compared to other parts of the world.

In particular, violent events are endemic in baseball stories. While baseball has much potential for accidental mayhem, it's becoming rarer in the sport all the time as equipment and safety consciousness gets better. Yet in baseball *novels* people are simply slaughtered left and right. To cite one recent example-- the story "Zanduce at Second" by Ron Carlson, which appeared in *Harper's* in May 1994, where the whole plot revolves around the tendency of a star ballplayer to kill fans with line drives. (I, myself, am mortally afraid of line drives. I always sit in the center field bleachers, and even then I'm nervous when Juan Gonzalez comes up :). But people actually *don't* get killed by baseballs and they don't even get hurt very often. In baseball fiction, though, it's the most natural thing in the world.

I'd like to discuss: WHY is there all this bloodshed in writing about our peaceful pastoral sport and HOW do you deal with it (some is pretty gruesome) in teaching literature? Which might lead to discussions of how one teaches the literature and/or film of graphic violence generally.

Tim Morris

Date: Fri, 30 Aug 1996
From: Joyce Duncan

Dr. Higgs' book has already been sent out to a list member for formal review and should appear on H-Arete within 90 days. It should be noted that the book was also nominated for a Pulitzer prize last year, and is the culmination of many years of extraordinary scholarship.

On the topic of reviews, anyone on the list who is interested in reviewing for H-Arete with a possible reprint in _Aethlon_ should send pertinent information and areas of interest to There is a very good possibility of procurring review copies for your use. Additionally, anyone who subscribes to other lists that cite new books in the field should pass those along to this list, thus, we can get the review cycle moving along. Thanks. Joyce Duncan, SLA

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