Sunday, January 12, 2014

Soccer Titles Added to Journalism Resources

During the Christmas break, Sister Hilda Kleiman, the instructor for the MAS Journalism program and editor of the MAS Journalism blog, added five soccer titles to the bibliography of journalism books offered on the blog.

The most powerful book in this recent reading was This Love is Not for Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juarez by Robert Andrew Powell.  The author lived for a year in Juarez on the Mexican-American border, following the local soccer club in a town with an astronomical murder rate because of the wars between the drug cartels.  Sister Hilda's comments on this book were featured on the Daily Dose for Powell's City of Books.

Sister Hilda wrote, "While this is the best sports book I have read all year, it is also among the best books of any kind I have read all year.  It is strength and sadness all at the same time.  Everyone I know who plays and loves soccer will know about this book."

Two of the new titles featured soccer in Africa.  More Than Just a Game: Soccer vs. Apartheid: The Most Important Soccer Story Ever Told offers stunning details about the lengths to which the prisoners on Robben Island went to play and organize soccer and other sports in the prison:
Another area in which the men wanted to prove that they could run things properly was in the written side of the association's administration.  If they were going to take the trouble of writing letters and using up their valuable supply of paper, there was no way they were going to be slipshod or even casual about it.  All the correspondence between the MFA, the clubs, and their members had to be done by the book, written in an extremely formal style, almost according to a template.  Anyone mentioned in a letter or in the minutes of committee meetings was referred to as 'Mr' and given their surname.  Known and addressed only as numbers by the staff - or, more commonly, by abrasive racial or otherwise demeaning epithets - the use of surnames was the men's way of reasserting their dignity and individuality.  The standard ending was 'Yours in sports', to signify that, whatever the differences of opinion expressed, the men remained united solidly behind the enterprise as a whole (79).
 The prisoners had a role for everyone in the games and sports, even journalists:
Another thing the Soweto generation inherited and which gave them particular pleasure was the annual Robben Island Olympics.  One prisoner active in the sporting community in the Eighties described it as the most emotional day of the year.  The younger generation really took the event to their hearts.  Training began in September.  Events were tailored to different abilities and so men of all ages worked hard to get fit and to participate, and each cell chose one or more of its inhabitants to act as journalists to write stories about the event and make sure everyone received the recognition they deserved.  They also used the Summer Games to pressure the authorities into allowing all cell blocks to come together to play sport rather than have separate activities in each section, as was now the practice (240).
The last book of the break, Bloody Confused: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer, provided a stay from the much more serious circumstances of the previous books.  Chuck Culpepper, now a writer for Sports on Earth, had become discouraged and jaded covering sports in the United States, and England offered him a new sports world about which he was completely uniformed.

Beyond the fall-on-the-floor-laughing humor, Culpepper's book is meditation on the meaning of fandom, its highs and lows, both emotional and physical, including the sheer noise so many fans can generate:
Suddenly, though, I heard this great crowd noise blaring from the set.  The noise so clearly unleashed by what happened shockingly in the draining seconds of Portsmouth versus Manchester City gave me goose bumps even through a screen in Camden, and even through I knew nada about either squad except that Portsmouth wore blue and played on brown sod at Chelsea.  Why bother with sport?  Here's the number-one answer: because you might hear that kind of noise.  It might swim your ear canals and rustle your soul and electrify your skin and maybe even prolong your life.
For myself, following sport is largely about the hunt for that noise (34).
With the addition of five soccer titles, the sports resources for MAS Journalism is now in need of titles for other sports, particularly basketball and volleyball, the two other major team sports at Mount Angel Seminary.  Recommendations from our readers are welcome!

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