Frank A. Guridy


On his book The Sports Revolution: How Texas Changed the Culture of American Athletics

Cover Interview of March 03, 2021

In a nutshell

The Sports Revolution tells the story of the impact of the Civil Rights and Second-Wave feminist movements on the world of big-time professional and collegiate sports in the United States from the 1960s to the 1980s. The setting is the state of Texas, a region that had a profound impact on the expansion of professional and collegiate sports in this period. Texas merits attention not only because of the enormous influence of the state’s sports entrepreneurs and athletes, but also because it serves as a fascinating case study in its own right.

The book illustrates how an unlikely alliance among sports entrepreneurs and athletes from marginalized backgrounds changed American sporting culture. It shows how Texan sports entrepreneurs transformed American sports spectating by building new facilities like the Houston Astrodome, America’s first domed sports stadium that combined suburban-style comfort while catering to a cross-class, cross-racial constituency. It shows how farsighted white team owners, college athletic administrators, and coaches teamed up with aspiring black athletes to usher in the racial integration of professional and intercollegiate sports in the state.

It also chronicles how Texas became a major site of gender transformations by illustrating how feminist-inspired sports entrepreneurs used Philip Morris tobacco money to launch the first women’s professional tennis tour in Houston at the same time that the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders provoked intense debates about the meaning of womanhood in the age of the Sexual Revolution and Second-Wave feminism.

It also tracks the expansion of the professional sports industry into the state by telling the story of how the mayor of an emerging suburb in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex lured Major League Baseball from Washington, DC. while documenting how Mexican American fans helped spark a revival of professional basketball in San Antonio.

By the 1980s, the book argues, the social achievements that were catalyzed by these alliances were undone by the very same forces of commercialization that had set them in motion. Tracking these changes on the field, in the stands, and in the television truck, the book illustrates how, for better and for worse, Texas was at the center of America’s expanding political, economic, and emotional investment in sport in this period.

The book offers an interpretative history of the 1960s and 1970s, the period when the gains of the black freedom and feminist movements could be vividly seen in the world of sports. During these years, marginalized athletes of color and women athletes entered realms of the athletic labor force where they had been previously excluded, yet they did so under the careful supervision of white male owners, managers, and coaches. By analyzing these dynamics on and off the field, the book draws together the traditions of sports writing and critical sports studies with the insights of intersectional feminist ethnic studies.

Though written for a general interest reader, the book aims to make an intervention in the historiography of sports and the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Whereas most sports books treat “the black athlete,” “women in sports”, and un-marked white sportsmen separately, this book puts them in the same analytic field, highlighting both the racial and gender implications of the sports revolution within a larger context of deepening capitalist social relations. The book asks readers to scrutinize the terms of inclusion that were established in this period, to highlight the ways sport performance catalyzed and represented freedom and equality, while underscoring the clear limits of that transformation.