Frank A. Guridy

 

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

Cover Interview of March 03, 2021

A close-up

When first readers pick up The Sports Revolution, they might assume that it is yet another book about football in Texas, and with good reason. H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights, his classic portrait of high school football in 1980s West Texas, has had a major influence on how sport in Texas has been understood. While my book explores Texas’s role in the popularization of football in the United States, it intentionally explores the state’s role in the transformation of baseball, basketball, and tennis as well.

If a reader browses the book long enough to realize it is more than a book about football, then I would want them to go right to chapter 6 of the book, which is my discussion of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the sexualized cheerleading group for the National Football League (NFL) franchise that became a lightning rod during the 1970s. Most sport history books do not contain a sustained discussion of cheerleading, a cultural practice that is often derided by sports fans and sports critics. The chapter illustrates how the cheerleading squad helped enhance the popularity and profitability of the Dallas Cowboys, leading the franchise to rebrand itself as “America’s Team.” It also highlights the demands of cheerleading labor and underscores how Cowboys management exploited their labor in this period. And yet as a social and cultural historian, I place the experience of the women who labored for the Cowboys at the center of the story.

This chapter, like much of the book, illustrates my reliance on sports highlight films and telecasts, which are now widely available on the internet. I analyze these sources alongside accounts of sporting events created by sportswriters. The telecasts and highlight films underscore the enormous power of the male-dominated world of television executives in the production and dissemination of the sports revolution during these pivotal decades. Indeed, this book is as much about the impact of sports media, especially television, on the popularization of spectator sport as it is about the transformative performances on the field of play.