Frank A. Guridy

 

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

Cover Interview of March 03, 2021

Lastly

I hope that readers who are not sports enthusiasts will come to appreciate the relevance of sports as a topic of inquiry. I hope the skeptical reader can see sport as more than mere entertainment. I want to encourage further investigation into the growth of the sports industry, its importance to the political economy of cities and of the country as a whole during the past century, its centrality to the constitution of racial and gender understandings, and national identifications.

The outsized impact of big-time sports has been painfully clear during the COVID-19 crisis, as professional sport leagues and universities have coerced their athletic laborers to risk their lives competing in sporting events even as the pandemic has raged on without an end in sight.

And I hope that sports enthusiasts will appreciate the merits of a portrait of sport and society that is based on Black and Ethnic Studies and feminist perspectives. Popular and even academic sports history has historically been a heavily masculinized genre. My book contributes to the growing literature inside and outside of academia that interrogates much of the mythologies surrounding sport in America, while highlighting its potential for social change.

The book also aims to alter understandings of Texas in the American imagination. Now that I am back in New York, I see that Texas is poorly understood by imagined enlightened East Coasters, who often cast Texas as little more than a conservative bastion of Red State America. The fact that the Republican Party has held onto state power through gerrymandering and voter suppression leads many to overlook the fact that the state has fascinating freedom traditions by its Black, Latinx, indigenous working-class populations. In this regard, the book aims to portray Texas as a dynamic region, a place where rigid racial hierarchies were altered during the 1960s and 1970s, a place where the region’s marginalized communities and civic-minded entrepreneurs left their imprint on U.S. society. In this sense, the book joins the work of Max Krochmal’s Blue Texas, Tyina Steptoe’s Houston Bound, Brian Behnken’s Fighting their Own Battles, and Stephen Harrigan’s Big Wonderful Thing, and others that provide an alternative view of a state that has a long history of struggle for social transformation.

Finally, I think the book can shed light on the current wave of athlete activism that has been galvanized by the Black Lives Matter movement. The gestures and tactics of Colin Kaepernick and other politically engaged athletes have a long history, much of which dates back to the era I explore in my book. While today’s athletes have taken courageous stands against black oppression and police violence, they have yet to address the inequities in the sports world itself. College athletes who play revenue-generating sports remain exploited, while coaches and universities, and the bloated predominantly white management class profit handsomely from their labor power. Inequities between men’s and women’s sports continue to prevail, notwithstanding the great strides that have been made during the past fifty years. In this sense, the book suggests that the revolution that transformed the sports world in the United States fifty years ago remains unfinished.