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Volume 10, No. 1 - February 2000
More in this Issue



Andrew Zimbalist, professor of economics at Smith College and author of Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism And Conflict In Big-time College Sports (Princeton, 1999).

"During the 1990s, few sports issues received as much public-policy attention as public subsidies for sports stadiums. At the heart of the issue are the monopolies that leagues enjoy in the major sports. There is only one professional football league, for instance, and it restricts the supply--the number of franchises in the league--regardless of how many economically viable cities demand teams.

To learn about how the leagues cultivate their monopoly power and about the capricious, greedy characters behind the scenes, there is no more entertaining and edifying account than Jon Morgan's Glory For Sale (Bancroft Press, 1997). Here Morgan tells the story of how the old Cleveland Browns transmogrified into the Baltimore Ravens. His tale is carried along by an eminently readable, flowing narrative, over the course of which we step inside National Football League business history. Morgan reveals the half-truths, infighting, and deceit of team owners; the political maneuverings in Baltimore, Cleveland, and Oakland to accommodate the team; and the diminutive significance of a sports team to a city's economy (new facilities generate tens of millions of dollars for a team's owners, not for the city that lured the team with subsidies)."

Joli Sandoz and Joby Winans,co-editors of Whatever It Takes: Women On Women's Sport (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999). Sandoz is also the editor ofA Whole Other Ball Game; Women's Literature On Women's Sport (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997).

"Susan Cahn's Coming On Strong (Harvard, 1995), based in part on the testimony of forty-four women who played highly competitive sports between the late 1930s and the early 1960s, explores U.S. sportswomen's experience entering the Title IX era. Noting that women athletes of the 1920s claimed '"masculine" strength, speed, and power as a right of womanhood,' Cahn examines the influence of that claim on both white and African-American sportswomen. Full Court Press (NAL/Dutton, 1998), Lauren Kessler's portrayal of University of Oregon women's basketball from 1994 to 1995, tells of a coach battling behind the scenes for gender equity as she struggles to pilot her team of post--Title IX babies to the NCAA tournament. Along the way, Kessler takes an unflinching look at the pressures on sportswomen today and how one coach and team respond. For a personal account of an ambitious adolescent's experiences in high school and college sport, read powerlifter Leslie Heywood's groundbreaking memoir, Pretty Good For A Girl: A Memoir, which has just been reissued by the University of Minnesota Press."

Bruce Adelson, former trial lawyer and author of Brushing Back Jim Crow: The Integration Of Minor-league Baseball In The American South (Virginia, 1999).

"Americans once flocked to racetracks to enjoy what was arguably our first national sport, horse racing, and to cheer for their favorite horses and jockeys. Surprisingly, many of these jockeys were also slaves who became famous athletes despite their state of bondage. In Great Black Jockeys(Prima Publishing, 1999), Ed Hotaling tells the compelling and previously unknown stories of these men, their remarkable achievements, and the stunning contradiction they lived. For example, Austin Curtis, a Virginia slave in Revolutionary America, was legendary not only for his racing prowess but also for concealing horses from British troops desperate for fresh mounts and supplies. Another jockey repeatedly bested the horses General Andrew Jackson owned or bet on. Hotaling has done a masterful job recounting their achievements and experiences. The Great Black Jockeys is a welcome addition to the literature of sports and American history."

Kenneth L. Shropshire, professor of legal studies and real estate at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and editor of Basketball Jones: America, Above the Rim (NYU, forthcoming).
"The best works about sports convey both an athlete's impact on society and society's role in shaping the athlete. Mike Marqusee's Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties (Verso, 1999) examines Ali's role as a symbol of dissent while also using the fighter's career as a gateway into the turbulence of the 1960s. Marqusee focuses on Ali's interactions with people like Sam Cooke and Malcolm X as well as the fights over civil rights and the Vietnam War that he waged outside the ring. Larry Platt, in a more contemporary work, Keepin' It Real: A Turbulent Season At The Crossroads With The NBA (Avon, 1999), examines how the blurring of the boundaries between basketball and entertainment has affected the careers of five old- and new-school NBA players: Vernon Maxwell, Chris Webber, Charles Barkley, Matt Maloney, and Jerry Stackhouse. Platt takes us behind the scenes of the 1997--1998 season, where the hardwood is a stage and the locker room an exclusive club; the result is a disquieting look at a league in love with money, glamour, and fame."

Mark S. Rosentraub, professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, Indianapolis, and author ofMajor League Losers; The Real Cost Of Sports And Who's Paying For It (Basic Books, 1997).

"Good ideas and intentions are usually not sufficient to meet an organization's goals. As always, the devil is in the details, and in Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism And Conflict In Big-time College Sports (Princeton, 1999), Andrew Zimbalist provides those details in a sophisticated and scholarly assessment of the NCAA and its regulation--if you can call it that--of college sports. The NCAA was created to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program of America's universities; Zimbalist explains how its pursuit of money has undermined that mission. The organization rarely cracks down on schools that bend admission criteria for high school athletes with star potential. Coaches and NCAA officials are paid salaries far beyond those of ordinary faculty, while athletes receive very little of the revenue they generate. Zimbalist offers several remedies for these ills. The NCAA should charge the major professional sports leagues for the cost of training players who go professional; these funds could then help develop opportunities for all college athletes. Even more provocative is Zimbalist's proposal that athletes who attend college as a ladder to the pros be justly compensated by their schools and receive the training they need to prepare for a career in athletics. That is, they should be paid professionals."

Murray Sperber, professor of English and American studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, and author of Onward To Victory: The Crises That Shaped College Sports (Henry Holt, 1998).

"Every taxpayer in the United States subsidizes pro-sports stadiums through federal tax benefits to mega-rich team owners and their wealthy employees--the athletes. And many taxpayers also pay higher state and municipal taxes due to what Mark S. Rosentraub, in Major League Losers; The Real Cost Of Sports And Who's Paying For It (Basic Books, 1997), terms an upside-down welfare system. His book-- as well as Sports, Jobs, And Taxes: The Economic Impact Of Sports Teams And Stadiums (Brookings Institution Press, 1997), edited by Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist, --debunks the propaganda churned out by the media and the pro leagues on the supposed (but fictitious) benefits to communities that underwrite stadiums and arenas. Reading these books will convince you to root for the 'NO' side in all referenda on stadium construction."

--John Palattella

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