Comparative Literature | The Ecstasy, Agony, and Fascination of Popular Sports
C151 | 6262 | AI: H. Midelfort

CMLT-C 151 (6262)
The Ecstasy, Agony and Fascination of Popular Sports
Instructor: Halvard Midelfort    TR 11:15-12:30
*fulfills Culture Studies and A&H requirements*

Why do we love sports?  Why are we addicted to following sports, even
if we don’t or have never actually played them?  Do we watch the
Colts or the Cubs to bring excitement to our mundane lives?  On the
other hand perhaps our lives contain so much pressure that we need to
take the focus off of our angst-filled here-and-now in order to enjoy
something like the Super Bowl, which does not have any personal
significance for those not playing in, coaching, investing in (or
betting on) the Big Game.  Still, tens of millions of us do take the
time to watch it (whereas billions tune in for the World Cup) and
thus advertisers, celebrities and politicians must model their own
behavior to display devotion (feigned or genuine) for something that
has so much popular appeal.
This course will explore this obsession, will question why everybody
loves a winner and will examine how individuals and institutions
react to violent and “unsportsmanlike” events as well as to fallen
sports heroes, when they violate ethical standards in their quest to
improve athletic performance or when they commit crimes.  We will pay
close attention to fantasy leagues, college athletics, the role of
religion in sports psychology, the relationship between sports,
business and athletic engineering and the peculiar fascination that
the world (but not the U.S.) has with soccer.
To do this we will read a number of books and articles, and view
several films and/or film clips. Potential media include:  When Pride
Still Mattered, David Maraniss ‘s biography of Vince Lombardi,  Quiet
Strength: The Principles Practices and Priorities of a Winning Life,
Tony Dungy’s recently released autobiography, Juiced: Wild Times
Rampant ‘Roids and How Baseball Got Big, Jose Canseco’s expose of
cheating in baseball, I am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe’s 2003 novel
on the American university (and sports) as well as articles from
magazines such as Sports Illustrated, and films such Any Given Sunday
and Breaking Away, among others.