Monthly Archives: April 2014

ANB Entry, Sports Blog Launch, and Diss. Ramblings

The entry I wrote for American National Biography on US Olympian Harold “Hal” Connolly went live today. You can read it here:http://anb.org/articles/19/19-01012.html It’s free to view for the first 6 months, after that a subscription is required. Although it is basically just a 1,000 word biography, it was a really fun piece to research and write. I didn’t know that much about Connolly before hand. He’s a fascinating figure. His life was so significant beyond just his athletic career. He was born with a deformed arm, he married a Czech athlete during the heart of the Cold War, he one of the first people to admit to using steroids and had a strong stance against punitive testing that he outlined in the NY Times. Later in his life he went to work promoting the hammer throw to young athletes and served as the top administrator for the special olympics. He embodies not just the Cold War era, but so much more. I hope to write more about him someday.

Next week I am launching my new group blogging project: Sport in American History! The site is still under construction as I wait for people to send me their bios, but I’ve got around 10-15 interested contributors, and a dozen or so more interested readers. The first piece will just be an introduction to the blog and outline of what’s to come. After that we’ll be taking turns posting weekly pieces that address current events, review books/films, share new research, and discuss teaching with sport. I’m hoping that it will be a great success but worry that motivating and reminding people to sign up and post regularly could prove to be difficult. The May launch is maybe a bit risky because everyone is busy with finals, but I wanted to have something up there and visible for us to advertise at the North American Society for Sport History meeting in late May. One of our contributors is really active with NASSH and has promised to spread the word. Look out for a new Twitter account for the blog too. 

Beyond these two projects, my own research is going well. I’m proud of my working dissertation title: “From Dust to Dynasty: Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma” though I think it makes it sound more like a biography than an exploration of race, politics, and football during Cold War era Sunbelt Oklahoma. Lately, I’ve been compiling preliminary lists of boxes and files that I want to look at when I get to the archives this summer. One of the grants I’m applying for requires it, but it’s going to be useful for other areas of my research too. I’ve had some really good conversations lately about my project and the different historiographies that I’ll be touching. There will definitely be a lot of political history, some race, and, of course, football. I hope to write a longer post on the project and its development in May. For now, the quick hitting themes are:

  • Rehabilitation of Oklahoma’s image (rejection of “Okie” image)
  • The expansion of the University of Oklahoma
  • The integration of OU & OU Football
  • Oklahoman’s as Cold Warriors
  • Postwar Recovery based on the Aviation Industry and Pork Barrel legislation
  • Football, Politics, and the Sunbelt/South

I could easily write a paragraph or two on each of these bullet points explaining them and my preliminary findings as well as connecting them. I’m really excited about the project and all of the different converging ideas and angels to explore. Things seem to be going well, but there’s always more to read, more to discover!

Thinking and Reflecting on Blogging

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading and thinking about blogging quite a bit. During this time I’ve had several productive conversations about my blog and the American Sport History group blog that I hope to have up an running early this summer. Many of the thoughts I had and ideas I was reading came together for me in yesterday’s live-Tweet of the OAH panel on blogging “Is Blogging Scholarship?” (much of which has been Storified here).  Historiann (Ann M. Little) was a member of the panel and wrote her own blogpost about it here. As response to this conversation, I felt it appropriate to reflect on why I blog, how I use it, and what I’ve gotten out of it.

This blog started as a space for writing and thinking. I’ve tried to update it regularly — which has tended to be every other month, though I always say I’d like to write more often. I also started this site as a place to house pieces of my professional portfolio. I’ve tried to collect bits and pieces of my digital humanities and public history work, share some of my reading lists, and publish a relatively up-to-date CV. It’s essentially serves as a landing page for my professional identity and networking to for people to see what I’m up to.

As I Tweeted this morning, I tend to use my this space to historicize current events, play with ideas, ask for help or feedback on projects I’m working on. In many ways I approach this space like I would a conference papers.  For me, it’s a good way to start the writing process and/or organize my ideas. This aspect of the blog has worked remarkably well for me. I’ve actually turned a couple of the posts into conference presentations. My writings here have also started conversations that have led to me rethinking and radically changing my dissertation topic. 

Perhaps it’s all the psychology and education classes I took as an undergraduate, but self reflection has always been important to me, and when I began was a key part of this blog. I always find reflection to be incredibly useful and rewarding, but also scary because it is intensely private yet can come across as egotistical or self absorbed when made. It’s hard to strike a balance in this type of writing, and is perhaps safest not to publish. I still do it from time to time, because I think they’re worthwhile.

There is risk in blogging. I know it first hand because it has created a few bumps in the road for me. Without going into detail, I’ve learned that it is crucial that we become self aware of not only what we write but how we write. It’s important to be very cautious about certain subjects and to read and reread everything we write to gauge the tone and perspective of the writing. Although blogging tends to be fairly conversational and personal, it still requires careful editing and attentional to detail. This goes for all types of writing we do on our blogs because you never know who’s out there reading.

By and large, this blog been had a positive influence on my professional life. Though I don’t usually receive many on-site comments, this blog has worked remarkably well in tandem with Twitter in starting conversations and creating new connections. Besides getting amazing feedback about my dissertation project, I’ve also been interviewed on Canadian Radio, and invited to join a variety of projects because people have found me through this blog.

My own experiences blogging — both good and bad — offer instructive examples for the larger discussion on whether or not we should blog AND how we should go about blogging. Group blogs have become extremely popular lately and offer a more structured and refined approach to blogging. Earlier this month ProfHacker wrote about How to Run a Group-Authored Blog that has helped inform that way I’ve gone about planning and organizing my new venture. I’ve also drawn ideas from my friends and colleagues who contribute to the U.S. Intellectual History and Religion in American History blogs.

As I launch the American Sport History group blog later this summer, I’m unsure what will become of this space. That blog is focused more on responding to current events, reviewing books/films, discussing teaching ideas with sport, and offering an avenue for younger scholars to share and solicit feedback on their research. I’m hoping that it will be a catalyst in developing a vibrant online community of sports scholars. I hope to keep writing here, though the new blog will be duplicate some of the things I post here my many of my scholarly interests lie outside of American sport. This space may evolve and diversify into my interest areas. For example, I see myself returning to discussions of my exploration in the digital humanities. As I prepare to teach my first class this fall, you can expect to see a post or two about my experiences planning and implementing my syllabus. Regardless of how this space develops, I’m committed to blogging and think it’s a worthwhile endeavor for graduate students and scholars to network, test ideas, and reach broader audiences.

CFP: An American Sports History Group Blog

This idea has been marinating for a year or two now, but I’ve finally decided to do it! I’m interested in starting a group blog that focuses on American Sports History/Studies. I envision it as a place for junior faculty and graduate students to share their work, respond to current events, discuss important works or trends in our field, talk about teaching with sport, and just overall developing an active and engaging scholarly community centered on the history of sport. Likewise, such a blog could be an open place for members of the broader public who are interested in critically engaging in sports related issues to come learn more and interact. Group blogs, such as U.S. Intellectual History, Religion in American History, and The Junto, have been very successful in doing similar things.

For this blog to be successful, I need contributors. I’m hoping to start with a small core group of people, at least 5 or 6, who contribute one post every other month or so, with the idea that we can publish one post each week, but each person writes only once every 6 weeks. I see the posts possibly fitting into the following areas:

  • Current events in a critical and historical context

  • Reviews of recent and import books

  • Short pieces of new research

  • Meditations on teaching with sport

I’m open to other suggestions and expanding beyond my personal historical background to include other disciplines and approaches. If this sounds like something you would be interested in joining and regularly contributing to, please email me at amcgrego@purdue.edu. You can also leave other ideas/suggestions in the comments. I’d like to get thing rolling by early this summer.