What a year it has been! It’s difficult to realize it during the day-to-day grind, but 2015 has been an amazing year for me. At the end of each December, I try to take stock in what I’ve accomplished and sketch out goals for the next year. Revising last year’s post, I didn’t quite meet all of the goals I had for myself. I wanted to write more than I did. I hoped to be further along on my dissertation. That’s a goal that remains for 2016. Despite falling short, I still believe that 2015 was successful because I’ve continued to move forward and grow as a teacher, scholar, and person.
Highlights from 2015:
- I started 2015 with lots of blogging and continued throughout the year. Sport in American History grew exceptionally fast. We moved from 2 posts to 3 per week (and will have 4 in 2016). I wrote about a variety of topics, ranging from bowl games, Jerry Tarkanian, the Kansas City Royals, The Black Athlete, and ideas about collective identity and public ownership in sports. You can see an archive of these post on the blog.
- In the process of writing these posts, I embraced the limits of my own knowledge. Collaboration and co-writing is rare in history. I used blogging a space to experiment with collaborative writing. My Purdue colleague, Wes Bishop and I wrote 2 posts together, combining his background in labor history and social justice activism with knowledge of sports. I’m really proud of how the posts turned out.
- In the spring semester I was able to work closely with my advisor teaching a new general sports history course. I really enjoyed seeing how he taught the class (and comparing it with how my MA advisor taught his). I took lots of notes to use in the future. This experience bled over into the summer where I helped him select and gather supplementary readings for a reconfigured version of the course (which he taught as a visiting professor at West Point in the Fall). Both experiences were insightful and will shape how I develop classes in the future.
- In fact, I immediately put many of those lessons to work. I was hired in April by the African American Studies program at Purdue to teach a course called “The Black Athlete.” While the course existed before I taught it, I was given the freedom to make it my own. Over the summer I blogged my way through the development process, choosing books, designing assignments, etc. Then, this fall I taught the course. It was a great class and my students seemed to get a lot of out of it. After the semester ended, one student wrote me, thanking me for an eye-opening class. “I’ve never taken a course similar to this one before, and I am leaving this semester with so much more knowledge about all of the topics we discussed than I would have imagined.” Notes like that make all the work that goes into teaching worth it.
- In June, I graded AP U.S. History Exams in Louisville, KY. Surprisingly, I got more out of it than the nice paycheck. I met some awesome high school teachers, Purdue alums, and professors. A few already knew of me from the sports blog! We had great conversations about teaching, grading, and life — often over drinks.
- Although the end result was disappointing, I attempted to publish an academic article during the summer, too. I spent quite a bit of time working on it, when I should have been writing dissertation chapters. Eventual publication still isn’t out of question, but I’ve taken a break from working on the article after a couple of rounds of revisions and reviews. Though I’ve written book chapters, review essays, and encyclopedia entries, I’ve never published an academic article. It’s always seemed like an opaque process that no one can really explain. The advice I’ve gotten from other has been decent but also somewhat contradictory. Putting myself out there and going through the process, while extremely frustrating at times, has been a great education. It’s taught me to think strategically about my writing. I hope that the piece eventually sees the light of day (if not, it’s part of a larger future project).
- I appeared as a guest panelist on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” in August.The panel was about the Kansas City Royals image, which I wrote about in July. The Royals have long been my biggest sports obsession. I’ve followed them my entire life, so being able to talk about them, as an expert, on national TV was a dream come true; an absolutely amazing and unexpected experience. It did so much to validate all of the hard work I’ve put in to becoming a sport historian and building the sports blog.
- Speaking of the Royals… after a disappointing Game 7 loss to the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series, they channeled their frustration into an amazing 2015 season. I was able to see them play twice in Chicago. The first game was in May at Wrigley Field with my brother and sister-in-law. Watching baseball with my brother is probably my favorite summer time activity. The Royals won 8-4, beating 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arieta. I saw my second game in July at U.S. Cellular Field with fellow Purdue grad student and suffering Pirates fan, Ed Gray. We caught game 1 of a double-heard, but were unable to stay for game 2. KC won 4-2 on an extremely hot afternoon, when the Chicago winds refused to blog. I unfortunately never made it back to Kansas City for a game. It didn’t matter. The Royals didn’t me to continue their winning ways. They easily won the AL Central by 12 games en route to amassing the best record in the American League. It was the Royals first AL Central title because their last division title came under the old 2-division system (which ended in 1994).
- The playoffs deserve their own bullet point, because like 2014, they were a wild ride. Despite the odds and deficits, the Royals refused to give up. Their win probability reached single digits in an elimination game against Houston — I nearly broke my phone at the bar in frustration — but they miraculously rallied to win. This happened in several games throughout October. Unlike 2014, they didn’t sweep anyone. They ground out each series with the confidence that they would not be denied. Their strong belief in themselves proved to be true as the Kansas City Royals became the 2015 World Series Champions. I still get chills writing that. Like my ESPN appearance, the Royals winning the World Series is something I’ve dreamed out most of my life.
- In September, I made the pilgrimage to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. It was a last-minute, spur-of-the-moment trip to watch the Packers play my Kansas city Chiefs on Monday Night Football. The Chiefs lost, but I got to experience of the few must-see NFL stadiums. I toured their Hall of Fame, sampled the local beers, and ate some of the incredibly unhealthy that Wisconsin is famous for. It was a fun trip both as a fan and a scholar.
- In October I met Olympian John Carlos. He gave a fantastic talk at Purdue. I took some notes to use in future classes.
Written out, it’s clear that teaching, blogging, and sports dominated my 2015. In 2016, I’ll continue many of these activities, but need to do a better job of prioritizing my dissertation. Now that I have my class prepped, I should have more time to write. I’m eager to establish a better writing routine and use blogging to help make progress on the diss. While my dissertation is priority #1 for 2016, I already have a lot planned.
Plans and Goals for 2016:
- 2016 will begin with another semester teaching “The Black Athlete.” I’ve made a few changes to the class based on the fall, but nothing too significant. I’m excited to teach it again and continue to develop my own teaching-style.
- On the dissertation front: I’ve been writing in pieces lately, but I’m starting to get a better idea on how to sew them up into bigger chunks. I feel confident that I can quickly finish a couple of chapters that I’ve been playing with. I’ve committed myself to having a new chapter to my advisor before the beginning of the term, and I hope a second new chapter will follow not long after. I’m scheduled to present another chapter a works-in-progress event in early April, which gives me another deadline to focus on.
- Right now, I’ve got 2 conferences and a workshop scheduled. In March I’ll be participating in the “Public History and the Potential of Sports History Museums Working Group” at the National Council for Public History meeting in Baltimore, MD. It builds off of some conversations I’ve had with Kathy Shinnick and Josh Howard about developing more conversations between sport historians and public historians. Somewhat related, I was accepted to participate in the Doing Sport History in the Digital Present Workshop at Georgia Tech in May. My paper explores the transformative power of blogging to reshape and redefine scholarship, bridge disciplinary barriers, and open up sport history to a variety of people from different backgrounds. Finally, I have a panel proposal in for the annual convention of the North American Society of Sport History also in May at Georgia Tech. The panel is entitled “Teaching Sport History in the Digital Era” and looks at different approaches to digital pedagogy — both online and in traditional classrooms. If all goes well, I could get at least one publication out of these conferences. Also, as always, if you’re planning on attending any of these events, let me know! I’m always down for nerdy conversation and a beer.
- Building off of my NASSH panel, I’m working to develop an online version of ‘The Black Athlete’ course for summer 2016. It’s a great opportunity to teach over the summer while traveling and gain experience with online teaching. During the spring I’ll be building the course shell and redesigning my assignment for an online audience. I’ve been playing with how to best digitize lectures. Luckily I’ve got some generous colleagues who’ve been through this process before to guide me.
- The conferences are a part of larger Southern Trip I’m planning for May 2016. My parents and my older sister live in South Carolina. My Uncle, who’s an English professor, lives in Georgia. I’m planning to spend an extra week or two visiting them while I’m in the area. This includes driving my old truck, playing with my niece and nephew, visiting the ocean, and complaining about Carolina BBQ is.
- I’m hoping to return to Louisville to grade APUSH exams again. This is still up in the air a bit. I may have a wedding to attend, or I may not be selected for on-site grading. I’d really like to go back to Louisville though.
- Baseball is a requirement for any good summer. I try to attend at least one or two MLB game, and visit new stadiums. Milwaukee’s Miller Park is only about 4 hours from West Lafayette, and is on my list of stadiums to visit. I’d also love to see a game in Atlanta when I’m there, if possible.
As you can see, 2016 is already looking to be pretty busy. My major goal is to finish my dissertation. I’d like to have the majority of it drafted by the middle of the fall so I can go on the job market. It’s the only thing I have left to accomplish in graduate school and the only thing holding me back from moving forward. I’m reading to take the next step. I plan on doing that in 2016.