The Perils of Writing and Citing Blogs

There was a great Forbes piece circulating the interwebz yesterday, calling for us to read and cite more academic blogs. I agree whole heartedly with this sentiment, and not just because I run the Sport in American History blog. There is a lot of fantastic work being done online. I generally point to 2014 as the “blogging moment” when academic group blogs proliferated and became a tad more formalized, but three years later they are still producing amazing, intellectually rigorous work and broadening academic conversations to larger audience (Tim Lacy noted this the other day on Facebook). I make this argument in my forthcoming article in the Journal of Sport History on the “Power of Blogging.”

Yet, the ephemerality of digital content makes it really difficult to cite blogs. One in five articles suffers from “link rot” according to an article in the journal, PLOS ONE (thanks to Paul Bracke for sending it my way on Twitter). I ran into this today while doing the last round of copyedits for my article. Three of the links had changed since I submitted my revisions in November. One of the blogs no longer exists. You can read this as either a commentary on the time it takes to publish something in a traditional print journal or the impermanence of digital publishing. Either way, it is something important to keep in mind (I should note the Forbes article does get into this a little bit). If we want our digital work to matter, to be cited, and make an influence, we have to be smart and strategic about access and preservation. We also need to think about the long-term life of our work and where we think it can have the biggest impact today as well as in the future.

Luckily for me I was able to update the links and find the deleted blog in the Wayback Machine to provide a stable archived URL. Yet, as Brandon Ward wondered on Twitter, what are the ethics of citing something that has been deleted? That’s a debate for another day, but also one worth having!

Abundant Sources & Indecisiveness

One of the things I love about my research on Oklahoma is that I have an abundance of interesting sources. Sometimes it feels like I have too many sources. I struggle to decide how to deploy them and which ones to highlight in the text of my chapters. This video from 1957 is one of those sources. It was created as a part of the Oklahoma Semi-Centennial by the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. It operates as both an industrial recruiting tool and a reflective history of the state’s growth and modernization. Similarly to the video, the OKC Chamber also paid to have a special sixteen-page section in the March 10, 1957 New York Times, promoting the state and celebrating its Golden Anniversary. screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-9-43-11-pmThe celebration in 1957 was a HUGE moment for the state that featured a World’s Fair type of exposition themed “From Arrows to Atoms” and prominently featuring exhibits sponsored by the Frontiers of Science Foundation of Oklahoma. Videos like this one built on that mood and longstanding efforts begun as early as 1947 to both diversify the state’s economy and rehabilitate its image.

Football, I argue, was at the center of many of these efforts, and like its inclusion in this video, it held a central place in the Semi-Centennial celebration. Bud Wilkinson has his own “day” at the exposition in June-July, and as the actual anniversary of statehood approached in November, the Sooners’ undefeated streak kept the state in national headlines. Indeed, as the Semi-Centennial Celebration concluded with a “Pride in Oklahoma Week” leading up to its Founder’s Day, Oklahoma invaded primetime. Eisenhower gave a speech on “Our Future Security” from Oklahoma City on November 13 before Oklahoma hosted Notre Dame in the national game of the week as it sought to extend its winning streak to 48 consecutive games on Saturday, November 16 — the state’s 50th birthday. Unfortunately, Oklahoma lost, spoiling (to some extent) the party, but, as I argue, the state had already won. screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-9-48-40-pmSteinbeck reversed course on his pejorative “Okie” stereotype and became embraced as an “Oklahoma Booster” that May, business had begun flooding in, too. As early as 1954, Oklahoma boasted that it was in the “economic top 10,” the Cowboy Hall of Fame was under construction after picking OKC over other cities, and Senator Mike Monroney, who once hoped that Oklahoma City could “become the Detroit of the aviation industry,” continued on his quest to keep the CAA in OKC (he’d write the FAA bill in 1958, accomplishing this task).screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-9-42-55-pm

As you can see from this synopsis, this chapter could probably be its own book. Instead, it is my penultimate chapter, tying together efforts of boosters to build the state and change its image. Other chapters help set the stage exploring the history of the state and the football team before I tackle things such as the growth of the university, fights with the NCAA on who controls and regulates football and television, and racial integration. The last two chapters are where I try to connect and explain how winning football paved the way for economic development and political transformations. Throughout each chapter, I focus on how the team serves as a key public relations tool for the state and the university, giving it cultural cache in conversations with business and political leaders that help propel its coach, Bud Wilkinson, into electoral politics. The larger project, I see as an important blending of sport history and political history that also pushes certain aspects of Sunbelt history into the 1950s. I see Wilkinon’s football success during the 1950s as central to the rehabilitation of the “Okie” image from Steinbeck to Haggard, helping with Oklahoma’s economic diversification and pushing the state to the right politically laying the groundwork for OKC and Tulsa to be important Sunbelt cities in Kevin Philips New Republican Majority.

Now if only I could stop being so indecisive on how and where to use certain sources and just finish my last two chapters….

DeVos Confirmation Rant

I am reposting this rant from my Facebook wall so that I can share it more broadly. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

You can’t tell the story of modern conservatism and the neoliberal project without discussing the all-out attack on public education. It’s been there from the beginning and has taken many forms. Today’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos fits into the long struggle to dismantle not just New Deal programs, but major Civil Rights accomplishments. It represents a decade long effort to dismantle essential public democratic institutions and hand them over to the an ill-equipped private sector so they can profit off legally required public goods.

Seriously, read Dochuk, Kruse, Lassiter, Farber, Hartman, Rodgers, Moreton, Mehlman-Petrzela, Delmont, and tons of other historians of modern conservatism and the culture wars. These movements come through in each of their books and articles. You have the fundamentalist “Save Our Children” movement, Georgia threatening to end public schools rather the de-segregate, the so-called bussing crisis, the school voucher movement, the never-ending textbook wars, the battle over bilingual and sex education, the prayer in school movement, the home school movement as well as many others — all aimed at undermining, weakening, and de-funding public education. And that’s just K-12! It has been done with phrases like “choice” and “local control” that are code words for the neoliberal market ideology that funnels tax money into private corporations that subvert federal regulations meant to ensure equality. Charter schools and the complete bullshit Teach for America program are among the biggest offenders of this. They rebuild class and racial barriers, promote unqualified and unproven teachers and teaching methods, all in the name of an anti-American ideology where the myth of hyper-efficient corporatism and so-called choice matter more than an educated public. Indeed, education has been shown over and over again to be an important factor in improving your quality of life, in upward mobility, yet under the corporatist structure, a good, equitable education becomes harder to access and afford. This re-inscribes existent structures that sustain widespread inequality along race, class, urban/suburban/rural divides.

This is why the DeVos nomination mattered. This is why so many of us our outraged. This isn’t some kind of leftist conspiracy, this is well-documented history. And I’m sad to be a part of this movement. My parents were duped like many average Americans. They believed in vouchers and homeschooling. They tried to trick me into agreeing at a young age, encouraging me to write my Senators about it. They were naive, wrong, and misguided. Democracy demands strong public education. The American Dream requires it. I don’t want to live in a country where we treat our children — our future — like a commodity that we can sell to the highest bidder, and those who can afford it are screwed. I don’t want to live in a country where education is a corporate product watered down by the customer is always right mentality. I don’t want to live in a country where universities brag about what kind of salary their graduates get rather than quality of education they receive and the impact they are making in the world.
Education is a public good. It is a central component of a civilized and modern society.

Today’s vote undermines that. It is a failure to uphold the basic tenets of our social contract. It represents a selfish oligarchy that values money and power over equality, and millions of the nation’s schoolchildren.

Readings on Black Athletes and Dress Codes

I’m trying to use this space more often and in conjunction with Twitter to better collect thoughts, suggest readings, and just more generally communicate. A few minutes ago I unleashed a Tweet-thread on the Cam Newton dress code violation yesterday, that resulted in him sitting out the first drive of the Carolina Panthers game against the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers lost that game, and Newton’s back up threw an interception on the first drive.

Today former Packers Vice President Andrew Brandt Tweeted this (see below), highlight the hypocrisy, racism, and overall stupidity of dress codes for professional athletes:

In the interest of fully exploring the racial dynamic of dress codes as a form of policing the behavior and appearance of black athletes, here are a few articles/chapters/books that address the issue:

“No [Hoodies] Allowed’: The NBA’s Dress Code & the Politics of New Racism,” An Excerpt from After Artest: The NBA & the Assault on Blackness by David J. Leonard (via NewBlackMan (in Exile).

“The Real Color of Money: Controlling Black Bodies in the NBA,” by David J. Leonard in the Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Volume 30 Number 2 (May 2006) p. 158-179.

“Blackballed: Basketball and Representations of the Black Male Athlete,” by Linda Tucker, in American Behavioral Scientist, Volume 47 Number 3, (November 2003) p. 306-328.

“Goodbye to the Gangstas”: The NBA Dress Code, Ray Emery, and the Policing of Blackness in Basketball and Hockey,” by Stacy Lorenz and Rod Murray, in the  Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Volume 38, Number 1 (2014), p. 23–50.

“Please Don’t Fine Me Again!!!!!” Black Athletic Defiance in the NBA and NFL,” by Phillip Lamarr Cunningham, in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Volume 33, Number 1 (February 2009) p. 39-58.

There are certainly other takes and likely more academic articles, but this is a solid introduction and discussion of the issue. I have PDFs of these articles that I will share upon request.

Update: An additional reading from the comments:

“Dressed for Success? The NBA’s Dress Code, the Workings of Whiteness and Corporate Culture,” M. G. McDonald and J  Toglia in Sport in society,Volume  13, Number 6 (2010), p. 970-983.

Embracing the Tangent

One of the things I’ve learned while teaching African American Studies the past year-and-a-half is to embrace the tangent. At a PWI (predominately white institution), my classroom is one of the only places that students have where they can ask questions and discuss issues of race (even if it isn’t related to sports). Most of my students are white, and they are curious and often eager to talk about race. It fascinates them, and they have questions and assumptions they want to talk about. But many are reluctant or scared to talk. They are worried they will say the wrong thing, or offend somebody. They don’t have the tools, information, or the places to do it in ways that do not seem offensive to some. They’re out of practice. Our culture often tries to minimize race, ignore it, sweep it under the rug; not talk about. This is unfortunate.

I tell my students to speak openly, to come with their questions, so that we can talk about what they’ve heard, common assumptions, and why they may be wrong or how it may seem offensive others. Some may describe my class as a “safe space” though I prefer to think of it as collaborative open learning environment, where students help drive the conversation. It is about letting students talk openly in a place that is largely non-judgmental, and seek answers. Otherwise, they won’t talk about it. They will continue to be curious but feel attacked every time they try to learn or engage with someone else.

Anyways, out of this philosophy, and my drive to create this type of classroom culture, I have learned to embrace the tangent. To let students ask things and drive the conversations to unexpected places because although it may not be in my lesson plan, that is the education they need. Those are the conversations they want to have, and they will likely get more out of them because they relate directly to their thoughts, concerns, and daily lives. This often leads us to talking about current events, things going on around campus (including yesterday’s fascists posters), and stuff that they see in popular culture (which is how it relates back to sports). I love having the freedom to do this, and I can tell my students enjoy it. Today at the end of class, which was my last “lecture” of the semester (they do presentations next week), many commented how much fun they’ve had and asked me what else I teach. I felt proud. I’m lucky to have such an awesome job, and really engaged and curious students. And I feel like I am really making a difference.

#BakerBuilt: NAIA Football & the Lingering Impact of Small College Sports

I shared most of this story in a Tweetstorm on Sunday, but wanted to share it here too, and extend it into paragraphs. My alma mater, Baker University, is playing in the semi-finals of the NAIA Football Playoffs on Saturday. Baker is a small, United Methodist affiliate, liberal arts college that enrolls roughly 1,000 undergraduate students in Baldwin City, KS. This season its football team is 13-0 and has a fun high-powered offense. ESPN3 has streamed several of their games, and including their recent playoff match ups.

Their opponent this weekend is Eastern Oregon University (EOU). I have a slight connection to EOU. Dick Davies‘, my advisor at Nevada, son was their president from 2009 to 2014 (He’s now the president of Murray State, and I got the chance to meet him in 2015). During my two years at Nevada, Dick and I talked about NAIA football regularly. I remember he went to a few games up at EOU and had me guest-lecture in his classes, which were among the first college lectures I ever gave.

Beyond that connection though, after I was admitted to the University of Nevada in April 2009, Davies sent me a personal email welcoming me. In that message he recounted the story of his one interaction with Baker University. It was in October 2005 and the football team traveled to Ashland, OR to play Southern Oregon University. Dick and his wife were spending the Halloween weekend there. They happened to be staying at the same Holiday Inn as the Baker team, and he wrote “I recall how much my wife and I were impressed by their behavior and courteousness. Had a brief chat with the coach and was impressed by his attitude on what college football at that level was all about. I had intended to send a note to the Univ president to that effect and regret that I did not follow through.” It was his one interaction with the team, and probably the only time he had ever heard of Baker University, but it was a good one. I doubt it had anything to do with my admission to the university or his agreeing to work with me, but the positive impression from meeting Coach Grossner and the team in 2005 certainly didn’t hurt. Seeing that I was a graduate of Baker, he connected it to his positive memory. It helped us forge a personal connection early on.

As Baker prepares to play Eastern Oregon in the semi-finals of the NAIA football playoffs, I’m reminded of this story. Of the impression Baker made on Davies. On the ways that football success — at any level — can help boost the image of a university. Of how small personal interactions matter, and can pay it forward for others. I undoubtedly benefited from the Baker football team’s friendliness.

Academics love to ask you where you went to school. Many are aware of random small liberals arts colleges throughout the country, but it’s still rare when they know about Baker. Dick knowing about Baker, put me at ease when as a brand new master’s students 1,500 miles from home. That’s few people know about Baker is not a knock on the school, but a reflection on the lay of the land. The NAIA has done a good job of streaming their games. Maybe people will watch them randomly on ESPN3. Or maybe they will interact with a former Baker athlete, see one of its history majors at the Missouri Valley History Confernece in Omaha (which has become a regular event for them). Whenever they watch or meet a Baker alum, I hope their interactions go like Dick Davies’ did, and I hope they help pay it forward. Small schools are wonderful places, and I hope more people get to know them.

There is some irony in my writing about Baker football and its impact on me. Before this story, I didn’t really care much for football at Baker. I ran cross country and track. They got all of the attention. And because Baker is the second-winningest program in the NAIA, they always had high expectations that they seemed to meet. And then, on the personal level, sometimes they got in our way when we were running on the track (during our season). I had a few football player teammates (including the current head track coach), and I really liked them, but overall I was lukewarm at best on the football program. I doubt that I’m the only xc/track kid that felt that way, That’s just how it seemed to go. Yet, now as alum, I love following the football team. I like seeing when the do well. I take pride in their wins. I feel the same way about volleyball and soccer, and so on. Cross Country is still my top, but I’ve learned and seen how much sports at small colleges matter. I’m lucky they take the role of sports and education seriously. It hard for me not to be speak effusively about my time there, and how it has prepared me for my current career. I’m lucky I got to compete and briefly coach at Baker. And I’m proud of its success. It’s helped me, and I know its helped others.

I know football success will never put Baker on the map. I spent a lot of time studying Baker’s rich sports history, and have seen how its remarkable successes haven’t elevated the school’s reputation. But can claim Emil Liston, Phog Allen, Edward Gallagher, Karl Schlademan, and Charlie Richard, as having coached on its athletic fields. Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy played there too. The school has immense pride in these figures, which I think is sometimes misplaced. It’s not about the iconic coaches or the win, it is about the people who they’ve mentored. There are hundreds of alums like me, who benefited from the athletic programs and only a handful of iconic coaches. Sure, there would be more if we cared about small time colleges in this country, but the fact that we don’t, in some ways, allows them to do better work without the pressures to win. That being said, I really hope they win Saturday and continue their march towards the national championship.

Books Worth (re)Reading to Understand Trump’s America

I’ve been chatting with my brother, Malcolm McGregor (who studied politics and public policy at the University of Virginia), recently about books and ideas that have helped us understand and diagnose the current state of American politics and culture following Trump’s election. We keep coming back to a handful of foundational ideas and perspectives, centered on notions of neoliberalism, postermodernity, truth, and, of course, race and class. We created a short list that is not exhaustive list by any means, but we think that they help get at important concepts. With a few exceptions, most of the books are accessible and easy to read.

Here is our list [in no particular order]:

  1. Daniel T. Rogers, Age of Fracture, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011). — This is by far the best primer on understanding the intellectual developments that shape our culture post-1975.
  2. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, 20th Anniversary Edition (New York: Penguin Books, 2005).  — Originally published in 1985 as somewhat of a polemic against TV, many of its ideas remain relevant.
  3. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999).  — This is not an easy read, but I think it is foundational for wrestling with notions of postmodernity and changes to the capitalist structure throughout the 20th century.
  4. Thomas Frank, Listen Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2016). — Frank anticipated and understood many of the issues within the Democratic Party that led to Clinton’s loss.
  5. Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, (New York: Nation Books, 2016). — This is a long book, but easily read in small sections.
  6. George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998). — This book peels back notions of colorblindness and highlights what privilege looks like and how it operates through public policies and cultural ideas.
  7. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the world and me. (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015). — A great account why people of color are probably not surprised about Trump but also fucked?
  8. James Baldwin,Giovanni’s Room, (New York: Random House, 1956). — Humanizes the gay rights movement and makes one aware of the challenges they face in the coming years.
  9. Junot Díaz, The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao, (New York: Penguin, 2007). Similar to seven and eight but from the perspective of the Dominican community.
  10. Vladimir Nabokov, Bend sinister. (New York: Vintage, 1947). A novel about the rise of a scary authoritarian government and a philosopher’s refusal to aid it.
  11. Tyler Cowen, Average is over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation. (New York: Penguin, 2013) and Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Race Against the Machine, (Lexington, MA: Digital Frontier, 2011). (read together). Economic/policy background on the state of the economy that set the conditions for a Trump presidency.
  12. David Farber, The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism: A Short History, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008).  — A useful primer that charts the trajectory and development of the modern GOP from Goldwater to George W. Bush through a series of biographical chapters.

Have something to add? Need to rant? Let us know what you think in the comments!