Winning Is the Only Thing Book Book Review

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Winning is the Only Thing -- Book Review

Roberts, R. And Olson, J. (1989). Winning is the Only Thing- Sports in America Since

Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

The end of World War II brought a number of changes to the United States. Culture, politics, civil rights, technology, gender issues, and certainly by 1949 a new cloud had formed over the world, the U.S./Soviet rivalry known as the Cold War. When one thinks about popular culture in America, one typically does not realize that within the sporting world, too, vast changes took place after 1945. Although baseball was integrated far earlier, after 1945 more Black athletes were allowed into football and basketball teams. This, combined with the era of televised sports, made a huge impact in American society. Sports in America is both a study of the evolution of popular culture in America post-World War II and a way of explaining the tremendous popularity of the entire genre into a "lens through which tens of millions Americans interpreted the significance of their country, their communities, their families, and themselves" (p.xi). Various other changes too place after World War II that dramatically affected the sporting world -- especially in advertising and marketing.
The television, combined with high-priced ads and agreements for sponsors and spokespersons made what was professional sports into something more iconic. Instead of it being part of the culture, in many ways, and for many people, it became the culture. Professional sports were the new religion; economically powerful, socially and culturally endemic, and something that every red-blooded American focused. The text, in fact, says that modern sports are far more about the business of sports, than they are about the team play and recreational aspect of leisure.

The authors, Randy Roberts (Professor of History at Purdue University) and James Olson (Professor of History at Sam Houston State University), have written a number of academic books and journal articles on sports, sporting figures, and popular culture. They are both particularly interested in the way that ostensible leisure activities become far more than leisure in American Post-War popular culture.

Roberts and Olson see 1945 as a watershed year in many respects. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan combined with the Marshall Plan in Europe certainly thrust America into global dominance. Once the war was over, though, Americans returned to a….....

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