Cover image for More than just a game : sports in American life since 1945
More than just a game : sports in American life since 1945
Jay, Kathryn.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
x, 287 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV706.5 .J39 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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More Than Just a Game tracks the explosion of the sports industry in the United States since 1945 and how it has shaped class, racial, gender, and national identities. By examining both professional and intercollegiate sports such as baseball, football, basketball, golf, tennis, and stock car racing, Kathryn Jay looks at the impact of packaging, salary, hype, corporate sponsorship, drug use, and the presence of women and African American players. Jay also considers the persistent belief that sports encourage good citizenship and morality despite a rise in cheating and violent behavior and an unabashed emphasis on financial gain. More Than Just a Game is a fascinating exploration of a phenomenon that has engaged the American imagination and thrilled fans for decades.

Author Notes

Kathryn Jay is assistant professor of history and director of American studies at Barnard College, Columbia University.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Taking the insidious influence of sports in culture as a green flag, Jay (an assistant professor of history at Barnard College) drives her thesis through several hairpin turns until she crosses the finish line triumphantly. Jay expertly details the development of sports in America from the almost complete decimation of professional baseball during World War II to the evolution of leisure sports such as golf and the chaotic world of drugs and cheating scandals marking professional sports in the 1990s. In the 1940s, sports provided the language and the models for defining both democratic society and masculinity while at the same time confronting segregation not always successfully, observes Jay in the sports world. By the 1980s, athletes played out Cold War tensions on the field, the hockey rink, and the basketball court as the quality of sporting teams supposedly symbolized the political structure of different countries, e.g., the Soviets were brutes and the U.S. athletes were gentlemanly Horatio Algers striving to bring peace to the playing fields. By the end of the 20th century, Jay points out, several sports retained the aura of fair play and democracy of the 1940s notably NASCAR while others endured turmoil and scandal. Jay's exciting sometimes breathless commentary on the evolution of sports in late 20th-century America touches all the bases, scoring point after point with her lucid insights and evocative prose. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Most current books on American sports history cover early America up to the present. Jay (director, American studies, Barnard Coll.) instead focuses on the postwar era, which allows her to treat in-depth such topics as the Olympics during the Cold War era, the growth of professional sports, the effect of television on sports, and the economics of sports, as well as drug use and racial and gender issues. The other major work on this time period is Randy Roberts's Winning Is the Only Thing: Sports in America Since 1945. Although Roberts's work is more entertaining and accessible to a general audience, Jay's historical and sociological treatment offers many important details on women in sports missing from Roberts's book and covers 13 more years (through 2002). This would be a good textbook for an undergraduate sport history class. Recommended for academic libraries supporting such undergraduate courses.-Christina L. Hennessey, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Jay (Barnard College, Columbia Univ.) has published a readable, informative, insightful, and at times provocative history of the role of sports in US (and occasionally global) life since 1945. Exploring the link between sports and historical themes such as the Cold War, the tumultuous 1960s, race, the rise of sports unions, and the globalization of US sports, Jay presents a historically contextualized treatment of the role of sports within society since the end of WW II. Whether in showing how the Olympics have always been politicized (despite pronouncements to the contrary) or in revealing the subtle ways in which society has sought to present social ideals in the guise of its athletes and their games, Jay gracefully contributes to the welcome recent trend to include study of sports in serious scholarship. Her judgments are sharp, her insights astute, and her breadth remarkable for a relatively brief (just over 240 pages of text) survey. This book will be especially welcome in undergraduate classes but is also useful for graduate students; it will be read by both general readers and scholars of sports and modern US history. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. D. C. Catsam University of Texas of the Permian Basin

Table of Contents

Sports, the American Way
An Athletic Cold War
A Brave New World
Making Sense of the Sixties
Walking the Picket Line and Fighting for Rights
Competing on the Open Market
High-Priced Heroes Go Global