In the wake of the events around Colin Kaepernick, I finally got motivated to look up the work of Harry Edwards, Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley. Sociology of Sport did not disappoint, and, in spite of being published in 1973, remains insightful and almost prescient.
Sports, he argues, occur within our cultural context. The American “sports creed” includes the beliefs that sports build character, promote discipline, encourage healthy competition, enhance physical and mental fitness, advance religious/moral precepts, and develop nationalism. The implications and challenges of this creed as well as an exploration of how it might be affected by social change and in turn effect social change are the subjects he addresses throughout the rest of the book.
Additionally, he views the field through the lens of the issues facing African-American athletes. He makes some attempt to include women in his analysis, but since he was writing just at the onset of Title IX, there was not much to analyze at that point. It was fascinating to see both how far we have come and how far we have not come.
Anyone interested in the “machinery” of sports in our society would do well to start with this excellent resource.