Final Project

https://youtu.be/OqubSYrQIxo – LINK TO PROJECT VIDEO

Arizona Sports. “Coronavirus Cancellation Timeline: MLB Cancels All-Star Game.” Arizona Sports, July 3, 2020. https://arizonasports.com/story/2291178/coronavirus-timeline-mlb-cancels-all-star-game/.

Around the NFL Staff. “Chiefs, Texans Instruct Rookies to Report to Camp Monday.” NFL.com. NFL, July 17, 2020. https://www.nfl.com/news/chiefs-texans-instruct-rookies-to-report-to-camp-monday.

Bowman, Paul. “In Toxic Hating Masculinity: MMA Hard Men and Media Representation.” Taylor & Francis, May 24, 2020. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17460263.2020.1756394.

Collins, Donald Earl. “In the US, Voter Suppression Will Remain the Norm.” US Elections 2020 News | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, November 8, 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/11/8/in-the-us-vote-suppression-will-remain-the-norm/.

The Election Super Center Project. “NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL Teams To Make Arenas Available As ‘Election Super Centers.’” PR Newswire: news distribution, targeting and monitoring, August 14, 2020. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nba-mlb-nfl-nhl-teams-to-make-arenas-available-as-election-super-centers-301112429.html.

Fernandez Mar 12, Gabriel. “Coronavirus Sports Timeline: A Chronological List of Every Major COVID-19-Related Sports Happening.” CBSSports.com, March 12, 2020. https://www.cbssports.com/general/news/coronavirus-sports-timeline-a-chronological-list-of-every-major-covid-19-related-sports-happening/.

Haislop, Tadd. “NFL Training Camp 2020 Start Dates, COVID-19 Protocols, Preseason Schedule & More to Know.” Sporting News. (Getty Images), July 28, 2020. https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/nfl-training-camp-2020-start-dates/1meofcf7ug0fj1p87a272jr1n9.

Harris, Adam. “The Voting Disaster Ahead.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, July 2, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/voter-suppression-novembers-looming-election-crisis/613408/.

Kaskey-Blomain, Michael. “NBA Playoffs Will Resume Saturday; Players Agree to Form Social Justice Coalition with Coaches and Owners.” CBSSports.com, August 28, 2020. https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/nba-playoffs-will-resume-saturday-players-agree-to-form-social-justice-coalition-with-coaches-and-owners/.

Krieg, Gregory. “DeSantis’ Earlier Bravado Fuels Florida’s Pandemic Crisis.” CNN. Cable News Network, July 28, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/27/politics/ron-desantis-donald-trump-florida-coronavirus/index.html.

La Monica, Mark. “When Sports Stopped amid the Coronavirus: A Timeline.” Newsday, May 14, 2020. https://projects.newsday.com/sports/sports-and-the-coronavirus-timeline/.

Lange, David. “UFC Interest Levels in the U.S. by Gender 2020.” Statista, November 25, 2020. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1122538/ufc-interest-gender/.

Martin, Jill, and Allen Kim. “Athletes across US Sports Take a Stand, as Games Are Called off in Solidarity with Bucks’ Boycott.” CNN. Cable News Network, August 28, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/26/sport/milwaukee-bucks-boycott-playoff-game/index.html.

McCarriston, Shanna. “Election Day 2020 and the NFL: Which Stadiums Will Serve as Voting Sites in November, Voting Centers.” CBSSports.com, October 7, 2020. https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/election-day-2020-and-the-nfl-which-stadiums-will-serve-as-voting-sites-in-november-voting-centers/.

“NBA Board of Governors Approves Competitive Format to Restart 2019-20 Season with 22 Teams Returning to Play.” NBA.com. NBA.com, October 10, 2020. https://www.nba.com/news/board-of-governors-approves-nba-return-official-release.

“NBA Memo Tells Teams to Prepare for Games without Fans Because of Coronavirus Outbreak: Reports.” NBC Sports. NBC Sports, March 7, 2020. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/76ers/nba-memo-coronavirus-outbreak-fans-media-contingency-plans.

Panetta, Grace. “How Black Americans Still Face Disproportionate Barriers to the Ballot Box in 2020.” Business Insider. Business Insider, September 18, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/why-black-americans-still-face-obstacles-to-voting-at-every-step-2020-6.

Perry, Dayn. “Timeline of How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Impacted the 2020 Major League Baseball Season.” CBSSports.com, July 29, 2020. https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/timeline-of-how-the-covid-19-pandemic-has-impacted-the-2020-major-league-baseball-season/.

Sheinin, Dave. “The Week the Coronavirus Ground the Sports World to a Halt.” The Washington Post. WP Company, March 14, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/03/14/sports-cancellations-timeline-coronavirus/?arc404=true.

Victor, Daniel. “Coronavirus Safety Runs Into a Stubborn Barrier: Masculinity.” The New York Times. The New York Times, October 10, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/10/us/politics/trump-biden-masks-masculinity.html.

Wilner, Barry. “Camps Set to Open after NFL, Players’ Union Reach Agreement.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, July 25, 2020. https://apnews.com/article/football-nfl-sports-virus-outbreak-sports-general-1a66713e8a137b75a37d0a50aa5454e6.

Zucker, Joseph. “Timeline of Coronavirus’ Impact on Sports.” Bleacher Report. Bleacher Report, April 1, 2020. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2880569-timeline-of-coronavirus-impact-on-sports

Perspective

2024

The pandemic is over. Human beings rejoice at the ability to once again mingle in bars, hug strangers, and generally have a good time. There’s a guy sitting at a table with his friends, drink in hand, zoning out of conversation to look at the score of a baseball game that not even the fans of the dueling teams care about (I am guy). All is as it should be.

While the events depicted in my project will still be fresh, odds are that by 2024, we will have begun to recover as a global society and sports will be part of that. My project will have real closure and many of the questions posed will begin to be answered.

2050

The pandemic will be viewed at a distance, the way that many people now view 9/11. Quarantine babies yet unborn will be working at law firms and at coffee shops. They (hopefully) will not quite be able to grasp the sense of anxiety around our current moment because they have not experienced a similar time-altering event, although its fingerprints will be all over their daily existence.

In terms of my project, this distance will allow my work to act as a snapshot of the cultural moment in which we all live on Twitter from inside of our houses screaming into the void about how great Lebron James is while dodging angry replies from Jordan stans. Much like that latter group of online Gen X-ers, it will serve to give perspective to a global phenomenon which those who are reading about it were not alive to experience.

2120

Very few living humans will have experienced our current reality. Perhaps another global pandemic will occur as they seemingly do every century, although maybe we will all be part A.I. and therefore unaffected by the diseases that once plagued mortal lungs. A terraformer on Mars unearths an egg-shaped leather object with white laces. An ear-piercing klaxon is heard for lightyears around. The monolith has been rediscovered. The guardians are pleased.

If my project exists in 100 years, it will probably come across in the same way that we see news reels from World War II. Few if any will be able to personally connect with my work, many will find the sports shown within unrecognizable. However, it will stand as a document of how people lived and played during our current time, a reminder of a long-forgotten moments when sports froze and the culture around it reacted.

Perspective and Subjectivity

I really love sports. Being that I am a cis American man, it’s certainly not out of the ordinary for me to admit this. For as long as I can really remember, I’ve been around or actively participated in watching them. It was more or less predestined – my parents, like me, are both diehard Eagles fans. Sports are inescapable when you grow up in the Philadelphia area. They are ingrained deeply into the city’s culture in a way that many places lack, don’t understand, or even ridicule. It’s an inherently silly thing that we involve ourselves so deeply with sports here, especially since such deep affection only allows for unspeakable heartache about 99% of the time.

What I love more than the wins and losses (maybe because of all the losses) are the stories behind them, the weird and silly aspects of something that many take so seriously. I like the characters in sports – the Marshawn Lynchs, the Ed Orgerons, the Ilya Bryzgalovs – just as much as, if not more so than, the heroes.

By telling the story of how sports affected culture and politics in 2020, my subjectivity lies not in how much I love sports or where my rooting interests lie. My subjectivity is couched more in the other parts of culture I have experienced and continue to experience. I grew up in a fairly conservative family. I wasn’t entirely shocked when Trump won in 2016 because I knew so many family members who were voting for him. It is perhaps because of this upbringing, as well as my exposure to punk subculture in high school and leftist theory between stints in college, that I explored other political avenues. In this way, my view of the NBA players performing a wildcat strike in order to incite social and political change, for one example, would be different than that of my Aunt Kim, who yelled at me for wearing a mask to my niece’s birthday party a few weeks back.

I also understand that I have a certain experience with the masculine culture behind sports which colors the subjectivity of my work. As someone who identifies somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, my perspective on it may be slightly different than another cis white guy who happens to be straight. I view sports-centric masculinity as both very laughable and stupid but also as a serious problem and as an extension of societal gender norms. While some may see these norms as “the way it is”, I see them as barriers that deserve to be broken at every opportunity until we meet full inclusion.

All this being said, my goal is to create work that is factual and engaging above all else. My subjectivity shouldn’t necessarily get in the way of my objectivity but they can peacefully coexist in a historical work.

On the First Days of School

With apprehension and cynicism, I drove to campus on the last Tuesday of August. Summer was unofficially over and school had begun in what capacity it could. While most of my classes began the semester online, The Historian’s Craft was only offered in-person; thus, reluctantly, I drove up 9th Street north through Center City on that balmy afternoon. I was able to park on campus without paying for once. The sidewalks were all but empty as resident students stowed away in their rooms to beat the heat. Walking the two or three blocks to Anderson (maybe Gladfelter?), I took in the sights of the campus that I had left abruptly in the spring along with everyone else. Still the same but markedly quieter – no one stumping for their club or candidate by the bell tower, no screaming prophets in front of Ritter, no freshmen lining up for Chick-fil-a. The halal carts remained open like Waffle Houses of the north, the cooks attempting to lure in anyone that made eye contact or wandered within a 50-foot radius. The smell of grease and sauce clung to the air, wafting over the passersby. I missed this.

I wasn’t the only one who understood that this welcome back was fleeting. Sitting in the lecture hall, 200 seats for 30 of us, we collectively doubted that we’d see each other in person past the end of September, perhaps even Labor Day. The more pessimistic would prove to be right, but for now we sat in class, trying to have the most normal first day possible given the circumstances. 

I left class that day with the hope that this would work out and the fear that this would all go horribly wrong. By Thursday, it was more clear that the in-person class experience would be fleeting and I would once again be subject to a semester full of Zoom meetings and discussion boards. I tried to take in as much of campus as I could. I walked along Polett, around the library, up to Diamond and back down to Cecil B. I wasn’t sure what was to come.

That Sunday, I was at my brother’s house getting ready for our yearly fantasy football draft when I saw the email. Classes were going online. As is clear, I was far from surprised. This was merely confirmation of what I already knew – this semester would be a continuation of the spring. Nothing had really changed, there is still no answer for COVID-19, it was all inevitable. Still, it gave me pause and it sunk in then that we had no answers for this pandemic. What would be the plan going forward? Will I ever teach in a physical classroom? We still have no clue but we can certainly hope.

Reflections on “When Subjects Don’t Come Out”

Sherrie Tucker gives us an interesting conundrum to consider as historians here. Within the context of the historical controversy of sexual orientation, she discusses how she handled a situation in which she saw a connection that she wanted to know more about only to be discouraged by the subjects themselves. Of course, these sorts of things don’t just happen in regards to queer issues, they happen in most if not all facets of history. It is vastly important for us as historians to consider what is at stake for our subjects when we write about them. We need to be mindful about the connections we make and the conclusions to which we jump. While it was very obvious to Tucker that many of the women in these all-girl bands were not straight, she had to be mindful not to put a gay-liberation spin on a part of history that acted as more of a closet than a doorkey. Tucker could read between the lines and perhaps mention that some of the women in these groups were in fact lesbian (or otherwise not straight) but it would be inappropriate to make it the focus when it never was.

I think that someone becomes a historical subject by participating, knowingly or unknowingly, in an event that is historically significant. Maybe it’s a one-time thing, maybe they’re living through a longer-term event. We are all historical subjects in the sense that we are all living through a historical moment together. We’re writing about people and events within a larger historical happening, the COVID-19 pandemic. By virtue of existing in the year 2020, we are all witnesses and perpetrators of history. In a sense, maybe the women in Tucker’s case understood what they were. Perhaps they didn’t. Regardless, they are.

In regards to my project, it’s most important for me to think about these athletes as humans. These athletes aren’t much different from the average twenty-something short of their tax bracket status. They have misgivings and flaws just like most people in that age range. I owe them the respect of not seeing them as superhuman who lack flaws.

Project Proposal

Research Question

How did regional politics and the cultural value of sports affect their return during the coronavirus pandemic?

Description

On March 11, 2020, Rudy Gobert became the first figure in major American sports to test positive for the coronavirus. Many Americans point to this moment along with the coinciding suspension of the NBA season as the moment they knew their lives were about to change. 

So what has changed since then? My project this semester aims to untangle events in the world of sports (mostly American but also involving the Korean Baseball Organization and New Zealand rugby) as a way to make sense of how we are keeping some semblance of normalcy through entertainment. I also seek to gauge how the response of the various leagues has helped to keep players and fans safe and try to compare those responses to those of city, state, and national governments here in the U.S. How were sports affected in states where the coronavirus was treated seriously by local government compared to those who shared the President’s view that the virus was a hoax?

I hope to tie this all in with past sport stoppages including perhaps the most relevant, the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic which caused the Stanley Cup not to be awarded for the first of two times in NHL history. I also want to compare how American leagues and the public at large treated the pandemic in comparison to other countries. My overall goal is to put together a timeline of the events to create a “first draft” of this time period as well as to better understand how American sports are so entwined with American culture and everyday life.

Format: Podcast Episode

Secondary Sources

Weinreb, Michael. “When the Stanley Cup Final Was Canceled Because of a Pandemic.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, March 18, 2020. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/when-stanley-cup-finals-was-cancelled-because-pandemic-180974439/

  • This article gives a history on the 1919 Stanley Cup Finals, which took place in the midst of the Spanish flu pandemic between Seattle and Montreal. It briefly discusses the history of organized hockey before discussing the events of the March 1919 series, which was cancelled due to an outbreak amongst the teams. Although Seattle health officials declared the pandemic over, multiple players on both teams became ill and one player died as a result.

Victor, Daniel. “Coronavirus Safety Runs Into a Stubborn Barrier: Masculinity.” The New York Times. The New York Times, October 10, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/10/us/politics/trump-biden-masks-masculinity.html

  • Sports and masculinity are both substantially tied into American culture. Victor writes about the problems that this causes not only in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as a society that forsakes critical thinking and care in the name of never appearing afraid or weak.

Primary Sources

Thybulle, Matisse. “Matisse Thybulle’s YouTube Channel.” YouTube. YouTube, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFV-pwSNWcEbH-ac9Kti20g

  • Philadelphia 76ers player Matisse Thybulle documented life in the NBA’s restart “bubble” in Orlando in a series of nine vlogs, in which we see the day-to-day life of athletes under strict quarantine. This gives us insight into the effects of the restart on the athletes themselves and allows us to see the league’s coronavirus protocols in action.

“NBA Board of Governors Approves Competitive Format to Restart 2019-20 Season with 22 Teams Returning to Play.” NBA.com. NBA.com, June 4, 2020. https://www.nba.com/article/2020/06/04/board-of-governors-approves-nba-return-official-release

  • This press release and a subsequent FAQ page outlined the league’s approved plan to restart the season that was suspended in March. It gives a timetable for what the league hopes to accomplish and acts as a kind of historical document for how the NBA decided to handle the pandemic’s effect on the sport.

Krieg, Gregory. “DeSantis’ Earlier Bravado Fuels Florida’s Pandemic Crisis.” CNN. Cable News Network, July 28, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/27/politics/ron-desantis-donald-trump-florida-coronavirus/index.html.

  • Part of my research looks at the correlation between conservative state governments and the outcomes of their sports teams in regards to coronavirus outbreaks. This article talks about Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ actions during the pandemic, which can be related back to the Miami Marlins, who had a teamwide COVID-19 outbreak not long after the restart of the MLB season.

Creating a Narrative

Mundane communication is what makes us human. Some of us love day-to-day small talk and gossip, perhaps even subsist on it. Others find it a drain on their psyche and seek to avoid it at all cost. In 1918, long-distance communication typically meant writing letters or postcards to friends and family. Years later, these documents exist as a window into the day-to-day life of real human beings living in the midst of not only a great war but a worldwide pandemic which killed over twice as many as the fighting. Diaries that were once personal histories meant for the writer’s eyes only now act in a similar fashion.

It’s easy to distance ourselves from our ancestors from a century gone by. Heck, those losers didn’t even have TikTok! While it’s fun and only slightly emasculating to think of what my dockworker great-grandfather would think of me watching people do the #WholeLottaChoppasChallenge all day, it’s more fun to think about how were more like these ancestors than not.

Violet Harris was a teenager living in Seattle in October 1918 when she wrote in her diary, overjoyed about the postponement of school and seemingly quite naive of the flu’s consequences outside of her own bubble. With a tinge of melodrama and a wit that could be seen from Spokane, she wrote:

It was announced in the papers tonight that all churches, shows and schools would be closed until further notice, to prevent Spanish influenza from spreading. Good idea? I’ll say it is! So will every other school kid, I calculate. … The only cloud in my sky is that the [School] Board will add the missed days on to the end of the term.

Violet Harris, diary entry dated October 15, 1918

Teenagers. of course, still share Violet’s preference to stay home from school, although they may have different avenues and language to convey it. They still crack jokes in the face of a leviathan-sized pandemic, perhaps because they can’t wrap their heads around it or maybe because the situation feels so hopeless to kids already feeling the impending doom of climate change and an increasingly dangerous political climate. Kids make light of heavy topics out of naïveté but also in order to cope with an ever-changing, scary world. Maybe we should take a lesson from them.

Some Sources to Consider

The Games Must Go On – Eric Boehm

https://www.magzter.com/article/News/Reason-magazine/THE-GAMES-MUST-GO-ON

This article functions as a timeline of events of the major North American sports leagues and their responses to the coronavirus pandemic starting in March with the Rudy Gobert incident. The article also touches on the association of sports with mainstream American culture, demonstrating their role as a mirror to how America at large reacted to the COVID-19 outbreak. Previous stoppages are also examined, including the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, World War II, and the 9/11 attacks. These events are briefly compared and contrasted to the current pandemic as examples of how we as a society have handled great cultural shifts and tragedies in the past through the lens of sports.

Nearly impossible to execute a coronavirus sports game-plan – Scott Pitoniak

https://link-gale-com.libproxy.temple.edu/apps/doc/A628639418/ITOF?u=temple_main&sid=ITOF&xid=3b2d5b26

This article is an op-ed that acts as a screenshot of the days leading up to the reopening of the NBA “bubble” scenario. The author appears skeptical that the idea will work as, at the time, about 5 percent of the evaluated players in the bubble had tested positive for coronavirus. Since then, the NBA has significantly tightened their bubble protocols (which of course becomes easier as teams are eliminated and leave Orlando) and the NHL successfully avoided even a single case in their bubble throughout their return to play. This source is important as a relic of a period of doubt that the leagues could return safely which was, mostly, thankfully, proven false.

Rudy Gobert Started the Fire

Like most if not all of us, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing as the world shut down. I was at the restaurant I still work at in the middle of the slowest shift I’d seen to that point. It was a Wednesday night and I was using my downtime to help my bar manager name and taste-test new cocktails for the spring menu. At some point, a notification comes across my phone: “NBA cancels Jazz game after player tests positive for coronavirus.” That player turned out to be Rudy Gobert who days earlier had decided, in an act of childish defiance to the league’s now-quaint social distancing rules, to touch every microphone in his presence at a press conference after a Jazz practice in response to COVID-19 reaching American soil. Looking back now, he couldn’t have done anything dumber short of spitting at nearby beat writers. At the time, at least for those few short days between the press op and the suspension of the league season, it was seen as a mere joke. Only days later, it was viewed as a suspension-worthy or perhaps even fireable offense.

“Cardboard cutouts of fans are seen in Globe Life Field during a Major League Baseball game in Arlington, Texas, on July 24.” (source: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/19/world/gallery/novel-coronavirus-outbreak/index.html)

So what has changed since then? All four major American sports leagues have resumed – in addition to the MLS and WNBA – in different capacities. Some are using a “bubble” format, in which the league takes over a city’s sports complex and rigidly keeps its players indoors to keep them safe, mostly to great success. Others are continuing a traveling schedule as (close to) normal, to varying degrees of safety. MLB had a major outbreak involving the Miami Marlins (who roped the Philadelphia Phillies in by association) and the NBA has suspended multiple players for breaking containment for strip club visits and Postmates deliveries.

My project this semester aims to untangle events in the world of sports (mostly American but also involving the Korean Baseball Organization and New Zealand rugby) as a way to make sense of how we are keeping some semblance of normalcy through entertainment. I also seek to gauge how the response of the various leagues has helped to keep players and fans safe and try to compare those responses to those of city, state, and national governments here in the U.S.

I hope to tie this all in with past sport stoppages including perhaps the most relevant, the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic which caused the Stanley Cup not to be awarded for the first of two times in NHL history (the other being a lockout which cancelled the entire 2004-05 season). I also want to compare how American leagues and the public at large treated the pandemic in comparison to other countries. My overall goal is to put together a timeline of the events to create a “first draft” of this time period as well as to better understand how American sports are so entwined with American culture and everyday life.