Professor's new book celebrates society's love of sports

Tim Delaney in Auburn's Falcon Park.Tim Delaney of SUNY Oswego’s sociology department explores “Sports: Why People Love Them!” in his latest book.

The publication continues Delaney’s work in sports sociology with co-author Tim Madigan of St. John Fisher College’s philosophy program.

Compared to “The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction,” the textbook he and Madigan published earlier this year, the new book takes on more of a cheerleading role for what’s good about sports and is more intended for a general audience, Delaney said.

“We’re really concentrating on the positive aspects of sports” in this book, while the other looked at some of the negative issues such as gambling, aggression and hooliganism, Delaney noted. “We’re not blind to the fact there are problems in sports. But if you’re a fan of sports and want to feel good about it, this is more the book for you.”

Millions of Americans and billions all over the world love sports, so “there must be something good about it,” Delaney said.

Global view

Delaney and Madigan track sports across the centuries, around the world and across the lifespan of those who start with the lessons of youth sports.

Readers will see “a lot of good, positive stories” and “will gain some additional information about sports,” Delaney said. “It will help them just feel good about liking sports.”

For the past few years, for example, ESPN has presented a series titled “My Wish,” a partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where children facing or overcoming serious health problems meet their idols.

“You see the joy the children have, how they light up, and you see how the athletes feel about it,” Delaney said. “Most athletes do the right thing and help out in the community.”

Delaney advocates for using the popularity of sports for additional good, such as to instill physical fitness into a society challenged by high levels of childhood obesity.

Escape and uplift

“We love sports, too, because it gives us a few hours of escape,” he explained. “A lot of us have everyday problems. We just want to watch a ballgame, relax for a little while either by ourselves or with family or friends.”

Delaney looks at “the Flutie effect,” named after a miracle pass by former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie to defeat a powerful University of Miami football team. While Boston College did not historically have a good team, interest surged in the school and the program.

“Most major colleges do see a spike in enrollment when a team does really well,” Delaney noted. “People want to be identified with something really positive.”

Sports have an undeniable emotional level, especially among those who remain loyal to the same team from childhood, whether winning or losing, he said. Fans are inspired by heartwarming stories such as Lance Armstrong conquering cancer and winning the Tour de France or mildly autistic teenager Jason McElwain of Rochester having a magical night on the basketball court that made him an international folk hero and earned a 2006 ESPY award.

The book includes local connections, such as an interview with famed SUNY Oswego alumnus Steve Levy of ESPN, the pride Oswego takes in native son Erik Cole and an action hockey photo from old Romney Field House.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Fan connection—Tim Delaney of Oswego’s sociology department, co-author of the new book “Sports: Why People Love Them!,” is a fan of many sports, including his hometown Auburn Doubledays minor-league baseball team.

CONTACT: Tim Delaney, 312-3410 or tim.delaney@oswego.edu

(Posted: Sep 02, 2009)

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