Book examines how sports reflect, amplify societal trends

Tim DelaneyIn his new book “The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction,” SUNY Oswego’s Tim Delaney looks at athletics’ large impact on society, from local youth sports to the Olympics.

The textbook, co-authored by Timothy Madigan of St. John Fisher College, is primarily designed for academic use, although Delaney admitted sports is a subject that interests a wide range of fans.

“Sports are a major part of many people’s lives in America and around the world,” said Delaney, who has specialized in the field since his master’s and doctoral theses and has taught the subject for more than a decade. “As I’ve traveled the world, wherever I go, people love talking about sports,” he noted.

While sports are a large part of the landscape worldwide, including the Super Bowl and World Cup, Delaney posits this is nothing new. The Greeks emphasized athletics even before starting the early Olympiads, the Romans loved their sporting spectacles, and medieval contests of skill and daring predated today’s more organized fare.

“One of the fascinating features of sport is that it’s like a microcosm of society,” Delaney said. “All the elements that can be found in greater society can be found in sport. Therefore the study of sport is like the study of society itself.”

The book probes many of these issues—such as gender, race, socialization, culture, deviance, violence, the media—through the lens of sport. It also examines reasons sports resonate so widely, such as serving as a diversion from everyday life, a tribute to the human spirit or an inspiration.

Sports also unite like-minded people within a community, whether it’s the range of people who cheer for SUNY Oswego’s athletic teams or pro franchises like the Buffalo Bills. Delaney witnessed firsthand Oswego native Erik Cole bringing the Stanley Cup, earned for winning an NHL title with the Carolina Hurricanes, to his hometown to the delight of thousands of fans and a boost to community pride.

“Some people see sports as frivolous and just a game, but after reading this book, they will find that it’s a major institution and it’s anything but frivolous,” Delaney said. “Sports is a multibillion-dollar industry. For many people, it’s very important.”

Delaney emphasized that the text provides a critical study of both the positive and negative aspects of the institution of sport. But he said he finds positive aspects the majority.

“Most people play sports at some time in their lives, whether youth leagues, high school or college, if not formally then informally,” Delaney said. “Sport teaches us a lot of values that are cherished in society, such as hard work, dedication, fair play and sportsmanship. It encourages teamwork, dedication to a goal, physical fitness, learning to accept defeat and ideally being gracious as a winner.”

The book will serve as text when Delaney offers, for the first time here, a combined undergraduate-graduate (SOC 355/555) course on “Sociology of Sports,” this summer at the SUNY Oswego Metro Center.

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CONTACT: Dr. Tim Delaney, tdelaney@oswego.edu

(Posted: Mar 04, 2009)

Tags: research news: books and publications