COLWRIT 175 | Players, Spectators, and Fanatics: Writing on the Cultures of Sports

2024 Fall | T, TH 2:00-3:30 PM | COURSE #32792 | UNITS: 3

Ryan Sloan and Michael Larkin

Sports do not build character – they reveal it. 

– John Wooden

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.

– George Orwell

Whether you play, watch, or try to ignore it, sport is woven into our daily lives. In this class, we read some of the very best sports journalism with a critical lens. In so doing, we examine intersections between business, race, culture, disability, gender, performance, technology, politics, social justice, and above all else attention to inquiry through thoughtful writing. 

In what ways can each sport be considered its own culture, with distinct rituals, language, costumes, imagery and relationship networks?  What’s interesting about the way sports bodies are transformed under the spectator’s gaze – especially when those bodies are thought to have an advantage based on sex, race, gender or disability? What constitutes “greatness” in the context of time, aging, and the marketing of self? And how do we start to understand the political, technological, and social trap that athletes find themselves in when asked to be role models and cultural symbols — but not to speak?

Students develop stronger analytical skills by writing in a variety of creative nonfiction genres on multimedia platforms, having rich discussions with peers and creating a sustained project of their own choosing.