On July 16, 2017, Roger Federer became the oldest man to win a Wimbledon singles title in the “open era,” which dates from 1968 onwards. Notably, Wimbledon played a key role in ushering in “open tennis,” essentially allowing amateurs and professionals to compete in the same tournaments. (Photo from NBC News)

Last Sunday, after winning his record eighth title just three weeks shy of his 36th birthday, Roger Federer became the oldest male Wimbledon singles champion of the “open era”. The designation “open era”, dating from 1968 onwards, denotes the most profound and marked structural shift in the history of tennis. Given that this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the last amateur Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships and the first professional tournament held at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), it is worth looking back on Wimbledon’s role in the development of “open tennis”.

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Photo from Sports Politicus USA.

There is a paradox to the idea of sport in prisons—namely, that institutions whose primary purpose is the restriction of human movement are home to vibrant physical cultures and diverse forms of physical activity. Despite the numerous sociological questions that arise from this peculiar phenomenon, to say nothing of widely-circulated pop culture tropes of tattooed and muscular (and usually male) convicts, there is relatively little research on the topic within the sociology of sport. Here, I reflect on a project I conducted on prison sport and physical culture in Canadian federal prisons, and discuss the significance of prison sport to the broader sociological study of sport.

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“We are on the map and we’re staying on the map, not just in sports, but in everything”. This quote from American-Jewish basketball player Tal Brody is not only one of the most well-known quotes in Israel’s sports history, but also one of the most famous in Israeli culture overall.

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Kevin Durant faced criticism for his lack of “loyalty” when he decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors prior to the 2016-17 NBA season. (Photo from NBA.com)

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
– Karl Marx, The Manifesto of the Communist Party

Last year, Reggie Miller criticized Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors in order to win a championship. While many others made similar critiques, I find that Miller reveals a broader issue in professional sports. Miller expresses this point through the article’s title, “Kevin Durant Traded a Sacred Legacy for Cheap Jewelry.” Framing his critique through the sacred (legacy) and the profane (cheap jewelry) reveals what I see as two inter-twined, mutually-dependent yet contradictory elements that structure professional sports.

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Image from Barbies and Robots.

For many women, bodybuilding (i.e., sculpting one’s body through rigorous diet and training to develop muscle size) is an empowering activity. Heavy weightlifting increases muscular strength and size, and enhances one’s physical capacity. For women, bodybuilding can be empowering because a muscular female body defies our traditional understanding of a feminine body as a one that is small, weak, fragile, and limited. A female bodybuilder – someone who has, through years of strength training, gained a considerable amount of visible muscularity – challenges these stereotypes of femininity, forcing us to critically examine and reconsider our taken-for-granted knowledge of the female physique and its capabilities. Bodybuilding allows women to push against and break free from these societal boundaries, providing a space for empowerment.

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Mount Gariwang, formerly a protected conservation area, is being developed into a skiing venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo by Liv Yoon.

PyeongChang is a small county in the northeastern province of Gangwon, South Korea, with a population of approximately 43,000. This mountainous region, known for its quaint charm and small-scale agriculture-based economy, will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, and as a result, joins a long list of host-cities that have witnessed turmoil due to sport mega-events. An issue surrounding the PyeongChang Games that has gained some attention – but certainly not enough – is the destruction of Mount Gariwang, a former Class 1 Protected Area for Forest Genetic Resource Conservation, now transformed into the official alpine skiing venue. Because this area had long been protected from any kind of development, public or private, a “Special Act” had to be legislated to pave way for the development.

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Two basketball teams go head-to-head in an esports competition, with spectators cheering them on. (Photo: Dan Steinberg/Invision for NBA 2K/AP Images)

In late 2016, a sports championship event was held in Chicago, drawing 43 million viewers during the series finals. That was 12 million more people than watched the 2016 NBA Finals.

It wasn’t soccer, or football, or even the World Series of Poker. Instead, it was the “League of Legends” World Finals, an esports competition.

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*Cross posted on The Rabbit Hole*

It was recently (quietly) reported that the United Nations Office on Sport and Development and Peace (UNOSDP) closed on April 30, 2017 as a cost-saving measure, a fact that is interestingly not noted on the actual UNOSDP website. The UNOSDP was created to capitalize on all the ways that sport can be used as a vehicle to achieve development goals. Wilfred Lemke was appointed as the Special Adviser to the UN on Sport for Development and Peace in 2008 succeeding Adolf Ogi.  The job of the Special Adviser is three fold:

  • lead and coordinate sport projects that contribute to poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS prevention, universal education, sustainable development, and inclusion of persons living with disabilities etc.
  • encourage dialogue, collaboration, and partnerships between the UNOSDP and member states
  • represent the Secretary General and the UN at global sporting events/meetings such as the Olympics, Paralympics, and World Cup.

The closing of the UNOSDP means that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) now has a direct line to the Secretary General.  Given that the IOC is not a nation state, one wonders why the IOC is so invested in having the ear of the Secretary General. I asked my friend and colleague Dr. Nicolien van Luijk (@nicolien_vl) to offer her thoughts on the matter. Click here to read the full article...

Women-focused organizations, such as Sports Women of Tampa, can serve an important role in supporting women who aspire to have careers in the male-dominated realm of sport.

In his book, Diversity and Inclusion in Sport Organizations, Cunningham highlights that the sport industry has historically been a male oriented space where men have continuously held positions of power, subjugating women’s ability to participate and take positions of authority. Despite this historical power imbalance, research also shows that better business decisions are made when a diverse group of both men and women are a part of the process. Further, having more women represented in leadership roles can ultimately help an organization progress and evolve in a successful direction.

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Muhammad Ali’s stand against the Vietnam War transcended not only the ring, which he dominated as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, but also the realms of faith and politics. —Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic. (AFP | Getty Images)

April 28, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the day that boxing champion Muhammad Ali (1942-2016), citing religious reasons, was stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to be inducted into the United States Army. That memorable event is somehow all the more amazing when considered as part of an evolution whereby “The Greatest” went from being reviled as a “draft-dodger” to being respected as a spokesperson against Islamophobia and a political activist for persons living with Parkinson’s disease.

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