Sports Culture is an important part of American culture

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Sure, Jackie Robinson is a well-known figure to many people, and with good reason; he was the first African-American player to break the color barrier in contemporary Major League Baseball in 1947

Sports are one of the most significant unspoken cultural phenomena in the history of the United States. In American history, sports have been noticeably excluded from other sociological and cultural discourses, regardless of whether you are in elementary school, college, or higher education.

Sure, Jackie Robinson is a well-known figure to many people, and with good reason; he was the first African-American player to break the color barrier in contemporary Major League Baseball in 1947 and was a vocal advocate for civil rights throughout his life.

However, there are other people and trends throughout the history of American athletics that have been very clearly distinguished from anything you'd hear about basketball legends in a regular U.S. History class, including:

My own personal experience with this duality comes from being a longtime sports enthusiast who is also studying political science and history. As an example, when researching and preparing a thesis on Fidel Castro's representation in American media and academia regarding Cuban baseball, I discovered this first-hand. For every book or article that correctly links baseball to a national pride machine, three further novels on Cuban baseball players playing in the United States might be located. It is rare enough to find interdisciplinary and intelligent sports pieces nowadays that delve into the social and political worlds while evaluating sports; but, it is almost hard to find such type of thought in an academic atmosphere.

This is reprehensible in my opinion.

Sports, like music, fashion, or any other cultural marker, serve as a nexus for all of the disparate elements that make up humanity, from race and class to morality and capitalism, and they do so in a way that is sometimes difficult to reconcile. According to Tony Jones of The Athletic, the sports world is not separate from the actual world, nor does it function as a distraction, or, as he recently described it in another context, as a "deodorant."

The fact that many of my favorite sportswriters and sportsmen from across eras realize this and express their perspectives is something that I like. From the voices of the past, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to the voices of the present, such as Jaylen Brown, there are a plethora of powerful, cogent voices connecting the difficulties they see in the sports world to those they see in what some would simply refer to as 'the real world'.

There are far too many people who do not recognize or acknowledge these links.

If sports serve as an escape or a haven from the stresses of everyday life, it is not necessarily a bad thing. With the help of sports, millions of people have found stress relief and lifetime connections. A select few have achieved professional status after putting in tremendous levels of effort and endurance on and off the field.

However, the fact that we are sports fans does not excuse us from leaving our manners, morals, and minds at the door when we go to watch a game. And, despite the fact that some people perceive their relationship with sports to be this way, this is not the case in reality.

This was the subject of a recent article in the Los Angeles Times by Bill Plaschke, who accused fans of creating walls between players as entertainers and athletes as human beings.

I decided that I wanted to speak to the same issue on my much smaller platform, but I also wanted to bring the perspective of a student journalist to the table in this discussion. In my first article on the COVID-19 pandemic, I discussed the dehumanization of sportsmen by viewing them solely as profit-driven entertainers who would provide the general public with something to consume while they were quarantined. However, in view of the unequivocal disparity in scrutiny accorded to sportsmen throughout the George Floyd protest movement, there is more to say than simply humanizing and empathizing with them.

For much of my life, I've observed a clear separation between athletics and the rest of our lives. Perhaps this is what drives ticket sales and television ratings, as it provides consumers with an entertainment experience that is not available anywhere else.

The reason I enjoy sports isn't because of this, and if we want to see change in our society — especially as students — I believe sports should not be overlooked.

Sports present us with tremendous weapons that we can use to influence the course of our civilization. In the years since Robinson, who was booed and threatened simply for playing on the same field as white players, millions of fans all around the country have grown fond of African American and Latin American athletes.

Can we use this to our advantage in order to assist improve race relations in this country? Does what happens in locker rooms with people from all over the country, from little towns in the South to metropolitan jungles on the coasts to isolated midwestern hamlets, translate into a foundation for understanding that can be applied to people from any and all backgrounds?

It appears that this is already the case. Although many white athletes have given messages of support for their black teammates and fellow citizens, they have also criticised some of their white colleagues who are not fighting towards the same objective, which many believe is a sign of the changing times and a more hopeful, integrated future.

As students, sports writers, and fans, I believe that we have a chance to make real and lasting change in our society by humanizing, empowering, and expecting our athletes to work in the same way that other American cultural influencers do, and by studying them and their contributions in the same way that they do.