O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs

Article excerpt

Byrne, Julie. O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs. (New York: Columbia University Press. 2003. Pp. xix, 291. $59.50 clothbound; $22.50 paperback.)

In this book, a reworked dissertation, the author examines religion by analyzing a nonreligious activity, namely, women's collegiate basketball. Specifically, Byrne explores the meaning behind the winning of the first three women's national college basketball championships from 1972 to 1974 by Immaculata College, a small Catholic women's college near Philadelphia, which had a student population of 800. The "Mighty Macs'" amazing accomplishment was possible because Catholic girls played basketball in their urban Philadelphia neighborhoods with their brothers, because pastors encouraged girls' basketball in parish schools and CYO programs, because Immaculata had a tradition of women's basketball going back to 1939, because the team had some great coaches, and because the young players found the game both "fun" to play and part of their identity as Catholic women. The book is arranged thematically, since the author maintains that during the period under study, from 1939 to 1974, there was "relatively little institution change" either in Catholic Philadelphia or at Immaculata. …