Ethnicity and Sport in North American History and Culture

By George Eisen; David K. Wiggins | Go to book overview

6

The Italian-American Sporting
Experience

Carmelo Bazzano

Prejudice and discrimination are not easily eliminated. This is apparent from sport history books which do not mention the Italians' sport experience. It is as if five million people never passed on the American scene. Sport historians agree that English immigrants brought to America the love and knowledge of games, while German immigrants brought with them gymnastics. The Irish loved boxing, the Scotch-Irish showed propensities for track and field competition. The northern people, Scandinavians and Finns, loved snow sports. The Italians, who represented the third largest group among immigrants, apparently contributed nothing to the sporting life of America.

The intent of this essay is to examine the sporting experiences of Italian Americans. Although encountering various forms of discrimination, Italians were able to carve out an active sporting life that helped them maintain their cultural identity while at once assimilating them into the mainstream of American society. Like other immigrant groups, participation in sport proved invaluable to Italians as both a socializing agency and as a means to validate their self-worth in a society not always marked by its tolerance of newcomers.


AN IDENTIKIT OF THE ITALIAN IMMIGRANTS

Italian immigrants came from that area commonly called Italy which is a rather modem nation. It was united in 1861 by the armies of the king of Savoy and the volunteers of Garibaldi, a charismatic leader bent on freeing Italy from foreign domination. The north, south, and central parts of the peninsula had different traditions, and even the population of each area was quite different. In the north a lighter skinned, fair-haired type predominated. With the break down of the Roman Empire, Germanic tribes had pushed south and

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