King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly & the Daily Press

King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly & the Daily Press

King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly & the Daily Press

King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly & the Daily Press

Synopsis

This landmark work explores the vibrant world of football from the 1920s through the 1950s, a period in which the game became deeply embedded in American life. Though millions experienced the thrills of college and professional football firsthand during these years, many more encountered the game through their daily newspapers or the weekly Saturday Evening Post, on radio broadcasts, and in the newsreels and feature films shown at their local movie theaters. Asking what football meant to these millions who followed it either casually or passionately, Michael Oriard reconstructs a media-created world of football and explores its deep entanglements with a modernizing American society.

Football, claims Oriard, served as an agent of "Americanization" for immigrant groups but resisted attempts at true integration and racial equality, while anxieties over the domestication and affluence of middle-class American life helped pave the way for the sport's rise in popularity during the Cold War. Underlying these threads is the story of how the print and broadcast media, in ways specific to each medium, were powerful forces in constructing the football culture we know today.

Excerpt

To reconstruct the narrative and visual universe of football from 1920 to 1960 in newspapers, magazines, radio, newsreels, and feature films, it was critical to be as comprehensive as possible, within reasonable limits and the constraints of available sources. The daily press could only be surveyed selectively, but for a range of regional newspapers I examined the full run of eight newspapers—the New York Times and New York Daily News, Atlanta Constitution, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Omaha World-Herald, Los Angeles Times, and Portland Oregonian—supplemented by dozens of other small-town and metropolitan papers where needed. Against these I read through forty years of football coverage in the Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier, and in other black papers more selectively; several Polish, Italian, Jewish, Greek, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Slovak, and other ethnic papers from the 1920s and 1930s; and the Daily Worker, Young Communist Review, Milwaukee Leader, and a dozen more labor and radical papers over their variously brief runs.

Among the five major newsreels, two—Hearst’s Metrotone News (later News of the Day) and Universal News—were available, the former at UCLA’s Film and TV Archive, the latter at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Complete synopsis sheets of the Hearst newsreels and program notes for the Universal reels made fully documenting their football coverage possible. I had access to limited viewing of the Hearst footage and unlimited viewing of the Universal newsreels as well. Some newsreel footage has been completely lost, and the sound tracks are damaged for much of what survives, but these two newsreels are an invaluable resource for scholars. For the other three newsreels I was dependent on a database listing the programs for Pathé and Paramount, and an in-house compilation of the surviving footage from Fox Movietone News. Radio broadcasts are considerably more difficult to study comprehensively. My newspapers provided the listings of football games for each city in the study, but no radio broadcasts of football games before 1935 apparently exist. The collection of NBC broadcasts at the Library of Congress includes eleven football games from the late 1930s, eleven more through 1945, then nearly weekly games from 1946 through 1954, in addition to a smattering of other football programming. I paid particular attention to the earliest broadcasts. I was able to view 63 of the 120 football movies; for the rest I had to depend on secondary material. The . . .

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