Upon meeting someone for the first time at a social gathering one of the initial questions asked is, "What do you do?" The question is an attempt to establish some sort of identification, or connection, or perhaps a pecking order. It refers to economic work. In the past 25 years when this has happened to me I have answered, "I teach at a university." The inevitable follow-up question then was, "Well, what do you teach?" I would answer, "I teach the history of sport," pause, and carefully observe the reaction. Almost always the response was either, "Um," revealing little interest, or "Oh!" showing surprise and enthusiasm. The course of the conversation was then determined.
Students, academics, professional people, or others, seem to be divided into those who possess an almost inborn interest in sports, and those who don't. Either sports are seen as trivial and insignificant, or they are looked upon with curiosity and attention. People often read the sports pages of a newspaper and watch sporting events on television without ever thinking about their interest. They just enjoy the experience. They are the ones who say "Oh!", and this book is written for them.