The Sports Literature Association Meeting at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1994: An Exercise in Fragmentary Autobiographical Narrative

By Segrave, Jeffrey O. | Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

The Sports Literature Association Meeting at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1994: An Exercise in Fragmentary Autobiographical Narrative


Segrave, Jeffrey O., Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature


I don't remember going to the airport, waiting at the gate, or getting onto the plane. I certainly don't remember the airline I flew on, or the number of the flight. But I do remember that the flight to Durham, North Carolina took 2 hours and 10 minutes--although in the context of lived time, it took agonizingly longer than that. Time in the air always passes slowly for aviatophobes. I sat at the back of the plane, on the right, in blue seats; no one sat next to me. That was a blessing. The New York Times crossword puzzle only lasted so long.

I rented a car for the duration of the conference, a mid-size rental that, by some quirk of fate, was unnecessarily upgraded to a luxury car. Who drives to a SLA conference in a black Lincoln Continental? The only other time l used the car was when I drove back to the airport. I regretted my largesse.

We ate hamburgers and hotdogs the first evening of the conference at wooden picnic tables. I met my first SLA-er--Ron Hyatt. He would not remember. I do. There is rarely multiple ownership of the same memory

Living accommodations in Carmichael Conference Center were sparse, reminiscent more of my days in British boarding school than consonant with my expectations for a national academic conference. I had obviously been to too many meetings of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport. It was uncharacteristically cold for a North Carolina June. Blankets were the currency du jour. Beer and singing in breakout areas kept us warm.

The conference room was as sparse as the dorm rooms. Plain tables and stereotypical classroom chairs adorned a vinyl floor, exacerbating the unseasonable chill. A simple lectern served as the delivery platform. I delivered my first SLA paper from that pulpit. Tim Morris presented at my session, as well as Elizabeth Woodworth. I don't remember Elizabeth. We were first up that year, always a relief to a young scholar.

Fuzzy impressions of people flood my memory. Harvard educated Kevin Lewis. I always remember where people graduate from. The whimsical humor of David McGimpsey. The charm of Ron Hyatt. Pipe-smoking Harry Opperman; although for some unfathomable reason, Harry always smoked his pipe sideways. I always meant to ask him why. Lunch at a local diner with poet, John Lee, short story writer and ex-wrestling coach, Glynn Leyshon, and Bill Plott, a newspaper reporter, if my memory serves me correctly. The conversation was scintillating. The soft-spoken, elegant prose of David Vanderwerken. I was impressed. Put face to name. I had used Sport: Inside Out as a text in my liberal studies course at Skidmore. So this was David Vanderwerken. As Toni Morrison (1998) writes, "the image comes first and tells me what the 'memory' is about" (195).

The surest way to ruin any narrative is to try and explain it. The reader feels patronized, even betrayed, perhaps cheated. But my account is about more than reader reception; it is about me the writer and it is grounded in my own interior, ontological landscape, what Dillard (1998) calls, my "brain's own idiosyncratic topography" (p. 144).

"The interior life," Dillard writes, "is in constant vertical motion; consciousness runs up and down the scales every hour like a slide trombone" (p. 144).

If poststructuralism has taught us anything, it is that we need to understand ourselves reflexively; we need to recognize that we write from particular positions at specific times and that we can never write a definitive, or conclusive, text in which everything is articulated accurately or precisely. Like our experiences, our memory too is invariably open to contradictory interpretations. As Richardson (2000) puts it: "There is no such thing as 'getting it right,' only 'getting it' differently contoured and nuanced" (p.10). My memory is only as good as your memory, and both are partial, local, and situational, constructed within the contexts of those discourses that have laid claim to our subjectivity. …

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