American Popular Culture Home American Popular Culture Home
American Popular Culture Home About Americana Contact Americana American Popular Culture Archive
Emerging Pop Culture
Magazine Home
Become a member!
Receive our
Sports in American Popular CultureVisit the Sports Archive
 Fire and Spit

Sweat drips down his slick scalp. His muscles flash and flex beneath his brown skin. His elbows fend off attackers on his right and on his left. Floating above the melee of defenders, he solidly slams the ball through the hoop. With definitive force.

He's long and lanky, full of youthful spirit. His brown eyes are focused now, clear and confident. Dribbling the length of the court, he stops just outside the three point line. He measures, he pauses, he shoots. Three points through the hoop. A conqueror.

In game three of the NBA Western Conference finals last year, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant reminded me why I love sports. Their performances, in fact the entire Laker performance, were commendable, commanding, even compelling.

Before that night, I had trouble articulating my love of sport to my feminist friends. "It's stupid. Turn it off. It's just a patriarchal ploy to get away from women. Men don't want to learn how to communicate with us. They just want to watch the tube and smack each other on the butt. It's all about homoerotic repression, you know." (Being good academics and good feminists they had, of course, read Eve Kosofky Sedgwick's homoerotic theory.) Stuttering, stammering, the best I could do was, "No, it goes much deeper than that."

But now I have the words.

When the Lakers got blown out by the Portland Trail Blazers in game two, they faced ultimate adversity. They were humiliated in front of their home crowd. Fans, sports radio, newspapers, and newscasters alike turned against them. When they walked into the Rose Garden on Friday night, after having endured hecklers outside of their hotel chanting "Beat L.A." to accompanying horns from passing cars, after having endured four days of negative press, after having endured the exodus of fans from the Staples Center in the third quarter of game two, each player found within himself the soul of a winner and the heart of a champion. But, beyond that, they showed us the power of the collective. They showed us that if we work together we can not only excel we can prevail.

I love sports because of its metaphorical implications. We watch a team or a player face great adversity, just like we do every day. We wait for the ones that overcome that adversity, just like we hope to in our lives. When we see that success, we gain energy and momentum. We are inspired to fight; we are inspired to win.

The quotes we collect from our sports heroes, the ones we return to again and again, are the ones that have allegorical significance. We can apply them to our lives, and they help us to be better individuals and better contributors to our communities.

Think about some of our favorites...

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
-John Wooden

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
-Archie Griffen, two-time Heisman winner ( 5'9'')

There's no substitute for guts.
-Paul "Bear" Bryant

How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.
-Lou Holtz

My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.
-Hank Aaron

Watching the games and listening to the words of the winners fill us with the fire and spit we need to conquer the one game we all play--the game of life.

The Lakers are now facing the San Antonio Spurs, and I believe that their performance will inspire me as it did last year. Shaq has more to overcome now, namely his bitter disappointed over losing the league MVP vote to Allen Iverson, but I have faith...

May 2001

[back to top]

Home | About Us | Contact | Archive

All materials on this site © 2001 Americana: The Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture
Website Created by Cave Painting