“So formed for great and heroic deeds”: Walking in Memory of Capt. Robert Leighton Moore Ferrie
Over the past four years, many communities have paused to remember the sacrifices of those who fell in the First World War. Anniversaries, particularly hallmark ones such as centenaries, are often afforded special meaning. However, those anniversaries associated with 1914-1918 have been particularly powerful, perhaps because we fear losing those memories and having the Great War become just another bloody conflict from our past. There are no living veterans and there are now only a handful of people remaining who would have any memory of the war. Yet, public ceremonies, artworks, and locations associated with the First World War have become increasingly popular, despite this temporal distance. One need only look at the public reaction to the Wave and Weeping Window sculptures across Britain, or the many pilgrimages which continue to the battlefields of Belgium and France, to see that the memory of the First World War remains. However, whether this interest remains following November 11 of this year has yet to be seen. In many ways, the commemoration of the Armistice centenary – when on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the First World War officially ended – feels somewhat like a natural break, like a kind-of ending. Certainly, interest in the First World War will remain though, perhaps, it will become more academic than emotive.
Over the past four years, recognition of many different groups of people who fought – and fell – in the fields of Europe have been part of the commemorations. Remembering sportspersons in particular, as well as moments such as the Christmas Truce football match, has been a significant theme in First War commemorations. Perhaps it is the comparison between the sportspersons of yesterday and those of today is part of why sport has been used. Similarly, the fact that sport can be a conduit to other forms of heritage, in large part because of its contemporary popularity, may also be one of the reasons sport has been used so frequently.
I wonder, however, if part of the reason is that athletic prowess involves speed, grace, balance, and beauty – and that those attributes inevitably are a part of youth. We can imagine strong, fit bodies playing sport – and, we can also think of those same bodies being cut down on the front or returning home mentally and physically mangled – and we weep for the injustice of it all. As Sassoon wrote, the front was “the hell where youth and laughter go.”
There have been many fine books published over the past four years which capture the connection between sport and the First World War, but none are finer than Andrew Renshaw edited collection of cricketers’ obituaries: Wisden on the Great War: The Lives of Cricket’s Fallen 1914-1918,. It is simultaneously an impressive feat of archival research, a moving tribute to a generation of sportspersons, and – given the immense size of the book – a sobering reminder of the cost of the war. It is this book in particular that came to mind when I received a surprising notification in my email last month.
London’s Armistice commemoration on November 11 this year will include something called “A Nation’s Thank You – the People’s Procession” where 10,000 members of the public were chosen by ballot to participate in the ceremony. I entered the ballot and found out last month that I was selected as one of the participants. I have long held an interest in the Great War, which has inspired numerous trips to sites across Belgium, but I do not necessarily have a personal or family connection to the war. Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists twelve Great War casualties named “Cosh” (my mother’s maiden name) and twenty-nine named “Ramshaw” (my father’s name via adoption), none that I am aware of are direct relatives. However, I felt that if I were to walk in the procession, I wanted to walk on behalf of someone. Given my research interest in sport heritage and my admiration for Wisden on the Great War, I decided to reach out to editor Andrew Renshaw. I noted in my message that I wanted to walk on behalf of a cricketer and wondered if he had any recommendations for someone he felt ought to be honoured at the ceremony. I also mentioned that I am Canadian (despite now living in the United States).
Andrew responded straight away and suggested Capt. Robert Leighton Moore Ferrie. In addition to being captain of his high school cricket team at Highfield School (now Hillfield Strathallan College) in Hamilton, Ontario, Capt. Ferrie was an all-around sportsman who was also captain of the hockey team, a football player, a rifler, and a lightweight boxing champion. He later attended the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. He was born on October 7th, 1898 and fell in action on January 3rd, 1918. He was only nineteen years old. It was announced on February 4th, 1918 that he was awarded the Military Cross and, on July 5th, 1918, the War Office issued the following description of Captain Ferrie’s accomplishments for the Royal Flying Corps:
He led his flight with great skill and determination in very bad weather, and dropped bombs on an enemy aerodrome from a height of 400 feet, destroying one shed and badly damaging another. On two later occasions he bombed villages and attacked enemy infantry with his machine-gun from a low altitude. He has brought down two enemy machines and assisted in destroying others. He has shown great courage and resource at all times.
He is buried at the Izel-Les-Hameau Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France. He is referred to at different points as both a Captain and Lieutenant, though Andrew feels he was posthumously promoted to Captain. He also appeared to be known as Leighton Ferrie, rather than Robert.
Capt. Ferrie’s obituary, listed on p. 397 of Wisden on the Great War, is deeply moving and demonstrates just how loved and admired he was:
Glorious boy, beloved of all, boy with the brave heart and the great soul, you have left us, and have not left your peer. Left us in the zenith of your vigour, your usefulness and your triumphs. Who that knew Leighton Ferrie will not drop a tear that the world has lost such a bright gem? So full of promise, so strong in character, so pure and lofty in soul, so formed for great and heroic deeds; so lovable and so admirable, so young and so beautiful. Is the world to be bereft of its best? Ought our hearts to break, or ought they to rejoice? If we were more than human, we might see in this decree of Providence the winning of a glorious crown; but being creatures of imperfect vision, we mingle more suffering than pride in our present feelings. We think too much of our own loss and too little of the hero’s triumph.
I am deeply humbled and honoured to walk in memory of Capt. Ferrie. He was a champion, a hero, a leader, brave, vigorous, and lost to us far too soon. Let us never forget this glorious boy.
The Future of the Sporting Past: Updates on Sport Heritage Research Projects
Here at Sport Heritage Review HQ, we’ve been busily at work on a number of different research projects – which, unfortunately, has lead to a bit of neglect for our social media channels. As such, it seems like the time is right to provide a few updates about our sport heritage research:
Clemson Football Memories Project: The findings from this project, which links sport heritage (specifically about Clemson University’s football program) with reminiscence therapy, have been shared at academic conferences including the North American Society for Sport History (NASSH) conference in Winnipeg and the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) Conference in Grand Rapids. The project, in fact, was awarded the Excellence in Education Award at ATRA. Findings will soon be submitted to peer-reviewed journals in both Recreational Therapy and Heritage Studies. The project team will also soon be meeting with members of the BasebALZ baseball reminiscence therapy project in Austin, and one of our project team members will be attending the Football Memories Scotland convention in Glasgow in November. It is hoped that these meeting will provide both learning opportunities and research directions for the project team as well as provide valuable networking connections within the sport-based reminiscence community.
Baseball Heritage: Two manuscripts about the baseball research projects, which included stops in both Cooperstown and Cincinnati, will soon be submitted. One of the research projects explores the cultural and economic outputs, duties, and tensions at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, while the other looks at representations of Pete Rose at both Cooperstown and at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.
Post-Event Olympic Museums: Jungah Choi, a doctoral student in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University, is currently researching post-event Olympic museums (in other words, Olympic museums in former Olympic host cities. She will be presenting her research proposal at the International Symposium of Olympic and Paralympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario. Ms. Choi will also be contributing posts to the Sport Heritage Review about her research in the near future.
Politics of Sport Heritage in Brazil: Felipe Tobar, a doctoral student in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University, is currently working on a manuscript and conference presentation related to the politics and corruption of listing football stadia as heritage properties in Brazil. Mr. Tobar will also be contributing posts to the Sport Heritage Review about his research in the near future.
Sport Heritage Travels: Our travels this past summer have included a number of sport heritage stops, including in Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Cincinnati. The Ottawa trip was particularly informative, as several prominent national museums and public spaces included sport-based heritage – including a large scale public art project featuring a rendering of the Stanley Cup (see above), the trophy awarded to the champion of the National Hockey League. The Canadian Museum of History also included a tremendous amount of sport heritage in telling the story of Canada, while the Canadian War Museum held a special exhibition about armour, including the use of armour in medieval and contemporary sport.
We hope to be back shortly with updates on these projects, announcements of new and exciting project, as well as posts about sport heritage research from a number of new voices and perspectives.
Sports Beach Books – 2018 Edition
As we head into the summer months, at least here in the northern half of the globe, there is normally a chance to slow down, take it easy and, perhaps, browse our local bookshop (or, probably more likely, our Kindle app) for something to read during our downtime. Somewhat sporadically over the last few years, I have written blog posts recommending some sports-centric books suitable for beach/cabin/cafe/holiday reading (see the 2014 list here, the 2015 list here, and the 2016 list here). Some books have a sport heritage component to them, some do not, though they were popular sports books that over the past year or so I enjoyed reading and would recommend (which also means that they were not necessarily published in the last year, but that I happened to read them over the past year). That said, there are a number of other sites that I would also recommend (most notably, the frequent and well-written reviews from our friends at the Sport in American History blog comes to mind.
In any event, here are a few 2018 recommendations for your summer sports reading:
Horseplayers: Life at the Track – Ted McLelland
Part memoir, part ethnography, the author spends a year becoming a professional “horseplayer” and meeting other gamblers along the way. I think horse racing inspires entertaining books, particularly when focused on contemporary rather than historical horse racing, because it is such a niche – and, in many ways, antiquated – sport. Whereas knowing and gambling on horses in the US was once a major leisure pastime, now it attracts an incredibly quirky group of people – each with their own system of handicapping the races. McLelland provides a very engaging narrative about the culture of a track, the people it attracts, and his own highs and lows on the road to becoming a professional handicapper.
Late to the Ball: A Journey into Tennis and Aging – Gerald Marzorati
This was probably my favourite sports book I read in the past year. Marzorati’s memoir of taking up tennis in retirement, obsessing over it, acquiring skills and milestones and victories and setbacks and, ultimately, something resembling contentment was, for me at least, inspiring. Part of this is that I recently took up tennis as well and, though I am not in retirement, I am also not in great physical shape (and certainly not at the level of Marzorati). In many ways, this book has taught me that there is still time to learn, to try, and to achieve no matter the stage in life.
The Only Rule is it Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team – Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller
On a recent episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Rethinking History podcast, he discussed an academic paper which concluded that a hockey coach who’s team is down a goal should pull their goalie with nearly six minutes to play in the game. While “pulling the goalie” is a common tactic in hockey, it is normally done with fewer than two minutes remaining in the game. Gladwell used this point to discuss, among other things, the idea of approval in decision-making (a coach who pulled the goalie with six minutes left would, almost certainly, not be a coach for very long despite the fact it might actually be the statistically correct move). The idea of trying tactics that are statistically defensible but completely fly in the face of a sport’s culture and norms is the focus of this entertaining and often funny book by the hosts of the excellent Effectively Wild baseball podcast. Given almost complete control of the on-field tactics of a minor league baseball team, Lindbergh and Miller quickly learn that what might be right on paper is not always going to be accepted by players and managers on the field.
Though likely a bit dated, given that it was from the late 1980s/early 1990s, it is nevertheless a disturbing though compelling account of hooligan culture in England. Although there is an entire subgenera of memoirs from hooligans, this one is unique in that it was written by an American who didn’t grow up in football/soccer culture but who slowly went from being revolted by what he saw to being a participant in the mayhem.
Pete Rose: An American Dilemma – Kostya Kennedy
Pete Rose is either viewed as a hero – the “hit king” who topped Ty Cobb’s record – or a villain – the man who sullied the American Pastime through gambling on games he managed. Kennedy’s memoir is a nuanced account of Rose, a remarkable player who was a deeply flawed (though never particularly mean) character. Kennedy doesn’t particularly make the case for or against Rose as much as asking those on either side to take a closer look.
Sport Heritage: A Current Assessment
The study of sport heritage has come a long way.
When I first began researching this topic fifteen years ago, it seemed that sport heritage and its many variations – including sports museums, heritage-based sport tourism, preservation and heritage recognition of sporting venues, heritage sporting events and the like – was receiving limited research attention. Sport historians would occasionally write about museums, tourism scholars would suggest that sport nostalgia might be something examine in greater detail, and geographers might note the use of heritage in stadia, but it wasn’t a particularly deep or coherent body of knowledge.
I look at where we are now and I am amazed!
I think part of this has come from many different scholars from a variety of fields realizing that many forms of popular culture, including sport, are important in revealing something about ourselves, our pasts, and our current culture. Sport is no longer the ugly stepchild of heritage. I recall when I was working at a historic village in the 1990s and asked to develop sport-based public programming (primarily involving cricket, which was a popular pastime in the era we were representing). I was told that sport wasn’t “particularly serious” and that we ought to focus our interpretive efforts on “serious issues and topics.” I think the fact that sport is becoming a topical mainstay of historic markers, of preservation activities, of tourism development, and of permanent museum exhibitions is an important development.
I think there has also been a broader engagement from traditional academic disciplines such as history, geography, archaeology, and anthropology to engage with heritage more generally, and sport heritage in particular. While I used to regularly hear from scholars that heritage was little more than “fake history,” there is now I believe a broader understanding that this idea of heritage – how, why, and by whom the past is used in the present – is something we need to understand. This is not to suggest that heritage is “good” – in fact, the entire purpose of critical heritage studies is to understand and reveal which voices are given priority and which are marginalized and why – but rather that an understanding of heritage in sport is a way of engaging with the many reasons the sporting past is created and mobilized in the present. Furthermore, the idea that sport heritage in its many forms is something that many sport historians, sport geographers, and others see as something that is important to understand has been a significant and, I believe, a positive change for the field.
It has also been great to see scholars engage with specific aspects of sport heritage. Topics such as sports museums, sports venues, and heritage sport tourism have received the bulk of research attention, but the work of scholars like Joel Pinson to examine sport heritage events in depth has been a welcome development.
The development of numerous organizations that link scholars with sport heritage topics and issues has also been welcome. While organization such as ISHA have been around for decades and are integral to the continued maintenance of sport heritage for the public, recent work by organizations such as the Sporting Memories Foundation, who use sport heritage resources such as archives and museums to address issues of dementia and loneliness, Sporting Heritage, who advocate on behalf of sports museums in the UK, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who have been integral in the preservation of historic sports venues in the US, and ICOMOS, who recently recognized sport as an important part of heritage conservation, are all welcome developments to sport heritage scholarship and understanding in the public sphere.
Finally, the connections between scholars who share an interest in sport heritage, sport history, and sport culture has become more robust in recent years, developed in large part through Twitter. As a sport heritage scholar, I have learned a tremendous amount from sport scholars in a variety of fields in large part because we have “connected” on Twitter. In fact, as I was perusing the conference schedule for next month’s NASSH conference in Winnipeg, I realized just how many scholars I “knew” because I became familiar with their work through social media. Perhaps most notably, the excellent work by the group of scholars involved in the Sport in American History blog and website has not only engaged sport heritage scholars, but has engaged in “real world” topics and demonstrated the important role of the sporting past in contemporary debates.
There is still much work to do in sport heritage research, and many places scholarship can go (those thoughts are for a future blog, perhaps). There are also many more ways in which scholars from a variety of disciplines, as well as public agencies and other interested parties, can go with this field. However, I think it is important to pause for a moment and realize just how far this research area has developed.
A Cold, Snowy Week in Cooperstown
If you ever wish to go to Cooperstown, New York and visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame – and wish to have the museum largely to yourself – I suggest a visit in early January, particularly during a brutal run of sub-zero temperatures. There were days that the only people in the hall of fame were myself, my frequent research partner Sean Gammon, and the museum staff. Hand on heart, we essentially had a multiday private viewing of one of the most famous sports museums in the world.
While Sean and I are hard at work on a couple of manuscripts based off of our time in Cooperstown, I thought I’d share a few stray observations about the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
– I was impressed at how the museum handled some of the more contentious debates in baseball, in particular PEDs, labour disputes, and Pete Rose. They provided space for visitors to express their views, and allowed museum guides to express their own opinions. There’s even signage early on in the exhibits that positions the museums approach to, in particular, PEDs.
– Visiting the museum, ironically, made me interested in learning more about Negro Leagues baseball. That said, the section on African-Americans in baseball was a bit sparse, and seemed to suggest that racism in baseball ended in 1953.
– Some of the more surprising artefacts I noticed in the collection included items from Marvin Miller and Curt Flood, buttons made by fans protesting labour disruptions, a copy of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, a copy of the Mitchell Report, and a Detroit Tigers pride cap.
– Guides told us that Ichrio often visits the museum and is one of its most generous patrons.
– There are very few mentions of death in the museum. Only the exhibits about stadiums, interestingly enough, had dates of “death”.
– The hall of fame section is like a mosoleum. People speak in hushed tones. It is also warmer than any other section of the museum.
– I found it interesting that the only two players who had individual exhibits were Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. I was expecting one for Jackie Robinson.
– I think my favourite part of the museum was the exhibit about stadiums (“Sacred Ground”). The interpretive panels were very well written (with some remarkable observations about nostalgia and topophilia), and was the one section of the museum that really addressed the traditions and rituals of baseball spectating.
– My favourite artefact was the Barry Bonds “asterisk” home run record ball.
– It is well worth a visit, though I think my experience was unique given the time of year. The place must feel claustrophobic in the middle of summer.
Sport Heritage News and Notes
Happy 2018 from the Sport Heritage Review! A few brief sport heritage research tidbits to start the new year:
Clemson Football Memories Project: We are now into the analysis phase of our Clemson Football Memories Project, which combines sport heritage and reminiscence therapy to address dementia and other memory-related issues. In addition to our analysis, Clemson’s media relations team put together a great story and video that talks a bit about our project:
Over the holiday break, we were thrilled to receive regional and national attention for our project. Over thirty stories appeared across the US based off of the original press release, including this news clip from WYFF in Greenville, South Carolina:
While the media attention is welcome, we are currently seeking follow-up funding to continue the project further. We think, based off of our pilot project, that there is room for this project to grow and (hopefully) help more people.
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: This week, Sean Gammon of the University of Central Lancashire and I will be visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York to work on a few different research projects, including how popular sport heritage tourist sites negotiate their cultural and economic outputs, as well as to continue our work about heroes as sport heritage, to understand a bit more about the idea of “home” and sport heritage, and to understand a bit more about authorized and unauthorized forms of heritage vis-a-vis sport heritage. This will be our first visit to Cooperstown and, despite the forecast of very chilly weather, we are excited to head to upstate New York to continue our work.
Sport Heritage monograph: Work continues on the sport heritage monograph, tentatively titled Heritage and Sport: An Introduction. At present, a copy is due to Channel View Publications in October of this year. Approximately two-thirds of the book has been drafted, with the remainder of an initial draft expected to be completed by the end of April. The summer will be spent adding to the draft and sending to colleagues for informal review.
Sport Heritage & Reminiscence Therapy: An Initial Reflection
Over the last year and a half, I have been part of a research team that developed and staged a six-session reminiscence therapy protocol at an assisted living/memory care facility. We finished the delivery of the protocol sessions at a care facility this week. The protocols were based on Clemson football’s history, heritage, and traditions, including: Going to the Game, The Stadium, Tailgating, Famous Games, Famous People, and Traditions. The project was funded by a grant from the Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute and, from initial idea to delivery to final analysis and publication, will be nearly two years in total.
We are beginning some of our post-program data collection, with data analysis, publication, and seeking additional funding opportunities as some of the next steps. However, I thought I would offer a few initial thoughts about the program and protocols as they are fresh in my mind:
- The research team all noticed that the sessions dealing with, in Fairley and Gammon’s (2005) terms, memories and nostalgia for socialization rather than artefact offered more opportunities for reminiscence. That is to say, the sessions that covered topics such as “tailgating” and “going to the game” appeared to be significantly more interactive in terms of memory sharing by participants than the sessions about “famous players” and “famous games.” This is not to say that those dealing with more fact-based aspects of the program were poorly received. Rather, participants appeared to consider these sessions more as learning opportunities than as a space for interaction.
- In terms of the famous games and players, we made the assumption that games and players from the 1950s and 1960s would resonate most with the participants. While there were certainly some participants who had specific memories of players, teams, and games from those eras, more recent heritage – such as the feats of quarterback Deshaun Watson – appeared to resonate more.
- Specific knowledge about Clemson football’s history and heritage was not a deterrent for participants. Although some participants commented that they had an initial trepidation about joining the group because they didn’t know anything about Clemson football, or were not football fans at all, many took it as a learning opportunity. Even more interesting, some took it as an opportunity to explore their own personal sport heritage – reflecting on their days playing a specific sport – which suggests a form of “active sport heritage,” an idea introduced in Derom and Ramshaw’s (2016) article.
- College football was a great vehicle for a sport-based reminiscence therapy program, as the traditions of college football include numerous social/spatial elements beyond the game itself, including pre-game tailgating, homecoming events, and “the game” being part of the overall college experience. Many participants reminisced as much about their college days as their time going to the games.
- In assessing the risks in delivery of the program, we failed to account for the sadness expressed by some participants at our involvement in the program ending. The care facility has all of our materials, and while we are hoping that the program continues in some form, there is no guarantee of this. In some ways, we are wondering whether the novelty of the program – as well as new/different people delivering the program – was one of the primary aspects of the program’s appeal rather than necessarily the sport heritage-based topic.
- By the end of the program, the group had formed its own traditions and inside jokes. Reminiscing about these group traditions were an integral part of the final two sessions, as it turned out.
- Incorporating interactive activities became an integral part of the program. We played cornhole – a game largely associated with college football tailgating – at the end of several sessions, which proved very popular. We began each session with the national anthem and the Clemson Cadence Count, both of which are interactive in terms of singing/chanting. During our final session, we included a version of the tradition of touching “Howard’s Rock” and “Running Down the Hill” which proved very popular with participants.
We have much to do in terms of analyzing our data and publishing our findings, but I think we all think that there is a “there there.” While the idea of using sport heritage and sporting memories in reminiscence therapy is not necessarily new, structuring it around specific protocols might be.
Sport Heritage and the Anti-Hero
While in the midst of reviewing some past sport heritage-based research for my book project, I re-read Sean Gammon’s excellent “Heroes as heritage” paper from the Journal of Heritage Tourism. The idea of living sport heritage and the “athlete artefact” has has been discussed via this forum numerous times (including the last blog post about non-human athletes), but I got to thinking that many sporting artefacts are not particularly heroic, particularly in their off-field activities. And, yet, these flawed people are never-the-less often treated with the same reverence as their more heroic sporting counterparts – and, indeed, are often strongly linked with broader heritage narratives of civic and national identity. I gave Sean a call, and we got to talking about the idea of the anti-hero in sport heritage.
During our discussions, Sean pointed out an interesting aspect to the reverence for the anti-hero in sport: they are just like us, flawed and fragile. The idea of a sporting hero as a kind-of mythological god places them on a different plain that we mere mortals. But, the anti-hero is relatable because he (and, I think, most sporting anti-heroes are male) isn’t perfect and has made mistakes. Of course, some of those mistakes go from the everyday (perhaps drink, or gambling, or infidelity) to the truly violent – though, even then, there appears to be routes back to public admiration (see Mike Tyson). There is also the aspect of marketability, particularly if the sporting anti-hero stands out in the sporting landscape. John McEnroe is just another former tennis champion – but the “brat” character (which, apparently, still makes a pantomime-esque appearance at master’s tennis events) puts him into the anti-hero category. He shakes up the establishment, while losing his temper – just like you and me!
In terms of the broader relationship to heritage, it seems that heritage sites – team or player like museums – either try to contextualize the anti-hero or rehabilitate him. A site like the Ty Cobb Museum in Royston, Georgia dedicates significant space and effort to casting Cobb, not as a virulent racist, but as a fierce competitor that historians throughout baseball’s history, for various nefarious reasons, wanted to do harm. As a friend who toured the museum once commented to me, “It seems that the museum has one overriding theme: he might have been a sonofabitch, but he’s OUR sonofabitch!” Similarly, the photo above is from the exterior of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, and references the “knotted history” of Pete Rose – the so-called “hit king” of baseball who was banned from the sport (and hall of fame) for betting but remains a beloved figure in the city. There is also a connection between official and unofficial heritage at work with the anti-hero. The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, South Carolina, for example, plays up his folk hero status (particularly as positioned in films such as Field of Dreams), challenges the official baseball line of him throwing the 1919 World Series, while also lobbying for him to be re-instated and, therefore, eligible for induction into Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. There is also the aspect of dividing the performance on the field from the actions off of it. Jackson, for example, took gamblers’ money to throw the World Series, but performed well in the series regardless. Pete Rose may have bet on baseball when he managed the Cincinnati Reds, and was a notorious womanizer, but that shouldn’t take away from is record-breaking on-field achievements.
Most sport heritage is pretty celebratory, and certainly there is a celebratory nature to recognizing the anti-hero. They are “personalities” and “authentic” vis-a-vis the hyper-trained media-savvy athletic gods of today. They are also a source of nostalgia – probably to a time when it wouldn’t have been surprising that a star baseball player was drinking at your favourite bar, because he probably didn’t make much more than you do. And, yet, the anti-hero offers us an interesting insight into the dynamics of heritage and, in particular, which sporting legacies we value and why. Perhaps it is not simply success that defines our sporting heroes, but whether or not we see something of them in ourselves.
Rethinking the Athlete Artefact: Horses and Sport Heritage
One of the topics in sport heritage research that has received some attention over the years (including on this blog) is the idea of the athlete artefact. That is to say, many athletes could be considered a form of “living” sport heritage – particularly after their playing careers have finished. However, unlike other types of artefacts, we cannot “preserve” them – though their achievements may become mythological and heroic over time. On the other hand, some heritage sites – such as Olympic museums – provide an opportunity for visitors to gaze upon the training of contemporary athletes, positioning the “athlete artefact” through more of a zoological lens.
A recent trip to Kentucky shed further light on this idea of the athlete artefact, in particular the opportunities to view, and even touch, former thoroughbred racehorses. Animals offer a different view of the athlete artefact. Human athletes, in most cases, position themselves as “living legends” after their careers end, perhaps by participating in exhibition matches, so-called “Champions” tournaments, and through autograph and memorabilia sales. Similarly, athletes who are on public view during their training sessions have some agency in terms of where and when they train, as well as whether to continue as an elite athlete. Animal athletes have no such agency and, as such, at places like the Kentucky Horse Park where viewing and interacting with past champion horses – including Kentucky Derby winners – are part of the visitation experience, there is a very direct zoological comparison. However, unlike a zoo, visitors aren’t coming to the Horse Park simply to view random horses – although, there are representations of different breeds at the site – they are there to actually see famous horses such as 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champions like Funny Cide.
Part of the narrative of these horses is not only their races and victories, but also their lineage. Which champion horses are they related to, or who did they sire or dam, is an important part of their heritage narrative – both literally as well as contextually. The parentage, as well as the children, of human athlete artefacts normally only warrant a mention as part of biography rather than some sort of genetic destiny.
Horses also reveal something different about the life cycle, as well as the meaning, of the athlete artefact. For the human athlete artefact, there is the playing career, followed by perhaps the coaching and exhibition playing career, frequenting the autograph circuit, and then, perhaps, closing out with speaking engagements and the like after the body is no longer willing to, say, run around a tennis court anymore. For the animal athlete artefact, places like the Kentucky Horse Park (and, to a lesser extent, the Kentucky Derby Museum) are the culmination of a career largely built on racing and breeding. In many respects, the champion horses at the Kentucky Horse Park and the like are simply there to be admired, perhaps as physical specimens but as much simply for being what they are. They exist, like other rare heritage objects and artefacts, in order to simply exist, because they are rare, and because they are beautiful. As such, though most athlete artefacts are quite different than other forms of heritage objects, in the case of these kinds of horses they are, in fact, remarkably similar to a traditional heritage artefact. Perhaps this is because they do not have agency and that they are considered, in essence, simply objects. However, the fact that visitors can actually see, interact, watch, and admire these champions – and the fact that they are worthy of preservation after their “usefulness” is over – provides a very different perspective on the athlete artefact.
As the summer break (such as it is) winds down here in South Carolina, I thought I might provide a brief update on various research projects, publications, and activities.
Book – Drafting chapters for Heritage and Sport: An Introduction continues. The entire book exists in outline, and this summer the first “thin” drafts of chapters have been written. I am looking to a full “thin” draft to be complete by the end of the year. The process has been enjoyable thus far, though the next fifteen months or so will require a great deal of focus in order to submit to the publisher by Fall of 2018. Part of the summer included a research trip to London, which helped immensely in the creation of several chapters. An upcoming family trip through the midwestern United States will, at points, also include research stops at a few sport heritage sites, and also help provide some much needed examples and illustrations for the text. Unsurprisingly, as I attempt to write about the many forms and types of sport heritage, I am finding (and, perhaps, rediscovering) many areas and topic which – I hope – I can flesh out in greater detail once the book is complete. Namely, I am finding that I’ve been drawn recently to existential forms of sport heritage, particularly as sport heritage is embodied and performed in various places and circumstances, as well as a increased interest in dissonant sport heritages – inspired in large part by the excellent Blue Plaque Rebellion project in the UK.
Sport heritage and Reminiscence Therapy project – Work continues on a research project linking sport heritage and reminiscence therapy. This project, which uses Clemson University’s football heritage in the creation of a reminiscence therapy project for local residents suffering from dementia-related illnesses, will be implemented in the early autumn, pending a successful review by our Institutional Review Board (i.e.: research ethics review). We have all the materials ready, and hope that this project – and its findings – will not only help people suffering from dementia as well as their families, it will also further demonstrate the utility of sport heritage in a variety of settings and programs.
National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame – I obtained a small research grant to conduct research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. It is anticipated that data collection will take place in October, and will focus on the mitigation/management of dissonant sport heritage narratives, as well as looking at representations of (and public reactions to) women’s baseball heritage at the Baseball Hall.
Published/Forthcoming Research – Thrilled that a co-edited special issue of the Journal of Sport & Tourism (along with Sean Gammon and Richard Wright) looking at theory and sport tourism was fully published in June, including a reflection Sean and I wrote about the current state of sport heritage in sport tourism. I also recently learned that two previous papers, one about sport heritage and the health stadia agenda and one (written with Inge Derom) about sport heritage and tourism development, will be included in two different edited volumes in 2018. I also recently contributed a research focus point about outdoor ice hockey and heritage sport tourism for the forthcoming third edition of Tom Hinch and James Higham’s Sport Tourism Development. Finally, I’ve also been working on several pieces not related to sport heritage with other researchers, including one piece about coastal tourism development in South Carolina and another about uses of nostalgia in reentry for travelling missionaries.
Reading – I have managed to read a bit for pleasure this summer. I thoroughly enjoyed Gerald Morzorati’s Late to the Ball about him taking up tennis at a serious level in his 50s and, as I do every summer, I piece my way through the latest Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. Lately I have been reading both William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life and David Foster Wallace’s On Tennis: Five Essays. Though my summer reading does often include sports books, it usually doesn’t skew this sports-heavy. Perhaps I was seeking an escape of sorts during these troubled times.
Activities – I continued my practice from last summer of scoring baseball games I attend, which too provides a sense of serenity as well as a souvenir of a game watched. I started, tentatively, playing tennis as well – an activity, I must admit, I am enjoying more than I thought I would.