A Look Inside the Temples of the Soccer Gods

1208712_goalkeeperSoccer fans worldwide are watching as the World Cup tournament unfolds this month in South Africa. As millions of spectators root for their teams at watch parties and sports bars throughout the nation, it seems as though America has embraced a newfound fascination with the game. Although soccer’s popularity is growing and continues to grow in the United States, it has and always will be a cultural touchstone in Latin America.

In “Temples of the Earthbound Gods,” (University of Texas Press, 2008) Christopher Gaffney (Geography and the Environment, ‘05) reflects on how soccer became an integral part of national identity, particularly in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

Through the lens of iconic stadiums, Gaffney examines various gaftemaspects of urban culture that played out in spectator sports events – from religion to violence to expressions of sexuality and masculinity. Tracing the history and evolution of “temples” throughout the world, he provides illuminating insights into how sports fans have embraced such rituals as face painting, barbecue tailgate parties, lucky socks – even heckling.

Gaffney is a journalist and local radio commentator. He has played soccer on four continents, winning the 1997 Taiwanese Footballer of the Year Award. He is currently a visiting professor in the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Brazil. Visit his blog to see his coverage of the World Cup.

What’s your favorite sports ritual? Share your thoughts and post a comment.

H.W. Brands’ “American Dreams” Book Signing, June 16

American_Dreams“American Dreams” mean different things to different people, but for historian and University of Texas at Austin Professor H.W. Brands, it’s the title of his latest book. “American Dreams: The United States Since 1945” (Penguin Press, June 2010) takes a historical journey from the end of World War II to the Obama administration.

“After spending a lot of time dealing with the nineteenth century, I decided to return to the twentieth – and, not coincidentally to that part of American history I’ve lived through (most of it, anyway). It’s almost like writing a memoir,” says Brands of his latest endeavor.

Beginning his story with a victorious America  — a nation arising more powerful after WWII and with the Great Depression a thing of the past –anything seemed optimistically possible. He tells the story of what comes next, interweaving six decades of our nation’s triumphs and woes: from its politics and war to its culture and society.

In a recent review, The Economist coined the book as “…a primer or refresher on America—from the Vietnam War to the civil-rights movement to the space race to the sexual shenanigans of Bill Clinton—this is a crisp, balanced and easily digestible narrative.”

Covering a lot of historical ground, Brands says what he finds the most interesting is the emergence of technologies (cable TV, cell phones, the Internet) that put people in instant touch with the whole world, with each other, and with the knowledge that humans have amassed over centuries.

“My students and children have a hard time understanding how their elders, including me, lived without this stuff,” Brands says. “And I had to remind myself how we did.”

Brands hopes his readers will take away an appreciation that most of the problems we face today are similar to problems we’ve faced before.

“We’ve always managed to find our way through,” Brands says. “This is no guarantee we’ll find our way through again, but it gives reason for hope.”

Brands will have a book signing at 7 p.m., Wednesday, June 16 at BookPeople located at 603 N Lamar Blvd Austin, Texas.

Historian Emilio Zamora’s Book Acknowledged as Best in Texas

zamora_claimingrights-195x300Historian Emilio Zamora has been named a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), in addition to winning its annual Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for best book on Texas for his work “Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II,” (Texas A&M University Press, 2009).

The award bears the name of the late Tullis (UT alumnas, B.A. ’24 and M.A. ‘27), who was one of the first women on faculty in the History Department.

In addition, The Texas Institute of Letters presented him with its Scholarly Book Award this spring. Zamora brings focus to his study with the overarching argument that wartime concerns in Mexico-U.S. relations raised the issue of race to a hemispheric level of importance and encouraged Mexican workers to continue their call for equal rights. It will remain relevant to scholars and policy makers in the present as questions about immigrant labor, Mexican Americans, Mexico-U.S. relations and discrimination continue to draw our attention.

Historian Emilio Zamora's Book Acknowledged as Best in Texas

zamora_claimingrights-195x300Historian Emilio Zamora has been named a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), in addition to winning its annual Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for best book on Texas for his work “Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II,” (Texas A&M University Press, 2009).

The award bears the name of the late Tullis (UT alumnas, B.A. ’24 and M.A. ‘27), who was one of the first women on faculty in the History Department.

In addition, The Texas Institute of Letters presented him with its Scholarly Book Award this spring. Zamora brings focus to his study with the overarching argument that wartime concerns in Mexico-U.S. relations raised the issue of race to a hemispheric level of importance and encouraged Mexican workers to continue their call for equal rights. It will remain relevant to scholars and policy makers in the present as questions about immigrant labor, Mexican Americans, Mexico-U.S. relations and discrimination continue to draw our attention.