Read One Game at a Time: Why Sports Matter by Matt Hern Online


We need to take sports seriously. Football, baseball, mixed martial arts, hockey, and beyond: these are arenas of immense power, with a mass appeal. Yet intellectuals have long since abandoned the sporting world as a legitimate site of contestation and innovation. Why? What do we gain by handing over the persuasive power of sports to the worst elements of our culture, by aWe need to take sports seriously. Football, baseball, mixed martial arts, hockey, and beyond: these are arenas of immense power, with a mass appeal. Yet intellectuals have long since abandoned the sporting world as a legitimate site of contestation and innovation. Why? What do we gain by handing over the persuasive power of sports to the worst elements of our culture, by allowing sports to become plagued by hyper-consumption, militarism, violence, sexism, and homophobia? According to Matt Hern, not a whole lot.In a series of interconnected narratives from his forty-plus years of sports fanaticism, Hern makes an impassioned and entertaining plea for a more active engagement with sports, physically and intellectually. Hern's eye is critical and his analysis sharp, but this book is more than a critique—it's a celebration of what sports have taught us, and a suggestion of how much more we still have to learn.Fun, engaging, and fast-paced, One Game at a Time is for anyone willing to get their head into the game.Matt Hern lives and works in east Vancouver, where he founded the Purple Thistle Center and Car-Free Vancouver Day. A former sportswriter and a radical urbanist whose writing has been published on six continents and in ten languages, he is the author of Common Ground in a Liquid City (AK Press, 2010), which was shortlisted for the Vancouver Book Award....

Title : One Game at a Time: Why Sports Matter
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781849351362
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 176 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

One Game at a Time: Why Sports Matter Reviews

  • Malcolm
    2019-05-25 06:25

    Even those who most despise sport would probably find it hard to argue that sport doesn’t matter – whether it should matter is a different question, but that is a moral, ethical or political question, not an empirical one. It is precisely this moral/ethical/political question that Matt Hern sets out to argue the case for sport as a site of liberatory potential, in this directing his argument to those of us on the Left – not the liberal, soft left gang celebrating their nations and hosting mega-events but those that in British political terms would be known as the ‘hard left’. It is easy to take a critical view, an argument that sport is vital agent in the production and reproduction of a classed, gendered and racialized social order that maintains a vigorous and violent system of oppression, hierarchies of control that sport allows powerholders to naturalise and in doing so undermine resistance, because those hierarchies are justified by something as mundane and ubiquitous as sport. So, of course sport matters – as something to resist, to destroy and to rip apart, in an anti-sport jeremiad of the kind we see in Marc Perelman’s highly problematic Barbaric Sport so loathed by many of the pro-sport voices on the political left. Hern is not in this camp; he is a sports fan, he enjoys getting amongst it all – the rumble at the football (soccer) or (ice) hockey, soaking up the atmosphere at the fights; his is a visceral sporting world that he uses well to show just what it does. His insider’s view gives him a secure space from which to critique the body fascism of sport (my term not Hern’s, well, Brian Pronger’s term although I don’t mean the same thing as his Foucauldian deployment) as well as its violent, sexist, racialized model for making the world. This, by the way, is a big part of my problem with this book – Hern lapses into reveries of the world he is critiquing from the inside, his running lists of insider references and celebrations of the viscerally shaped and framed sporting existence. This world of Hern’s is a challenge to the Left – it is bodily, not cerebral; it sees the sporting world as one that is disciplined but also is one where that very discipline provides space for creativity, for solidarity and for building a space to belong. In this, his work resonates with some recent trends in academic writing – here I am thinking of Susan Cahn’s essay in Dan Nathan’s recent Rooting for the Home Team or several of the essays in a collection I recently had a hand in editing exploring Philosophical Perspectives on Play or some of the recent work that has explored left-wing fandom or a broadly punk/anarchist underground dimension in European football (soccer). Despite all our celebration of work and labour, much of the Left is generally contemptuous of the body as a site of struggle or liberation (leaving aside things such as reproductive rights or workplace struggles). Again, these are not Hern’s words – but he is making the case for sport as a space to resist and overcome alienation (in the way Bertell Ollman has Marx talking about ‘species-being’).My problem isn’t any of these things, although the celebration of the viscerally violent world of fandom is part of the issue; my problem with the book is its wild swings, from sharp, savvy incisive critique leading to a clear case for sport as a site of struggle and as a vital site for the liberation of human potential to an insider, alienating (not in Ollman’s sense, but in the numb-the-reader sense), sport nerd/obsessive tone. It’s this tone that is the problem, in the way it says well ‘to hell with you if you’re not a sport follower, this is the way I am’ it expresses contempt for its intended audience – sympathetic lefties why might be convinced that sport could and should be a space for liberation struggle and a place to find our wholeness, our un-alienated (in Ollman’s sense) selves. Hern sees this problem, he apologises for it in a note on pp44-5 and notes he might lose a few readers with his penchant for long lists of athletes – but it is not the lists that are the problem, it is the continuous and uneven deployment of a blokey, sport-insider ‘fuck-you-if-you-can’t-follow-this’ writing style alongside some work that has great educational components. It’s worth reading this, especially if you’re a ‘hard’ lefty because Hern makes some really important case about sports potential as a site of liberation; if the blokey sports fan bits of it piss you off (as they did me) bear with them, treat them as Hern’s idiosyncratic mode, slough of the contempt they imply – it’s the failure of the fan to recognise the limits of their world (in the same way as many music writers use their insiderness in a way that leaves most of the rest of us perplexed). You don’t have to join that sport obsessive world to treat sport as a site of vital political struggle: some of us even make a job out of it while actively resisting becoming a fan-boy-insider. Four stars might be a bit generous – maybe 3½ is closer to the point.

  • Brian
    2019-05-21 10:31

    The author attempts to demonstrate why sports matter. The book is schizophrenic and switches between the sports fan and the liberal intellectual voices. As a sports fan, the writer uses (offensive) locker room language and tells anecdotes of his sports experiences, particularly gritty, rough ones. Thus he can prove to all sports fans that he is one of them. And then to mollify the intellectuals, he will write of dialectics, philosophies, et cetera. As such, these changes in voice can be unsettling and disruptive to the flow of the text.To the liberals, he suggests that sports de facto matter because they do for much of the world. Liberals should embrace sports, perhaps out of the underlying themes of competition and being true, but definitely as sports can serve as a vehicle for liberal themes. Support sports so that the masses will be indoctrinated in liberal causes.The book was a drag to read and I did not find it engaging, nor persuasive. I'll keep watching sports and working on a PhD, still wondering if in the author's search for grand reasons that sports might matter, he missed simpler, smaller ones.(In compliance with FTC guidelines, I note that I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.)

  • James
    2019-04-28 10:33

    Matt Hern makes the case in One Game At A Time: Why Sports Matter that radicals, progressives, and people who care about social justice should care about sports. The genre of left-wing sports journalism has had a renewal in recent years, with writers like Dave Zirin, Gerald Early, and William Rhoden. The book explores the many avenues for radicals to engage sports in an effort to not abandon such a large cultural institution to nationalistic, neoliberal, and reactionary forces within our societies. Some of these avenues include identity formation, power around race, gender and masculinity, class, sexuality, colonialism, and the transfer of wealth from the masses to the elite wealthy few. Hern makes the argument that when social justice activists ignore sports or even write them off as being meaningless distractions, they isolate themselves and miss why people like sports. Even as they are used by the forces of the status quo, sports have been used as objects for social justice. Hern brings up the more famous examples such as Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, the '68 Olympic sprinters, and more. He mixes in personal experiences, such as an amusing story of his friend Richard Peter, a wheelchair-bound athlete who is also a Indegenious Canadian who has played on the Canada national wheelchair basketball team. in para. In a particularly memorable episode that Hern recounts, when they played pickup football together, Peter did not let Hern get the best of him in trash talk, but simply charged at Hern's legs to make a point about underestimating the athletic ability of wheelchair using athletes. This sums up well Hern's style of bringing the theoretical exploration of sports back to personal experiences. An avid hockey fan, he writes about Brian Burke, the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and his brubust personality, who takes a strong stand against homophobia while at the same time embracing hypermasculinity. While outright racist and homophobic taunts have been banned in hockey, misogynistic taunts still are flung with impunity in hockey games. Hern's book is mainly aimed at anti-capitalist radicals as a sort of introduction to why they should care about sports and not dismiss them. He glosses over many topics while encouraging the reader to further research the particulars. I would recommend it as a primer to be followed up with further reading from some of the authors he lists, such as Zirin, Early, Rhoden, Kevin Delaney, and more. That said, even if the argument is very familiar to me as a life long Philadelphia sports fan, in particular the Eagles and the Phillies, and as the founder of a local radical softball team, it is one that I am very happy to see Hern arguing. I believe that sports are things that can spearhead social change, and represent a battleground that has been too often abdidicated by intellectuals. Coincidently, I happened to be reading a book by the former punter of the Minnesota Vikings, Chris Kluwe, who writes deeply anti-capitalist arguments in Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies. Reading these at the same time underlined why pro athletes certainly can be at the forefront of social struggles. Kluwe in particular weighs in heavily as an straight ally in the fight for LGBT equality. So it stands that sports reflect and push society forward, or are symptoms of larger social problems, such a transfer of public money into private coffers, gender inequality, or racial segregation within sports. Hern does a nice job of bringing philosophical arguments into the actual playing of sports, as in team sports, players are in solidarity with each other on the team and to a lesser extent players on the other team. Sports, whether it's embracing as a fan, participating in as a player, or using as an activist, becomes a very useful tool in the struggle to build a new world.

  • Broadsnark
    2019-05-18 02:21

    I loved this book so unexpectedly much. It is a delightfully philosophical and down to earth critique of and defense of sports.Hern pushes back on the idea that sports are a different and lesser kind of cultural product - as opposed to, perhaps, music or painting. Like all of our cultural products, sports both reflect and create our society. And we should take that seriously. He also argues that "a generalized disrespect for sports, athletes, physicality, and even materiality is not just a class thing it's also bound up with race, gender, sexuality, and lots else - creating a clusterfuck of bodily loathing, fear, guilt, shame, distrust, and misapprehension."The book uses sports to talk about all of those things and more - race, gender, sexuality, capitalism, authenticity, violence, pain, cultural appropriation, the commons. It is amazing how much he managed to pack into a relatively short book.A long time ago I had a boss who didn't have a television when her daughter was little. My response was to ask what her kid spoke to the other kids at school about. She answered that that was precisely why they eventually got a television. I think Hern makes a strong case for sports on many levels, not just as a means for communicating with the millions of avid fans and participants out there. But just the opportunity for public discourse alone should convince people to take it seriously.Read it. Really. It is fantastic.

  • Peter
    2019-05-08 09:43

    More accurately, I'd rate this book four-and-change; it doesn't hit perfection but it's pretty damned excellent. My main gripe is that I wanted MORE. It's kind of like when you get some awesome micro-brew, and it's put in front if you in a fancy, small snifter, when your buddies next to you have a full, frosty pint. Mine might be better, but they've got more. I could have read this book if it were twice as long, as I found the quality of discussion that relevant and well-reasoned. But, this book is the start of a conversation that we all need to have, not the end-all be-all. Suppose I shouldn't fault the author for that.Otherwise, this book takes a very timely and important stance: sports are as banal and retrograde as we allow them to be. We ignore them at our peril, and are neglecting the transformative potential of athletics at every level. I agree entirely. Hern's position that we should see sports as a creative pursuit, next to arts, music, literature etc., particularly resonates with me and I found it well-argued. Overall, Hern's engaging and familiar voice is particularly enjoyable and the pace and immersion of the book kept me locked in the whole time. There's only a few books that I compulsively highlight and annotate while reading, but this is one of them. I look forward to see where the discussions go from here.

  • Evan
    2019-05-16 05:26

    Hern takes on the unenviable task of examining how sports and sports culture has the potential for becoming a vehicle for radical change, and the importance of sporting culture as a tool of liberation and progress, without sounding, in his words, "cutesy grad school, high-theory/low-culture." Unfortunately, he decides to err on the side of being colloquial rather than insightful, spending significantly more energy recounting sweaty adolescent memories and retellings of historical events than he does actually making his argument. While the text is very much readable, and undoubtedly enjoyable, it is hard to ignore the numerous times Hern comes *so very close* to making a serious point or diving into an important discussion, only to veer away at the last second. When Hern does make a concerted effort to make normative arguments, or to engage in his clearly well-honed analytical skills, the book is simply delightful, and highly effective. Another effort on this topic, one which was more fearlessly thought-provoking and a little less locker room, could be a text I would read again and again. To be fair, I could see myself reading this again as well, but this time I won't expect the level of criticism and insight I mistakenly expected the first time.

  • Ryan Mishap
    2019-05-03 08:42

    Starting with the declaration that sports do matter, Hern argues that sports also provide a place for radical reassessment of our society, personal and commercial interactions, and ways of being bodies in the world; that sports provide a transparent and immediate place for radical organization and reorganization of competition to counter capitalistic, neoliberal hegemony. Throughout, he writes personally and academically, trying to goad sports fans into thinking about the negative aspects of sports (nationalism, hyper-masculinity, sexism, racism, capitalist exploitation, etc.) and non-sports fans into considering the value of sports in and of themselves but also as a place for potential transformation.Whether he succeeds or not will depend on the individual reader. Regardless, this was a fun read. As someone who got back into some sports because I started looking at sports as a major force in society and sought out political, anti-racist analysis, I loved it.

  • Adam Piontek
    2019-04-25 05:32

    As someone who has absorbed a lot of judgemental, "superiority" attitudes regarding sports, and generally ignored it, I really appreciated this sports-lover and radical/academic's exploration of why sports matter to him and the radical possibilities available in caring about sports. The writing is a little scattershot and didn't always speak directly to me, but since one main thread of his argument revolves around embracing difference and celebrating incommensurability, in really listening to other people, I appreciated all of his efforts and would recommend this book to other sports-averse radical-leaning types like myself.You only learn and grow in the collisions with the unknown or the unfamiliar. Give it a try!

  • B
    2019-04-29 10:23

    "Utterly ambivalent," may be understating my attitude towards sports. Which is why this book was so thought provoking. Hern makes a really compelling argument, and does so with an approachable writing style that blends "talking over pints" and "could read this in college" as well as I've seen. Not that I'll be buying season tickets anytime soon, but I'm convinced.

  • Jonathan Pistorino
    2019-05-06 08:34

    An exceptional analysis of two realms that not often cross analyzed. I'm biased because of my politics but one of the best sports reads I've had.

  • Smash
    2019-05-15 05:42

    Reviewed it here: