Fame to Infamy

Fame to Infamy: Race, Sport, and the Fall from Grace

David C. Ogden
Joel Nathan Rosen
Foreword by Roy F. Fox
Afterword by Jack Lule
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Fame to Infamy
    Book Description:

    Fame to Infamy: Race, Sport, and the Fall from Grace follows the paths of sports figures who were embraced by the general populace but who, through a variety of circumstances, real or imagined, found themselves falling out of favor with the public. The contributors focus on the roles played by athletes, the media, and fans in describing how once-esteemed popular figures find themselves scorned by the same public that at one time viewed them as heroic, laudable, or otherwise respectable.The book examines a wide range of sports and eras, and includes essays on Barry Bonds, Kirby Puckett, Mike Tyson, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Branch Rickey, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jim Brown, as well as an afterword by noted scholar Jack Lule and an introduction by the editors. Fame to Infamy is an interdisciplinary volume encompassing numerous approaches in tracing the evolution of each subject's reputation and shifting public image.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-752-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword: The Power of Nine
    (pp. ix-2)
    ROY F. FOX

    In the summer of 1958, in Kansas City, Missouri, my grandfather, Pop, hooked me on listening to radio broadcasts of the Kansas City Athletics’ baseball games. The small brown plastic radio on the counter of his breakfast room held us there, standing, expecting at any moment to hear the roar of the crowd as the announcer’s voice quickened before bursting out of his throat:There’s a high drive to left-center. . . . Tuttle goes back . . . back, way, way, deep. . . . He leaps. . . . he makes the catch! Wow! Bill Tuttle takes away...

  5. INTRODUCTION: Thoughts on Fame and Infamy
    (pp. 3-7)

    Promising beginnings are one thing most notable athletes share. Such athletes often burst on the scene, raising the specter of a new era for their team or sport. As such, these athletes bring with them hopes and aspirations that fans quickly adopt. And as such, athletes become part of the fabric of everyday existence for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and cities.

    In our first collaboration,Reconstructing Fame,¹ we examined athletes who were branded as “outliers” who found community acceptance difficult, if not impossible, early in their careers, though they were afforded such acclaim later in their postcareer lives. Those athletes, like...

  6. BARRY BONDS: Of Passion and Hostility
    (pp. 8-29)

    There are athletes whose reputations become more favorable as time goes on, and there are those athletes who are framed as less likeable over time. And then there is Barry Bonds, whose reputation has evolved from bad to worse over his twenty-one-year career in Major League Baseball. Merely mentioning the slugger’s name engenders the type of passion and hostility usually reserved for crooked politicians or terrorists. It seems that ever since Bonds landed in Pittsburgh and throughout his embattled years in San Francisco, sportswriters and fans have focused more on his actions off the field than his achievements on the...

  7. KIRBY PUCKETT: A Middle American Tragedy
    (pp. 30-44)

    After Kirby Puckett’s death at the age of forty-five in 2006, playwright Syl Jones wrote a play, called simplyKirby, about the Minnesota Twins center fielder. The play, which premiered at the History Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota, in October 2007, traced Puckett’s path from stardom, including his entry into the Major Leagues in 1984 and his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, to disgrace in the wake of a highly publicized divorce and allegations of domestic violence, infidelity, and sexual assault.¹

    Jones compared Puckett’s life to a Greek drama, with a “rise, fall, exile [from Minnesota...

  8. DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE: The Racial Representation of Mike Tyson in Three Acts
    (pp. 45-60)

    The deep bass and lyrics of rap music announce the fighter’s entry. Sometimes he is accompanied by the sonic force of the rhythms of Public Enemy’s hit song, “Welcome to the Terrordome.”¹ Other times, the belligerence of DMX’s “What’s My Name?” blares into the crowd to announce his entrance.² As it plays, a chiseled sweaty figure descends from a tunnel, clad in only a white towel with a hole ripped in the middle for his head to poke through, black boxing trunks, boxing gloves, black shoes, no socks, and a vicious stare. He has a Jack Dempsey–style haircut parted...

  9. LOST IN TRANSLATION: Voice, Masculinity, Race, and the 1998 Home Run Chase
    (pp. 61-75)

    After being exalted for their athletic performance and sportsmanship in the 1998 home run chase, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa slowly lost their place on the pedestal reserved for baseball heroes and, specifically, in this case, home run sluggers. A succession of controversies, allegations, investigations, and exposés have pelted away at the base onto which Big Mac and Slammin’ Sammy have been hoisted during the feel-good 1998 season. This chapter will explore the elevation of Sosa and McGwire during the 1998 season and the subsequent denigration of the two players’ reputations. Although these two men shared the spotlight during the...

  10. BRANCH RICKEY: Moral Capitalist
    (pp. 76-101)

    During most of his career, Branch Rickey was, according to Robert Peterson, “the most successful front-office operator in baseball.”¹ Like the moguls who dominated the movies in the 1930s and 1940s, Rickey’s success largely depended on an oligopolistic environment similar to the Hollywood studio system that had Rickey counterparts such as Louis B. Mayer and Darryl F. Zanuck exploiting their studio “teams” of “players” without legal or worker challenge. Both the MLB and studio oligopolies are considerably less dominant today as a result of legislation and union interventions, and the public as well as the players have benefited from these...

  11. INEXTRICABLY LINKED: Joe Louis and Max Schmeling Revisited
    (pp. 102-121)

    Substantive reflection concerning the lives of Joe Louis and Max Schmeling calls for a bit of wordplay, with the first word beingrespect. Joe Louis and Max Schmeling were used, but they were not respected. They were feted but not respected. They were national and racial symbols of achievement during their collective primes in interwar America and Germany, respectively, but true respect did not follow. The tragedy as well as the triumph of their lives can be seen in the absence of respect for what they accomplished and how they conducted themselves at a time when their worlds were being...

    (pp. 122-145)

    Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu understands the consecration of artists as the “magical division” created to distinguish the “sacred” from the “profane.”¹ The legitimacy of this magic, however, depends on popular, professional, and critical recognition.² Michael Jordan’s consecration in basketball culture undoubtedly can be legitimatized popularly (e.g., his team sold out every home game from November 17, 1987, through April 14, 2003), professionally (five MVP awards, six Finals MVPs, and so forth), and critically (the most appearances on the cover ofSports Illustrated, ESPN’s greatest North American athlete of the twentieth century, among others). But more interestingly, professional basketball is understood through...

  13. A PRECARIOUS PERCH: Wilt Chamberlain, Basketball Stardom, and Racial Politics
    (pp. 146-169)

    When Wilt Chamberlain announced in May 1955 that he would attend the University of Kansas at Lawrence (KU) on a basketball scholarship, KU fans and the local media celebrated. Standing more than seven feet tall and moving with a grace and agility uncommon to many big men, Chamberlain, a Philadelphia resident, was easily the most sought-after high school player in college basketball history. Nearly every major college and university had attempted to recruit him, so his selection of KU marked a major accomplishment for the team’s prestigious basketball program. Fans envisioned the big man leading KU to multiple conference and...

  14. JIM BROWN: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of a Cultural Icon
    (pp. 170-190)

    In his 2002 HBO documentary,Jim Brown: All American, director Spike Lee declares his subject to be “the greatest football player ever.”¹ While Lee’s assessment may be something of a hyperbole, there is no question that James Nathaniel “Jim” Brown is considered to be one of the greatest fullbacks in the history of the sport. According to his Pro Football Hall of Fame page, “Brown was more than just a one-of-a-kind running back. He caught passes, returned kickoffs, and even threw three touchdown passes. His 12,312 rushing yards and 15,459 combined net yards put him in a then-class by himself....

  15. AFTERWORD: Sports and the Iron Fist of Myth
    (pp. 191-198)

    The stories seem to come from the same dark place. Kirby Puckett goes from Minnesota’s cuddly and beloved sports hero to a half-blind, bloated womanizer, despised and dead at forty-five. Jim Brown goes from one of professional football’s most respected players to a brooding, dangerous figure who beats women. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa go from brawny and beloved home run heroes to disgraced drug users. And O. J. Simpson goes from football, cinema, and advertising star to wife killer, a man who got away with murder.

    Even with their distinct, violent edges, these stories are eerily familiar and ominously...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 199-202)
  17. Index
    (pp. 203-206)