Sportswriters As Historians

by Zoë Pollock

Simon Maxwell Apter argues "it is through the prism of sports that we frame our ethical values, remember our history, envision our future, and find the figures of speech that create our common culture and define our national identity." He cites Muhammad Ali’s 1974 fight against George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire:

President Ford had controversially pardoned Nixon seven weeks before the bout, the nation still reeled from political scandal, but if Ali could beat Foreman, he might restore pride to the nation and complete one of the greatest comebacks in American history: from convicted draft dodger and bankrupted pariah to heavyweight hero, his criminal record removed by the Supreme Court, his historical legacy preserved by America’s sportswriting intelligentsia. Like him or not, the country would once again be represented by something called “the Greatest.”

Giles Harvey comes to a similar conclusion. He quotes Albert Camus, who played soccer:

After many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport…