If you remember yesterday’s review, Lincoln Harvey ended his book on sports with suggested further avenues for exploration. Although Marcia W. Mount Shoop didn’t take Harvey’s advice to heart before writing, she is definitely tracking down one of his avenues and then some. In her recent book, Touchdowns For Jesus And Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports, Shoop takes on just about every controversial issue related to sports. As a brief overview, here’s her own video previewing the book:
This book is risky indeed. But, it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of football, particularly the collegiate variety. Shoop’s opening chapter is similar to the above video. The following chapter unpacks more what the idea is behind a true apocalypse. If you knew that the last book of the Bible could be called “The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ” as well as “Revelations,” then you already know the connection. As she explains, “Apocalypse literally means lifting the veil. Apocalypse means seeing the truth about who we are, and seeing the truth about the nature of redemption” (10). The redemption is necessary because there are demonic distortions in the world of big time sports (who knew?) and in successive chapters, Shoop looks at how that plays out in fanaticism (chapter 3), gender inequalities (chapter 4), race (chapter 5), higher education (chapter 6), and religion (chapter 7). The final chapter offers some insights for the way forward.
I found the middle chapters (4-6), which are kind of the meat of the book, the most interesting and instructive from my perspective. As male, I’m not often aware of gender inequalities in sports since I always participated as a guy. As a Caucasian, race is not on the forefront of my mind either when it comes to sports. It is in this chapter as well that Shoop offers insightful (and incisive) commentary on the NCAA sanctions against UNC’s football program that went down a couple years back. She writes with an inside perspective since her husband was on the coaching staff at that time. Much of the critiques runs over into the following chapter on the interface of higher education and big time sports. For the unfamiliar reader, it can be quite the apocalyptic unveiling of the way the NCAA functions.
In general, this book to achieve the task of unveiling very well. Part of this was the choice of subject matter, which helped me think more deeply about certain aspects of my love for sports. The other part was that it is written from a perspective significantly different than mine. Shoop writes as the wife of a football coach, who is also an ordained minister and has a Ph.D in religious studies. This combination (theologian married to football coach) is not something you come across everyday (as she herself notes). And while we’re probably not on the same page theologically for some issues, I appreciated her thoughtful analysis in many places. For readers interested in exploring the ethical dimensions further of big time sports, particularly college football, this book should be on your to-read list.
Marcia W. Mount Shoop, Touchdowns For Jesus And Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, July 2014. 134 pp. Paperback, $16.00.
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Thanks to Cascade Books for the review copy!