Rarely in a book about sports do you find such ambitious subject matter… we mean competition? That’s a heavy lift, and much more so, when you also decide to analyze all of the six major sport leagues. How do you go about understanding competition? How do you unravel the personal and professional motivations that have powered the most defining moments of our greatest sports heroes and franchises? Well in this case the author of The Anatomy of Competition in Sports: The Struggle for Success in Major US Professional Leagues is uniquely equipped.
Christopher B. Doob is an emeritus professor of sociology at Southern Connecticut State University and has spent the better part of his life studying and writing about the human condition, which may not seem like a skill set useful to someone penning a sports book, but after only a few chapters in you will find that nothing could be further from the truth.
The dynamics of competition are vast, perhaps limitless, and are relevant to virtually any endeavour. What this book points to as the primary difference between sports and, say, being an accountant, is how much and perhaps more importantly how long the professional athlete must invest into their respective sport. We know many people in many professions that are extremely competitive, but we have yet to meet a doctor or a lawyer that started training for their profession when they were six.
This, in addition to the public nature of being a professional athlete, coupled with a less than minute chance of making it to a major North American professional league is what makes this book such an interesting read.
What stood out for us though, was the stories, especially the struggles and triumphs of our most heralded sports figures, perhaps most notably Jackie Robinson While his story is well known, this book also deals with the lesser known details of his relationship with then Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey. It also goes on to tell the stories of many other legends that faced a gauntlet of adversity from racism, to sexism, to disability. This is not the first book to illuminate the way in which sports has provided a proverbial Trojan horse for social change, but it may be the most expansive.
The Anatomy of Competition in Sport is a sports book for the sports fan, but fortunately it pushes beyond that limit and delves into something much deeper — struggle. Why is it that we marvel at these humans? Yes, they are seemingly superhuman, but human nonetheless. Why is it that the comeback is so much more compelling than the blowout? For us, it’s the struggle. It’s knowing what some people are willing to endure to succeed, and the lengths they will go to win. How does you go about understanding competition? Well, this book is a good start.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what you thought of this book.
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