The Meaning of Sport
The Introduction defines “sporting culture” according to early Americans’ use of the word “sport,” which referred as much to a desirable quality of uncertainty and risk as it did to particular types of activity. Based on this definition, and theoretical frameworks borrowed from Max Weber and Erving Goffman, “sporting culture” is presented as a battleground for status and power in a time and place where economic risk-taking, a credit economy, and a Revolution rooted in “equality” invited all sorts of Americans to assert themselves. After laying out the definition and stakes of early American sport, the Introduction provides a general overview of the work’s narrative arc and underscores the point that just because sporting culture was ultimately a vehicle for the construction of a white male republic and the preservation of the power of wealth does not mean it did not also expand democracy by granting unique opportunities for self-assertion through which poor white men, African Americans, and women forced elites to accept and respond to popular challenges to their rule.
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