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Record Type: Review   ID: 232

Sport and Religion

Hoffman, Shirl. J. (Ed.).

 The editor has compiled this anthology for a variety of reasons but the one of most interest to this Journal is, as Hoffman says, that "wherever sport is played at high levels, one invariably finds traces of religion" (p. vii). I am assuming that she refers here not to organized religion but to religious experience, and more generally, to exceptional human experience. Although intended as a textbook, the majority of the pieces included are from popular sources. As co-author with Michael Murphy of In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports, I encountered many familiar sources in the book, sources we drew on. But we also discovered many more scholarly works relevant to if not specifically religious then transcendent or exceptional human experiences in sport. Nonetheless, Hoffman has laid important groundwork in this book. Moreover, religious experience is just one aspect of her larger aim, which is to cover all the ways in which sport interfaces with religion. Part I is on Sport as Religion, and contains 5 chapters, including "Sport Is Not a Religion" by Joan M. Chandler. Part II, Sport as Religious Experience, consists of 5 interesting chapters, including Hal Higdon’s examination of running as a possible religious experience, George Sheehan on playing, Robert J. Higgs on "Muscular Christianity: Holy Play, and Spiritual Exercises," and a feminist Christian approach to "big-five spectator sports" by Denise L. Carmody. Of most interest, at least to me, is Hoffman’s own contribution, which is on the conversion of sport performances to religious rituals. The third part contains 7 pieces on Religion in Sport. Most notable, again, is Hoffman’s own "Recovering a Sense of the Sacred in Sport." The last part is the longest, and consists of 8 essays on Sport, Religion, and Ethics. I missed an index, which would pull together the specific sports, athletes, rituals, and other topics of interest throughout the book. Also, in a work such as this, which serves both as a supplementary book of readings for use in formal classes but also has value as an anthology useful to persons with an interest in sports, it would have been helpful to have a list of suggested readings.
Publisher Information:Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1992. 289p. Chap. Bibl
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