Visiting scholar talks sports
April 25, 2011 —
Having authored three books and many articles on the subject of sport, Andrei Markovits is considered a noted expert on the development of global sports cultures.
However, as Markovits admitted during his speech, “The Global and Local in Sports,” there is still at least one sport that he is not yet an expert on: Quidditch.
“I thought it was a joke,” said Markovits, who learned about the game’s rising popularity through one of his students at the University of Michigan.
After watching a match of Quidditch, the game played in J.K. Rowlings’s “Harry Potter” series, on the Ann Arbor campus along with 50-60 other viewers, Markovits was intrigued.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Already they have an organization and rules. I was totally fascinated by it.”
Markovits’s comments on Quidditch and other rising sports around the world were only part of the speech he presented to students and faculty last week at Curtiss Hall. The lecture, presented by the Barstow Humanities Seminar, discussed the development of sport and the effects that it has in the modern day, both locally and globally.
In his speech, Markovits attempted to “delineate the three stages of sports development,” beginning with the very beginning of sport.
“Regardless of the culture, all societies have engaged in some sort of ‘play,’” Markovits said. “These sports [and] these cultures [were] the first kinds of globalization.”
In the second stage, Markovits said that there was a progression from “play” and “game” to “sport,” using the early development of soccer clubs in England as an example.
In the last stage, Markovits talked about a sporting world that now includes men and women, as well as the globalization of sports and rivalries that were once local.
“There is some cross-fertilization,” Markovits said. “There are some Americans who know about Arsenal vs. Tottenham, and there are some Brits that know about Ohio State vs. Michigan.”
After the speech Markovits sold and signed copies of his latest book, “Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture.”
Markovits said that his inspiration for writing the book came from the “interest, passion and knowledge” of sport that he has developed.
“It’s something that is immensely part of my daily life,” Markovits said. “It’s just a certain kind of observation of a phenomenon that is obvious news to billions of people.”
Several students stayed after the speech to talk to Markovits and purchase books.
“I thought it was very interesting to hear how we developed into what is sport nowadays,” said math education junior Jason Wise. “To hear how it came from just a game people played to all the rules and regulations they have now was kind of interesting.”
But Wise, who plays goalie for the SVSU soccer team, was able to take more away from the event than just that knowledge.
“He’s a huge Manchester United fan and wanted to know how the Arsenal game went,” Wise said. “He said, ‘If you give me the good news that Arsenal didn’t win, you get a free book.’
“I told him Arsenal tied 3-3 and I ended up getting a free book out of it.”
Theatre major Raheem Saltmarshall also enjoyed hearing about the history of sport.
“I didn’t know what was going on with women’s sports back in the 1980s when Germany didn’t allow women to play soccer, or in America where women weren’t allowed to play basketball,” Saltmarshall said. “I learned a lot, and I’m glad I came.”
Markovits said that he wanted to “open eyes” and show students and faculty the “long-lasting connections” in sports across the globe.
“Today, everybody is in some sort of organized play,” Markovits said. “The content is different, but the context is actually completely identical.
“Maybe in 100 years, we’ll all be playing a silly game called Quidditch.”