I investigate, and teach and write about, the intersection of sport, the humanities, and society.
I view sport as a creative form of embodied thought and art that is also a powerful generator of stories and other cultural forms. Both athletic performance and the cultural forms it generates are embedded in societies and do significant work for individuals and groups within those societies. For this reason, I employ interdisciplinary methods to grasp the cultural significance and political potential of sport figures and events, particularly in relation to race and gender. Meanwhile, recognizing that participants and spectators in sport experience and respond to these forces in embodied performances informed by narrative, I emphasize formal and aesthetic analysis both of athletic creativity and of the stories that shape its production and reception. I thus combine analysis of the social and cultural functions of sport with a detailed attention to the emancipatory possibilities available in athletic performance. My book Ball Don’t Lie! Myth, Genealogy and Invention in the Cultures of Basketball , and numerous scholarly essays reflect these interests. I am currently at work on a book called Numbers Don't Lie!, on the history and impact of the use of quantitative reasoning and digital technologies to describe, analyze, and predict athletic performance, particularly in basketball. My essay introducing that project, “The Culture of Moving Dots: Towards a History of Counting and What Counts in the Culture of Basketball” will be appearing in the Journal of Sport History in the Fall, 2017.
My broader aim in this work is to help my students, my readers, and myself adopt an interdisciplinary approach to culture as what Kenneth Burke called “equipment for living” so that our improved understanding of how culture works can increase our capacity to make it work to shape better lives and a better world. To this end, I also seek to shape public views on these topics through writing essays and creative non-fiction online, both on my own blog and in other online venues, as well as through videos , radio interviews on National Public Radio, sports radio talk shows, and online podcasts.