Corey Sobel: Football, not baseball, shows America as it really is

November 22, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism.

Is baseball our most literary sport? If you said yes, you’re not alone. Most people, including me, think so.

But should it be?

A resounding “NO!” comes from the likes of Corey Sobel, author of The Redshirt, which has made numerous “favorite books of 2020” lists. In a recent article in, Sobel makes his case:

If the baseball novel shows America as we’d like to see ourselves, the football novel can show us as we are. What other sport so accurately encapsulates America’s noxious racial divide, with young people of color dominating rosters while the head coaching ranks, donorati, and team owners are overwhelmingly elderly, rich, and white? What other sport better gets at capitalist exploitation at the national scale, with working class kids (of any race) lured into a physically devastating activity via the lie that it will provide them the tools for social mobility? What other sport so deeply draws from some of the country’s most marginalized regions—the Deep South, the Industrial Midwest—and by so doing exemplifies the regional inequalities that have made for our ongoing national political nightmare? 

A Case for Football as the Most Literary of American Sports

Baseball has been around longer than football and evokes an idealize image of a quiet and reflective rural America where time is leisurely and efforts — even if made for a team — are individualized. Football is urban, industrialized, and violent, according to Sobel. It is the reality of America, not its idealized version.

While I enjoy baseball and don’t pay much attention to football, Sobel’s article spurred a few moments of self-reflection. Several years ago, when I was thinking about writing a murder mystery, the story that formed in my head was constructed around the death of a college football star. Indeed, the title, Kill the Quarterback, is not just the title but also a familiar sports phrase.

Can you imagine somebody yelling, “Kill the shortstop!”?

Neither can I.

Sobel makes many salient points in his article. If you are interested in the intersection between sports and fiction, this is a fun and thought-provoking article to read.


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