Strong SSIRG line-up at 2018 NASSH conference
Eight SSIRG members presented papers at the 2018 Annual Convention of the North American Society for Sport History, continuing Western's strong presence at the NASSH Convention. In addition, Bob Barney also served as session chair and as commentator. The themes covered ranged from Olympic issues to investigations of Mixed Martial Arts, to unviersity sports, and to indigenous games practices. Presentation titles and abstracts are provided below.
'Old Ontario Boys’ and 'the only Hobo in the Bunch': The Diaries of Dr. Lewis H. Campbell and Frank J. Grace and the Grand World Lacrosse Tour of 1907
Gerald Ford and the President's Commission on Olympic SportsThe President’s Commission on Olympic Sports was established in 1975 by President Gerald Ford. It was tasked with investigating the domestic squabbling that had, for decades, eroded America's once-dominant international sporting effort. Central to the problem were the various amateur organizations -- NCAA, AAU, USOC, etc. -- each of which claimed jurisdiction over athletes and preeminent sanctioning authority. The resulting inter-relationship -- the "amateur issue" -- was an untenable entanglement of various amateur sport governing bodies which often resulted in the United States failing to field its best, most competitive teams. With the emergence of the Soviet Union in 1952, fielding a competitive (and successful) American Olympic team took on a renewed and greater importance -- not only for the country, but for the Olympic Movement as a whole. By 1972, a long-precipitous situation had reached its zenith and external intervention was demanded. Prompted by Cold War hostilities and cognizant of the amateur issue and the resultant decline in international athletic (and non-athletic) standing, the White House grew tired of inaction and ordered executive intervention. Never before had a President's Commission, formed via executive order direct from the highest office in the country, been formed to investigate something as "trivial" as sports. The results of the Commission's investigation, out of which grew the watershed Amateur Sports Act of 1978, revolutionized the way America composed, treated, and trained its teams for international and Olympic competition.
The Dave Pickett Story: Regionalism, Eligibility, and Adjudication in Canadian University SportIn 1975, standout quarterback for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Dave Pickett unwittingly became the center of one of the most significant controversies in Canadian university sports history when he transferred to the University of Windsor. The “Dave Pickett fiasco” played out in the Ontario Supreme Court and shed an indubitable spotlight on the provincial-national jurisdictional politics that have plagued countless Canadian national organizations since Confederation (1867). Even an institution as harmless as university sport was not immune to the divisive nature of regionalism within the Canadian collective identity.
Using the Pickett eligibility crisis as a case study, this presentation aims to analyze the history of student-athlete eligibility concerns in Canada so as to better understand the internal politics of the Canadian university sport system. Then known as the CIAU and currently as U SPORTS, the overarching umbrella organization for Canadian university sport has struggled throughout its history to appease the disparate viewpoints of its four regional members (Western Canada, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes).
The 1973 Hec Crighton award-winner (university football MVP) during his three-year career with the Huskies, Pickett also played one year of varsity basketball for the university, bringing his total years of varsity eligibility to four. Under the CIAU rules at the time, student-athletes could no longer participate as varsity athletes after four years of university representation, regardless of the sport. Upon graduating from Saskatchewan, Pickett pursued a Master degree at the University of Windsor, which was a member of the Ontario University Athletic Association (OUAA), one of the regional members of the CIAU. Unlike the national organization, the OUAA’s eligibility rules permitted a five-year varsity career, thereby enabling Pickett to play one more year of football within Ontario conference league play. Subsequently, the 1975 football season was the University of Windsor’s best ever and the Lancers qualified for the national semi-finals, which were organized under the purview of the CIAU. The aforementioned discrepancy between regional and national eligibility rules thus figured prominently in a legal drama that overshadowed a historic season and unraveled a troubled history of regional disparities within the CIAU dating back to the early twentieth century.
This presentation will explore this unravelled history. Eligibility issues have marred each region respectively. Recruitment of American students in the Maritimes, the CEGEP (collegiate) system in Quebec, and the fight for athletic scholarships in the western provinces have all been – and in some cases continue to be – concerns for university administrators. The “Dave Pickett fiasco,” on the other hand, brought these concerns into the national-regional debate. By reviewing this 1975 Ontario Supreme Court case, not only will we better understand the history of student-athlete eligibility concerns but also the future discourse of Canadian university sport.
'Then we’ll have to call it ‘traditional-traditional’: Coaching rationality and indigenous games in Canadian Arctic and sub-Arctic indigenous culturesA recent re-structuring of the Canadian National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), the coaching development system administered by the Coaching Association of Canada, sought, in the early 2000s, an extension of the NCCP to the traditional games of the Inuit and Dene, the indigenous cultures of sub-arctic and arctic Canada. The NCCP development mechanism for this purpose at the time were structured workshops using a formally developed and software-based 'Participant Development Model' (PDM) designed as a needs and competency assessment for mainstream sports organizations.
Since Canadian indigenous games cultures could not reference the pre-existing coaching or instructional expertise defined through sports coaching, the development workshops were attended not by coaches, but by indigenous elders, games leaders, community recreation coordinators, and indigenous youth from across Dene and Inuit communities. The perspectives they brought to the workshops were thus not significantly pre-shaped by the habituated understandings of sports coaching rationality, but by various cultural perspectives on indigenous games and their cultural significance. In consequence, the discussions conducted at the workshops articulated significant tensions between cultural expectations concerning meaningful indigenous physical activity and games practices, and the rationality of sports coaching. In this paper, I will examine these tensions and their forms of articulation within the context of the structured 'Participant Development Model' workshops.
The author functioned as developer and facilitator of four Dene Games / Arctic Sports (Inuit Games) PDM workshops held in communities in Yukon and the Northwest Territories, in 2004 and 2005. Document sources used for this presentation consist of transcripts from workshop audio recordings, the author’s field notes, and the formal documentation (questionnaires, etc.) produced as part of the PDM workshops. The relevance of the paper consists of its consideration of the tensions produced at the interface of indigenous physical activity practices and organized sports coaching rationality.
Soft Success, Hard Failure: Sport-Diplomacy, Power and the U.S. Boycott of the 1980 Moscow OlympicsShrouded in Cold War intrigue from the moment the Games were awarded to Moscow, the 1980 Olympic Summer Games are a ripe historical example of the relationship between sport and international politics. With the possible exception of 1936 Berlin, no other Games have been as effected by diplomatic disruption as they were when U.S. President Jimmy Carter called for a western boycott in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The diplomatic maneuvers of the Carter administration in the lead-up to the Games provides us a moment in history to analyze the effectiveness of sport within diplomatic context. Whereas much of the theoretical and historical study of sport-diplomacy focuses on how the use of sport can be, and has been, best applied in international diplomatic efforts by modern nation states, the U.S. led boycott in 1980 is a stark example of failure in the use of sport to effect desired political outcomes. The Games carried on with relative success, and the Soviets remained in Afghanistan for almost a decade. Moreover, the political support that President Carter did receive both popularly and in congress had little effect on his chances of securing his re-election bid in the fall of 1980.
This study situates itself within the discourse of power as it relates to sport and diplomacy. As distinguished by Joseph Nye, the concept of power can take hard and soft form. While most successful examples of sport-diplomacy sees sport utilized as part of a government’s soft power strategy in various diplomatic contexts, the Carter administration’s use of the Olympic Games in 1980 as a punitive tool towards the Soviets was a diplomatic tactic in service of a hard power strategy. The argument made here is that the failure of the boycott, or at least its inconsequential outcome, reflects less on the very existence of the relationship between sport and politics, and more on the nature of the relationship. How sport is used by governments is an important question that demands serious attention. In 1980, the Carter administration misjudged how the sporting community would react to the use of the Olympic Games within a hard power strategic context. As such, instead of being the leaders of a morally righteous cause, as the Carter administration believed itself to be, the U.S. became what Huizinga would define as the ‘spoil-sport.’
‘The Sensational Willie O'Ree’: Race and Stardom in the Western Hockey League, 1961-1974In 1958, Willie O’Ree of Fredericton, New Brunswick, dressed for the Boston Bruins, becoming the first black player to compete in the NHL. Although his offensive output was a modest 14 points in 45 NHL games, O'Ree was praised for his incredible speed and tenacious play. Despite his talent and potential, O'Ree faced a barrage of racial discrimination during his NHL career. On the ice, opposing players targeted O'Ree with raced-based taunts and violent cheap shots. Fans in opposing rinks hollered abuse at O'Ree, loudly proclaiming their disdain for the black man who dared display his talents on equal terms with the NHL's white majority. When the Bruins learned that O'Ree was concealing an impaired eye (injured during his junior hockey days), they promptly traded him to the Montreal Canadiens. After a brief stint with the Canadiens minor league affiliate, Montreal sold O'Ree's contract to the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League (WHL).
When Willie O’Ree arrived from Canada to play for the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League (WHL), the team had amassed an abysmal 3-9-0 record to start the 1961-62 season. O’Ree joined the Blades for a 3-2 overtime loss against San Francisco, after which team ownership fined every player but O’Ree for their poor play. Although he saw limited ice time in his first outing, his speed and offensive abilities provided Blades’ fans with a glimmer of hope. With the league leading Edmonton Flyers next on the schedule, the Blades’ immediate future looked bleak. Yet, with O’Ree in the lineup, the struggling Blades held the Flyers to a 4-4 tie. Two days later, O’Ree and the Blades defeated the Flyers in a rematch. At a time when fighting in hockey went virtually unquestioned, O’Ree also held his own with his fists. Although the Blades ultimately missed the playoffs, the twenty-four year old O’Ree tallied 54 points in as many games, becoming a fan favorite in the city of Angels. Although O'Ree spent most of his career playing in the WHL, virtually no historical writing has been dedicated to this portion of his career. By examining the extensive newspaper reports pertaining to his WHL career, this paper provides a preliminary overview of O'Ree's time in the minor leagues, detailing his accomplishments and hardships between 1961 and 1974.
‘Your uniform is your membership card’: The YMCA and War-time physical education programmingThe YMCA during World War II became a constantly shifting service provider for “multiple consumers.” However, it was during the war that the YMCA experienced its biggest ever growth in sport programs for men, boys and occasionally even women and girls. The World Alliance of YMCAs came to the 1942 conclusion that their explicit goal was no longer the converting of men into church members of “good standing” but rather to build a Christian Personality in men and a Christian society at large. One method of doing so, with respect to YMCAs in North America, was to effect changes in athletic programming. A uniform became the recognized entry fee and service men took advantage of the opportunity. To bolster the loss of older male membership due to war enlistments, the YMCA’s of North America introduced swing/graveyard shifts for recreation, elaborate swimming programs, multiple physical training and leadership programs for high school-aged boys, and massive young boy’s programming elements. While Businessmen’s classes were the most profitable to operate, most other programs functioned at a deficit. Deficits, however, could be rationalized as YMCA physical programming at home during the war was to “fill their gymnasiums to get tough for war.” Amongst the physical classes themselves a major component became physical assessments, personalized physical programs, and medical examinations for all those men wishing to enlist in the armed forces. Although these “extra programs” aimed at producing men for war, they incurred massive debts for most YMCA’s, and yet it appeared that most YMCAs (all in control of their own fiscal and programming decisions) agreed with the boost in physical programming and the need of athletics for a healthy nation at war, despite incurring larger and larger debts.
The history of Mixed Martial Arts in Canada, 1996-2011In this presentation, I will explore the turbulent history of mixed martial arts (MMA) in Canada. MMA’s actual history began with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993, in Denver, Colorado. Shortly thereafter, the sport of MMA was brought to Canada, in 1996 as a means of circumventing American legislation, which increasingly placed pressure upon the activity by virtue of its overt violence. However, MMA was met with equal resistance in Canada, as several fighters were arrested by Quebec Provincial Police following the first major MMA event in Canada. It was this moment that marks the beginning of the sport’s turbulent and controversial history in Canada. However, just 15 years later, the city of Toronto would host the largest MMA event in North American history, when more than 55,000 fans filled the Rogers Centre for UFC 129.
In this presentation, I will explore the development of the sport in Canada, from its initial introduction as a means of circumventing American legislation, to its contemporary place in Canada as a significant sporting spectacle. How has MMA in Canada evolved from an ostensibly criminal activity to a major sporting entity and mainstay in the sporting landscape of the country in a 15-year span?
Data for this study will be sourced from both major Canadian newspapers, as well as MMA specific media, such as blogs and websites. The newspapers for this study will include The Toronto Star, National Post, Globe and Mail, and Montreal Gazette, as these are the four largest newspapers in the country and have sport sections that have written about MMA. Blogs and websites will be included in data sourcing, because MMA has only existed for little more than the last 20 years, and thus has developed along side the Internet. MMA websites have developed as an important segment in the media of the sport for their thorough coverage and reporting.
The significance of this paper resides in its contribution to the unwritten history of Canadian combative sports. The history of MMA in Canada has yet to be rewritten, from neither an academic nor popular media point of view. Therefore, the writing of this history is important to fill this gap in knowledge. As well, this study will act as an important basis to build upon further research into Canadian MMA. Providing the contextual history of MMA and modern combative sports history in Canada is vital as a basis for future research.