Personally Speaking talk to explore sport as religion

Dan Grano
Thursday, September 5, 2019

From the opening kickoff in exhibition football season to a sudden death playoff at the Masters, sports arguably are America’s most popular pastime, not to mention a lucrative career for elite athletes. The Personally Speaking Series kicks off its 10th season Tuesday, Sept. 24, with a hard look at the relationship between sports and religion.

“The Eternal Present of Sport: Rethinking Sport and Religion” considers the importance of religious images and ideas in contemporary sport controversies such as performance enhancement, the head-trauma crisis and pay-for-play in collegiate athletics. Many people believe sport is “religious” in that it provides an escape from politics. Author Daniel Grano argues, instead, that religion is a source of crisis and change in sport.

Grano, a professor of Communication Studies in UNC Charlotte’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, states that contemporary sport crises are taking shape around popular religious ideals.

For example, fans and sportswriters have long emphasized how elite athletic accomplishments prove individuals can “transcend” previously held limits in human potential, yet performance enhancement (doping, prosthetics) visibly shifts the bases of that transcendence from human to extra-human sources of agency.

Live sport broadcasts remain the most valuable television commodity in the world in large part because of religious ideals surrounding the “witnessing” of history, but contemporary media technologies (especially instant replay) train viewers to question leagues’ and governing bodies’ authority over determining outcomes and writing histories.

These and other examples require a different understanding of “religion” as a source of foundational social and political changes taking place in sport.  “The Eternal Presence of Sport” received the Outstanding Book Award from the Communication and Sport Division of the National Communication Association.

Join Grano for the first presentation in the 2019-20 Personally Speaking Series, Tuesday, Sept. 24, at UNC Charlotte Center City. This marks the 10th season in which UNC Charlotte’ s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, in partnership with J. Murrey Atkins Library and UNC Charlotte Center City, has presented free public conversations between its published scholars and the community about faculty research and the resulting books.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. with Grano’s presentation at 7 p.m., followed by a dessert reception and book signing. RSVPs are required. Information about parking and other details will be emailed to registrants by 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23.