David Maraniss Lecture

When looking at the topics to be discussed by David Maraniss, it was hard to fathom how he could make all the topics blend into one. Politics, race and sports are all extremely important concepts past and present in our country, but don’t have particularly much in common. Maraniss was able to interlock them in a way that most journalists would not be able to do. 

From 1960-61, Maraniss considered it to be the defining moment when politics, race and sports were woven together. Wilma Rudolph, an African American women track star, won three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics. A year later, the Freedom Riders were arrested for rioting. 1961 is also the year that presidential candidate Barack Obama was born. Although people did not know it at the time, it was the stepping stones for a new America. Without the influences of Wilma Rudolph and the Freedom Riders, it probably would not be possible for Barack to be in the position he is in today. 

It was also interesting how Maraniss tied in sports figures like Vince Lombardi and Roberto Clemente in the speech. At the time, segregation was a major issue. Famous black athletes and marines were not allowed in public places where white people were in attendance. Roberto Clemente was a viewed as a hero in his hometown of Puerto Rico, but when he came back to the States he was not allowed to eat in the cafeteria of his own stadium. Speaking about Vince Lombardi, Maraniss considered him to be extremely influential in the decline of racism in sports. Lombardi would go to the bars around Green Bay and make sure his black players were treated fairly or none of the players would be allowed to go to them. Lombardi wanted equality for his teammates, on and off the field. 

The comment that struck me in the lecture was sports and politics could be trivial or extremely important, depending on how the viewer looks at them. This tied in the whole lecture, start to finish.


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