"A Ball As Big As the Moon": Sports in Richard Ford's Fiction (Critical Essay) "A Ball As Big As the Moon": Sports in Richard Ford's Fiction (Critical Essay)

"A Ball As Big As the Moon": Sports in Richard Ford's Fiction (Critical Essay‪)‬

Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature 2007, Fall-Wntr, 25, 1

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Publisher Description

Despite the popularity of Richard Ford's The Sportswriter and the fact that sporting figures and references to sport occur throughout Ford's fiction, few readers would characterize that fiction as about sport. Aside from one account of a brief but brutal boxing match in Mexico in The Ultimate Good Luck, a glimpse of a televised NBA game in The Sportswriter, and seemingly casual remarks about baseball games attended or watched on television, actual sporting events are absent from Ford's fiction. Moreover, no one sport dominates a novel or short story to the extent that it would qualify that work as sport literature insofar as Michael Oriard's definition is concerned, that definition being that sport fiction depends upon the indispensability of sport for a given work's overall effectiveness, and that "good sports [fiction] also exploit[s] the potential inherent in the specific sports with which [it] deals" (Aethlon 14.1, 8). Ford's fiction meets neither of these criteria. Close reading of the complete fiction reveals, however, that sport in Ford's work offers more than cultural background for his plots and characters. While complete games and extended portraits of athletes are absent from the stories and novels, there are enough glimpses of boxing matches, references to broadcast games, cameo appearances of jocks, and discussions of the significance of sport to suggest that sporting endeavors are, for the author, a serious preoccupation, one through which he systematically questions the mythology surrounding athletes and their endeavors in our culture. Taken in the aggregate, Ford's references to sport persistently undermine and demythologize traditional attitudes toward sport and sporting experiences: the idea that athletics build character, the notion that baseball is a metaphor for life, the myth of the "playing fields of Eton." On the other hand, while Ford denies the applicability of sports to life in general, he consistently affirms certain fundamental elements of games and play as worthwhile if not admirable. The notion of centeredness, of the flow experience so focused on a given activity that all thought of exterior approval, financial reward, or (most significantly) philosophical or pedagogical implications evaporate is consistently extolled throughout Ford's work. And if there is ally carryover from sport to "life," any way that one prepares us for the other, it is through the idea of "being" and "doing" rather than thinking and evaluating.

GENRE
Reference
RELEASED
2007
22 September
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
25
Pages
PUBLISHER
Sports Literature Association
SELLER
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.
SIZE
357.4
KB

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