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Something Like the Gods: A Cultural History of the Athlete from Achilles to Lebronby Stephen Amidon
Synopses & Reviews
A lively, literary exploration of one of the Wests most iconic cultural figures—the athlete
Why is the athlete so important to us? Few public figures can dominate the public imagination with such power and authority. Even in our cynical times, when celebrities can be debunked at the speed of light, many still look to athletes as models for our moral and emotional lives. An aging fastballer goes for a few last wins in his final season, and he becomes an exemplar for our daily struggles against time.
A top golfer cheats on his wife, and his behavior sparks a symposium on marital fidelity more wideranging than if the lapse had come from a politician or religious leader.
Drawing from art, literature, politics, and history, Something Like the Gods explores the powerful grip the athlete has always held on the Western imagination. Amidon examines the archetype of the competitor as it evolved from antiquity to the present day, from athlete-warriors such as Achilles and Ulysses to global media icons like Ali, Jordan, and Tiger Woods.
Above all, Something Like the Gods is a lyrical study that will appeal to anyone who has ever imagined themselves in the spikes, boots, or sneakers of our greatest athletes—or wondered why people do.
"Amidon's examination of the athlete as Western icon — from violent warrior in ancient times to trending topic in today's 24/7 entertainment culture — is erudite and entertaining. Drawing from a vast and diverse range of sources, including literature, film, politics, and history, Amidon (coauthor, The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart) effectively argues that the athlete's 'power to provoke awe has not diminished' over the millennia. Working forward from historian Gerhard Lukas's assertion that spear throwing — practiced at least 72,000 years ago — was the first sport, Amidon traces the engrossing evolution of the athlete. The author shows how the type of deadly combat depicted in Homer's Iliad gave way to the original Greek Olympics in 776 B.C.E., which featured nude male competitors and introduced the concept of the athlete as hero — 'a figure who bridged the gap between the sacred and the secular.' Amidon also covers the earliest forms of athletic free agency (as exemplified by the knight errant), the birth of the modern Olympics, 'athletic apartheid,' the rise of college sports and the female athlete in the late 1800s, the doping era, athletes as brands, and the high moral standard to which today's athletes are often held. Deftly balancing big-picture assessments with particular case studies — including Brandi Chastain and Tiger Woods — Amidon's treatise will please scholars and spectators alike. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Stephen Amidon is the coauthor of The Sublime Engine and the author of six novels, including The New City and Human Capital. He lives in western Massachusetts.
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