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Critical and Cultural Perspectives

Edited by Thomas P Oates and Zachary Furness

Foreword by Michael Oriard

The National Football League is one of the most significant cultural engines in contemporary American life. Yet despite intense and near ubiquitous media coverage, commentators rarely turn a critical lens on the league to ask what material and social forces have contributed to its success, and how the NFL has influenced public life in the United States.

The editors of and contributors to The NFL examine the league as a culturally, economically, and politically powerful presence in American life. The essays explore how the NFL is packaged for commercial consumption, the league's influence on American identity, and its relationship to state and cultural militarism.

The NFL is the first collection of critical essays to focus attention on the NFL as a cultural force. It boldly moves beyond popular celebrations of the sport and toward a fuller understanding of football's role in shaping contemporary sport, media, and everyday life.

Contributors include: David L. Andrews, Aaron Baker, Michael Butterworth, Nicholas P. Ciotola, Jacob Dittmer, Dan Grano, Samantha King, Kyle Kusz, Toby Miller, Ronald L. Mower, Dylan Mulvin, Oliver J.C. Rick, Katie Rodgers, and the editors.


"There's a lot new in this book. While there is a tradition in the Commonwealth countries in particular, but also in Latin America, Spain, Italy and like, of studying football critically and culturally, there has not been a volume focused, in a somewhat thorough way, on the NFL in the context of contemporary America."
—Lawrence Wenner

"The National Football League continues to have a significant cultural impact on American life. But how and why has this occurred? This interesting and informative collection of critical essays does an admirable job of answering this question.... This worthwhile volume is enhanced by a comprehensive index. Summing Up: Highly recommended."

" One thing that the authors in The NFL do so well is analyze the larger and cultural meanings of the mundane…. Authors also comprehensively study topics related to cultural themes, particularly on masculinity in the NFL…. The NFL describes the cultural phenomenon of the game, and sheds light on why so many Americans are enthralled with the sport. More importantly, though, it demonstrates the nexus of cultural and social politics with unarguably the most popular form of sporting entertainment in the United States. Any scholar of sport or popular culture would be remiss to not take seriously The NFL because, as the anthology clearly shows, the NFL remains ‘one of the most significant engines of contemporary culture’.”
Sport in American History

"The editors take an interdisciplinary cultural studies approach to critically analyze the NFL.... The anthology is a welcome addition to the extant literature and serves as an antidote to the often laudatory coverage presented by the media."
—Journal of Sports History

"Oates and Furness, offers readers twelve provocative and well-researched chapters on ethical and social problems found within the National Football League…. Therefore, readers of this collection will be faced with a decision: (a) criticism, cynicism, and despair about the current state of the NFL, or (b) careful analysis, realistic hopefulness, and a reparative attitude toward how high-quality scholarship will bring about a potentially healthier and more reasonable future for the NFL."
American Studies

About the Author(s)

Thomas P. Oates is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Journalism & Mass Communication at The University of Iowa. His work on sports, media, and contemporary culture has appeared in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies and the Sociology of Sport Journal.

Zack Furness is Assistant Professor of Communications at Penn State University, Greater Allegheny. He is the editor of Punkademics and the author of One Less Car: Bicycling and the Politics of Automobility (Temple).

In the Series


As an international cultural activity for athleticism, spectatorship, and global cultural exchange, sport is unmatched by any other force on earth. And yet it remains a consistently understudied dimension of history and cultural studies. Sporting, edited by Amy Bass, aims to contribute to the study of sport by publishing works by people across a range of disciplines, by professional sportswriters, and by athletes to add substance to our still emerging notion of globalization.

Also of Interest

One Less Car

Zachary Furness