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O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs (Religion and American Culture) Paperback – October 15, 2003


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O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs (Religion and American Culture) + Freedoms Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers
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Product Details

  • Series: Religion and American Culture
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (October 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231127499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231127493
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,032,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

How did Catholic girls in Philadelphia in the 1940s amuse themselves? Why, by playing basketball, of course! Drawing on that 30-year-tradition of hoops mania, little Immaculata College won the first three women's NCAA college basketball championships in the early 1970s. Byrne, a religion professor, brings a fascinating point of view to the history of this unlikely ball club, arguing that the young women's spiritual values, as much as their physical skills, helped make them champions. The sports-religion connection is examined in fascinating depth, as Byrne probes the traditional Catholic position on sports, effectively building the case that basketball allowed young women the opportunity to be expressive without sacrificing their Catholic beliefs. Interviews with hundreds of Immaculata alums provide Byrne with plenty of anecdotal evidence to back up her claim that these athletes helped shape a generation of women. In an era when athletes' values are routinely under attack, this is perhaps the most unusual sports book of the season. Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

The sports-religion connection is examined in fascinating depth, as Byrne probes the traditional Catholic position on sports, effectively building the case that basketball allowed young women the opportunity to be expressive without sacrificing their Catholic beliefs... In an era when athletes' values are routinely under attack, this is perhaps the most unusual sports book of the season.

(Mary Frances Wilkens Booklist)

Entertaining and eyeopening...Students in women's studies, religion, and sociology would benefit from this well-documented book.

(Library Journal)

A vivid portrait of how faith can develop strong athletes, and how sports can help grow faith.

(Nancy Kruh Dallas Morning News)

Terrific... [Byrne's] nostalgic about the days when a little-engine-that-thinks-it-can could actually win a national championship, and clear-eyed enough to understand that the implementation of Title IX has erased the possibiity that it could happen again... [T]he story of the team that won three titles on a shoestring and a prayer makes a good book.

(NPR, Only a Game)

O God offers a vivid portrait of how faith can develop strong athletes, and how sports can help grow faith.

(Nancy Kruh Knight Ridder Tribune)

The Immaculata story has long needed a comprehensive telling, and Julie Byrne does an excellent job in O God of Players....[It] is a necessary addition to basketball literature.

(Philadelphia City Paper)

The reader will discover how these pioneers opened the door for young girls across the US, encouraging them to enjoy sports, especially basketball, and have fun idolizing their role models, who did their part to liberate national attitudes about women's athletics. This is a great book. Essential.

(Choice)

Byrne's engaging social history of the Macs examines everything from the development of Philly's fearsome hoops culture to racial and religious bigotry to the challenge of coaching young ladies whose role model was the Virgin Mother.

(Philadelphia Magazine)

With Byrne acting as translator, their stories are compelling indeed...Her readable style was one of the reasons why I assigned it.

(Kathleen Sprows Cummings American Catholic Studies Newsletter)

O God of Players details this basketball world, offering a window into an unexplored corner of American women's sports and American Catholicism.

(Pamela Grundy The Journal of American History)

This book is an important contribution to the history of American religion and American sport, this represents a signal achievement... If god moves in mysterious ways, we clearly need more local studies like this to understand how people live out those mysteries in everyday life.

(Richard Ian Kimball American Historical Review)

This ingenious study should find a place in both survey and seminar courses.

(Religious Studies Review)

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
Fans of women's basketball should add this book to their libraries. Cathy Rush of Immaculata started what was to become women's basketball. Several of her players went on to become coaches of leading college teams and a few became involved in the WNBA.

Byrne tells the story with loving detail, based mostly on interviews with players, coaches and teachers. If anything,, she can be faulted for being too much in love with her subject, so she ends up being more descriptive than analytical. I would have liked to see more interpretation of the material. O God of Players lacks the immediacy of true journalism (see In These Girls Hope is a Muscle, an account of a high school team's championship year) and also the scholarship associated with academic history.

Just as historians ask what events came together to spark World War I, we could ask what events ame together to spark a mighty basketball team in a small backwater women's college? Just a few small coincidences or a convergence of social trends?

As Byrne points out, most religions attempt to make rules to control the body, especially the female body. So why did Catholicism embrace basketball, while other religions did not? Was there a unique relationship between pre-Vatican Catholic doctrine and basketball values?

Byrne raises the issue of conflict between religion and basketball but doesn't really dig in. We get no sense of how players interacted in class, beyond fond memories of being excused for practice. We do get a sense of how the players experienced basketball uniquely because of their religious tradition, as players recall their modesty in early locker rooms. And we get a hint of the awkwardness associated with Cathy Rush's non-Catholic status.
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Expected it to be more about the team, and not so much about the school philosophy. Team discussion was fine
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