Legends Never Die
Athletes and their Afterlives in Modern America
Richard Ian Kimball
A pioneering look at the myths and collective memories that surround athletes
who die young.
"This is a fascinating and engaging study with relevance to the fields of sport
studies, history, and American studies. . . . It will have great potential to attract
a broader readership as well given its popular subject matter and readability."—Travis Vogan, author of Keepers of the Flame: NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media
Richard Ian Kimball is associate professor of history at Brigham Young University.
He is the author of Sports in Zion: Mormon Recreation, 1890–1940.
Book Description »[Close »]
With every touchdown, home run, and three-pointer, star athletes represent
an American dream that only an elite group blessed with natural talent can
achieve. However, Kimball concentrates on what happens once these modern
warriors meet their untimely demise. As athletes die, legends rise in their place.
The premature deaths of celebrated players not only capture and immortalize
their physical superiority, but also jolt their fans with an unanticipated
intensity. These athletes escape the inevitability of aging and decline of skill,
with only the prime of their youth left to be remembered. But early mortality
alone does not transform athletes into immortals. The living ultimately gain the
power to construct the legacies of their fallen heroes. In Legends Never Die,
Kimball explores the public myths and representations that surround a wide
range of athletes, from Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio to Dale Earnhardt and
Bonnie McCarroll. Kimball delves deeper than just the cultural significance of
sports and its players; he examines how each athlete’s narrative is shaped by
gender relations, religion, and politics in contemporary America. In looking at
how Americans react to the tragic deaths of sports heroes, Kimball illuminates
the important role sports play in US society and helps to explain why star athletes
possess such cultural power.
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6 x 9, 216 pages, 11 b/w illustrations, notes, bibliography, index