The Ivory Tower and the Press Box: Towards Total Fútbol Writing

Peter Alegi: This is my video blog contribution to the Football Scholars Forum roundtable taking place on Saturday, April 12, 2014, at the global fútbological conclave known as the Soccer as the Beautiful Game conference at Hofstra University. Comments welcome!

4 thoughts to “The Ivory Tower and the Press Box: Towards Total Fútbol Writing”

  1. An interesting and nicely articulated discussion on the differences between academic and mainstream (non-academic) priorities. At UMass recently we hosted Adam Hochschild (author of “King Leopold’s Ghost” and other books), who has had no formal training as a historian and yet is a best selling author of books of history. In conversation we agreed that while academic historians are focused on arguments and evidence authors of more popular works of historical non-fiction tend to be more concerned with characters and stories. I’m not sure how to reconcile this difference but it seems to me an important part of the conversation. I’d be interested to hear how members of the roundtable think about this question.

  2. Thanks for this Peter, it’s great to see an academic brave the camera, well done!
    I am wondering about how the structure of training and entering the field of journalism has changed over the past decade. On the academic side, I worry about how diminishing funds for field research in the social sciences and humanities might threaten that valuable “breaking bread” opportunities.
    I am very guilty of not paying enough attention to what’s happening on the pitch, a good reminder!

  3. Brenda: you raise a critical issue, that of research funding. Right now, Congress is considering a proposed $30 million cut to the Fulbright program ( This cut would significantly threaten our ability to properly train graduate (and some undergrad) students in the U.S. by taking away one of the only available funding opportunities for humanities and social science research in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. It would probably leave most research funds in the hands of philanthropic foundations or the Defense Department (as with the Boren language fellowships). We discussed the implications for Africa-based research of the 2011 catastrophic wave of cuts to international education on our “Africa Past & Present” podcast:

    Brian: thanks for your comment. I regularly assign Hochschild’s *King Leopold’s Ghosts* in my 200-student intro to Africa class. He visited archives in researching that mesmerizing book as he did for his subsequent book *Bury the Chains”, a gripping account of the abolitionist movement in Britain. Another factor that sets Hochschild apart from many journalists is that he’s based in the academy, currently running the journalism program at UC Berkeley ( On the question of writing style, I agree with you that good journalists like Hochschild (or Ryszard Kapuscinski, Basil Davidson) construct rich and complex characters to humanize stories about the past. This is true of some football writers too, such as Joe McGinniss, for example, author of *The Miracle of Castel di Sangro.* But it is also true of some historians who prefer a more literary style, like Laurent Dubois in *Soccer Empire* for example. In the end, evocative characters and a good story alone are not enough; they need to be complemented by qualitative research in libraries, archives, and time spent in the field.

  4. Thanks for this great post, Peter. Very good insights. FHaving straddled both sides of the academic/journalism divide, recognition of the different pressures you address is a key point (as is citation – citation!).

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