30 / CHRONICLESndents set the cause of labor back somen40 years. Similarly, the student riotersnof the late 1960’s and early 1970’s sawnthe public turn against them whennthey began using bombs that broughtnrandom danger to life and property.nIn short, violence has not been “asnAmerican as apple pie” — exceptnamong historians and sociologists whonbend the facts to suit their preconceivednideas. For anyone who hasnstudied—and understood—Americannhistory, the wonder is not that SannFranciscans twice rose up in publicnanger to restore security of life andnproperty—or that in this age when thenPlayers of the Game by Bryce J. Christensenn” … to chase the rolling circle’s speednOr urge the Hying ball…”n—Thomas GraynSnake by Ken Stabler and BerrynStainback, New York: Doubleday;n$15.95.nThe Mick by Mickey Mantle andnHerb Gluck, New York: Doubleday;n$15.95.nThe Puritans, who once condemnednstool ball, quoits, andnbowls, would stand in stern judgmentnof the millions of Americans whonevery Sunday choose a ball game overnchurch attendance. Yet game-playingndid begin in ritual and religion, andnthe Latin word for temple, fanum,ngave us the modern fan, applied to thensports enthusiast. In Sports in thenWestern World (1982), William J.nBaker argues that “the actual beginningsnof sport” may be found in “religiousnfear” and in “rituals designed tonplacate the unknown powers that peoplencalled gods.”nPlacating the gods does not appearnto be the aim of modern sports, butnparticipants and viewers alike do demonstratenan almost religious passion fornpattern, for rules, and for triumph. Asnthe sportswriter Skip Hollandworth putnit: “Sports have all the trappings ofnreligion, the sacred Sunday ritual ofnsquatting by the television and rootingnW^nLeft to right: Mickey Mantle, Dennis Roman, Ken Stabler, Coach BearnBryant before the 1968 Cotton Bowl Game. (Photo: University of Alabama)nnncourts have been rendered inelEcientnand our jails have become revolvingndoors for criminals, one man recentlynpulled out a pistol to shoot subwaynterrorists; rather, the wonder is that farnmore riders of the subway are notnwearing a brace of Mr. Colt’s pistols tonenforce ad hoc justice.nfor the team of light over the team ofndarkness, the spectacle of uniformsnand banners, the adoration of saintlikenheroes, the desperate pleas fornsalvation and victory.”nThe apparently aimless flux ofneveryday life leaves a craving for ordernthat must be satisfied—at the ballnpark, if not in the sanctuary, synagogue,nor poetry seminar. And at antime when many of America’s ecclesiasticalnleaders try to erase the distinctionsnseparating men and women,nsports at least still honors the Godgivenndifferences between the sexes.nBecause millions of American boys nonlonger participate in an annual harvestnor hunt, all-male sports provide anmuch-needed alternative way to establishnsex identity. Historically, as WilliamnBaker points out, the rise of thengreat modern team sports coincidednwith industrial urbanization and itsnattendant “exodus from the countrysideninto the cities.” City folk cravednsome reminder of how men and boysnonce moved in rythmical harmonynacross the fields.nStill, popular games provide a poornrecreation of lost agrarian patterns andnan even poorer replacement for religiousnritual. The rules and the objectivesnof sports lie lightly on the surfacenof the natural world, penetrating nondeeper than the chalk lines marked onngrass fields. Even before the gamenbegins, the teams and the permissiblenoutcomes have all been predetermined,nand the player who pauses tonponder on possible relationships withnhis fellow man will quickly be embarrassednby a ball that slips between hisnlegs or a fullback who knocks himndown.nBut as the forces of modernity eatnBryce Christensen is editor of ThenFamily in America.n