Music Feature

Book Review: More Than a Game: Life Lessons from Philadelphia's Sports Communities

by Sasha C. Mendez
Sports have always stood for more. Its playing with your friends. Its watching your parents cheer you in the stands. Its giving your son the glove you played with. Its not letting down your teammates. Its digging deeper. Its trying harder. Its winning. Its losing. Its learning from both. Sports is a lot of things. But its not just a game.
life lessons

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The Rocky classic has in many ways become the idolized narrative of success by many a local Philadelphia resident and tourist alike. The heartwarming tale of a working-class South Philly boxer who achieves the success of a world title through hard work and the graces of the universe has made the struggling Philadelphian believe that they too can conquer over life’s struggles if they try hard enough and have that oh-so essential spark of luck. The Rocky narrative has become an almost religious backdrop to sports culture in Philadelphia. However, Rocky, despite its treasured status does not accurately portray how sports operate in and serve to shape the Philadelphia community.  

Eliot Shorr-Parks and Steve Parks craftily recognize and present the ways Philadelphia Sports, through high school teams, community sports leagues, and professional franchises work together to provide resources and weave a “greater sense of opportunity and community” specifically within urban neighborhoods under "tremendous stress".  More Than a Game: Life Lessons from Philadelphia Sports Communities is a piece that captures how sports within the 215 build life-long relationships and strong characters.     

The book reads like a true Philadelphia narrative as it is a conversation, or rather chapters of conversations from a diverse group of people who have come up in Philadelphia and engaged in sports locally both as fans and or professionals during a variety of eras. The authors did what any great documenters of the human spirit do; they let the people tell their own story. 

Some of the perspectives presented are those of Leroy Johnson, Rami Ibrahim, Nick Bradley, Ed Rendell, Carlos Ruiz, Angelo Cataladi, and Sonny Hill. These are all people who really encapsulate passion, the will to fight for the community, and most importantly a dedication to the art of sports. They are the  authentic everyday "Rocky" that everyone knows. These are Philly folk who have been personally shaped by sports, whether it was by going to the 'Vet' to watch a game with their Dad or by creating a community league to counter drug culture. 

More Than a Game: Life Lessons from Philadelphia Sports Communities does a fantastic job in presenting the values and importance of sports beyond the media stereotypes. Shorr-Parks and Parks deliver a classic piece on local history, culture, and fandom that can be valued by everyone from a cultural anthropologist to little leaguer.  

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