Discovering the Object of the Game
By John Fox
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780061881794, 400pp.)
Publication Date: May 2012
Categories: Baseball - Essays & Writings
Anthropologist John Fox sets off on a worldwide adventure to the farthest reaches of the globe and the deepest recesses of our ancient past to answer a question inspired by his sports-loving son:
"Why do we play ball?"
From Mexican jungles to the small-town gridirons of Ohio, from medieval villages and royal courts to modern soccer pitches and baseball parks, The Ball explores the little-known origins of our favorite sports across the centuries, and traces how a simple invention like the ball has come to stake an unrivaled claim on our passions, our money, and our lives. Equal parts history and travelogue, The Ball removes us from the scandals and commercialism of today's sports world to uncover the true reasons we play ball, helping us reclaim our universal connection to the games we love.
John Fox has excavated ancient ball courts in Central America, traced Marco Polo's route across China, and bicycled Africa's Rift Valley in search of human origins. He has contributed commentary to Vermont Public Radio as well as Smithsonian, Outside, and Salon, among other publications. He lives in Boston.
“Anybody who has ever thrown, caught, bounced, hit (or whiffed) a ball will mightilyenjoy John Fox’s stories of where all these balls came from, and why, from our earliestdays, they have been such an integral part of the very fun that makes us human.”
-Frank DeFord, author of The Old Ball Game
“[In THE BALL], a realm of behavior that we take for granted is seen anew in all of its original strangeness. The ball itself—whether made of grass and beeswax, opossum pelts, kangaroo scrotums or seal hides—is depicted freshly as an extraordinary invention of human happiness.”
-Will Blythe, The Wall Street Journal
“John Fox is dauntless…The Ball is a fascinating read that – like a good ball game – is both compelling and fun.”
“John Fox is equal parts historian, anthropologist, world traveler, sports nut, and storyteller. The Ball is a fascinating exploration not just of the games we play but why we play them—of what our ballgames tell us about ourselves.”
-William Landay, New York Times bestselling author of Defending Jacob
“A fun and anecdotal new book…which uses the evolution of the ball itself to trace mankind’s progress from prehistory through ancient Egypt and gladiatorial Rome to the births of modern sports like tennis and “base-ball.”
-New York Post
“In tracing the fascinating history of ball games — from the primal contests between prehistoric tribes playing with stuffed balls of grass, to the hypercommercialized violence of twenty-first-century Super Bowls — readers witness the evolution of more than just sports…A book for fans and scholars alike!”
“An anthropologist and freelance journalist debuts with a peripatetic analysis of our ball games — where they came from, how they evolved and why we love them. Fox darts around the globe to show us the origins of our games…crackerjack reporting crackles throughout.”