RELST 363 / WES 300-05: Schedule of Readings & Assignments

August 24: Course introductions, expectations

Getting Started

August 29 – September 5: Methods for Interpretation

VIEW (in-class): Nine Innings from Ground Zero (2004)


Russell McCutcheon, “What is the Academic Study of Religion?” (from author’s professional Web page)

Andrew Mullen, “Are Video Games a Sport?” (from Marlin Chronicle, 2013)

Clifford Geertz, “Religion as a Cultural System” (from The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973)

[(by November 9): Phil Jackson, Sacred Hoops (entire)]

Locating Sport in U.S. Religious History

September 7 – September 12: The Protestant Model


William J. Baker, Playing for God, pages 1-63;

Ruth Moon, “Pastors Blame Kids’ Sports for Attendance Dips” (from Christianity Today, 2013)

DUE (on September 7): Film Response #1 (on Nine Innings from Ground Zero)

PROMPT: Thinking about the Geertz reading – particularly his definition of religion – and the other general categories we’ve discussed related to religion (myth, ritual, sacred space, and sacred time), how might you understand the various manifestations of religion in Nine Innings from Ground Zero?

September 14 – September 19: Sport in the Protestant Model


William J. Baker, Playing for God, pages 64-107;

Sean O’Neil, “Tim Tebow, Protestant Saint: When the Myth Fits…” (from Religion Dispatches, 2011);

Angela Denker, “Colin Kaepernick and the Powerful, Religious Act of Kneeling” (from Washington Post, 2017);

Philip Pullella, “Vatican to Field Cricket Team, Take on Anglican Church” (from Reuters, 2013);

[(by November 9): Phil Jackson, Sacred Hoops (entire)]

VIEW (by September 14): Chariots of Fire (1981)

Acculturation & Americanization

September 21 – September 26: Non-Protestants in America


William J. Baker, Playing for God, pages 218-239;

Alan Baldwin, “International Basketball Rule Change Allows Players to Wear Religious Headgear” (from Religion News Service, 2017)

Chuck Bennett, “Devotion Wins Out” (from New York Post, 2013)

Michael Leahy, “Should American Catholics Cheer for Old Notre Dame?” (From Washington Post, 2013).

DUE (on September 21): Film Response #2 (on Chariots of Fire)

PROMPT: Thinking about the reading from Baker’s Playing with God, consider Chariots of Fire and the ways in which the characters employ their different religions – and yet the same sport – in their respective personal struggles.

VIEW (by September 21): Rudy (1993)


September 28 – October 3: The Religion of Sport


William J. Baker, Playing for God, pages 129-217;

Rebecca Alper, “Introduction,” in Religion and Sports, pages 2-35.

Vernon L. Andrews, “Rituals of the African American Domus: Church, Community, Sport, and Lebron James” (from God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture, 2nd edn., ed. Eric Michael Mazur and Kate McCarthy, 2011);

Michael Serazio, “Just How Much is Sports Fandom Like Religion?” (from Atlantic, 2013)

DUE (on September 28): Film Response #3 (on Rudy)

PROMPT: Thinking the reading from Baker’s Playing with God, consider the relationship of Catholicism, Notre Dame University, football, and the central characters from Rudy (Rudy, his father, his friends, the priest, and Fortune.

VIEW (by September 28): The Natural (1984)

October 5 – October 10: Nationalism & Internationalism

READ (by October 5):

McClymond, “Of Fists and Feathers” (from Ritual Gone Wrong)

William J. Baker, Playing for God, pages 108-128;

[(by November 9): Phil Jackson, Sacred Hoops (entire)]

DUE (on October 10): Film Response #4 (on The Natural)

PROMPT: Consider how the mystical (or magical) elements represented in The Natural might reinforce the narrative, its themes, and its reliance on sport (or baseball in particular).

DUE (by October 10): “Case Study Project” conference

October 12:  NO CLASS (Fall Break)

October 17 – October 19: Research Methods

October 24 – October 26: Sacred Space & Time

READ (by October 24):

Mircea Eliade, chapters 1-2 (from The Sacred and the Profane, 1957)

VIEW (by October 24): Field of Dreams (1989)

October 31 – November 2: Sport, Religion, & Ethics


William J. Baker, Playing for God, pages 240-262;

Bron Taylor, “Surfing into Spirituality and a New, Aquatic Nature Religion” (from the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 2007) 

DUE (on October 31): Film Response #5 (on Field of Dreams)

PROMPT: Using the Eliade readings, discuss the presentation and use of sacred space and sacred time in Field of Dreams.

VIEW (by October 31): Tin Cup (1996)

November 7: Paper Mechanics

DUE: “Case Study Project” paper draft

The Home “Stretch”?

November 9 – November 14: Non-Protestant Models

READ (by November 9): Jackson, Sacred Hoops

DUE (on November 9): Film Response #6 (on Tin Cup)

PROMPT: In terms of what we have discussed in class, identify the ethical dilemmas the various characters face in Tin Cup, and the basis / foundation on which they make their decisions.

VIEW (by November 9): The Legend of Bagger Vance (2001)

November 16: “Case Study Project” Presentations

November 21: NO CLASS (Instructor away)

November 23: NO CLASS (Thanksgiving)

November 28 – November 31: “Case Study Project” Presentations

DUE (on November 28): Film Response #7 (on The Legend of Bagger Vance)

PROMPT: Consider the ways in which The Legend of Bagger Vance uses Christian and non-Christian models to express its major themes / points.

December 5: Conclusions

December 7:

DUE:  “Case Study Project” final papers (2:00 pm)