Basketball and Magic in “Middletown”

Mark Dyreson

in Rooting for the Home Team

Published by University of Illinois Press

Published in print May 2013 | ISBN: 9780252037610
Published online April 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780252094859 | DOI:
Basketball and Magic in “Middletown”

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This chapter examines the passion for Indiana high school basketball that social scientists Robert and Helen Lynd tackled in their 1929 book Middletown: A Study in Contemporary American Culture. In their study the Lynds revealed that Middletown was a real place—Muncie, Indiana. The Bearcats was the actual name of the high school basketball team at Muncie Central High School. They explained how basketball captured the magical essence of Muncie, insisting that “Magic Middletown,” the cultural essence of the community, appeared more fully on the high school basketball court than in any other realm of heartland tribal life. The Lynds's work on “Magic Middletown” marked a turning point in American social science and placed the idea that sport forged community firmly into the scholarly lexicon. This chapter also considers the history of race in Muncie Central basketball that reveals how “they” became “we” in Magic Middletown, raising a variety of questions that remained far beyond the boundaries of the Lynds's sociological imaginations.

Keywords: race; high school basketball; Middletown; American culture; Muncie Central High School; Magic Middletown; community; social science; sport

Chapter.  7590 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure

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