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Assessment of Flashpoint | Sport in American Historical past


Catsam, Derek Charles. Flashpoint: How a Little-Recognized Sporting Occasion Fueled America’s Anti-Apartheid Motion. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021. Pp. xxviii + 213. 10 unnumbered pages of plates and index. $34.00 hardcover, $32.00 e-book.

Reviewed by Tony Calandrillo

In Flashpoint: How a Little-Recognized Sporting Occasion Fueled America’s Anti-Apartheid Motion, Derek Charles Catsam, Professor of Historical past on the College of Texas-Permian Basin, chronicles how the South African Nationwide Rugby Staff’s 1981 US tour ignited a stagnant anti-apartheid motion in the US, forcing the nation to confront the Reagan Administration’s coverage of “Constructive Engagement.” But, this ebook is greater than merely an examination of the American anti-apartheid motion within the early Eighties. It is usually a snapshot of South African Rugby historical past, and an indictment of that group’s complicity in South African authorities’s bigger coverage of racial segregation. To this finish, Catsam’s ebook gives an attention-grabbing look into the South African Rugby scene in the course of the Seventies and earlier, in addition to the problems with the tour of New Zealand that passed off instantly earlier than the Springboks arrived in the US.

Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.

Flashpoint is organized chronologically, starting with South Africa planning for the journeys to New Zealand and the US. It then takes the reader via the issues with a sequence of video games between the Republic of Eire and the Springboks in South Africa earlier than touring with the Springboks to New Zealand and the US. The final three chapters of the ebook comprise the majority of Catsam’s story, illuminating the start of the resistance in the US, taking the reader via the rugby matches, and concluding with the courtroom battle in Albany.

Catsam proves himself to be an excellent storyteller, guiding the reader via a really difficult story that lies on the intersection of politics, legislation, and sport. There are various transferring elements to this story, however Catsam navigates the complexities concerned with appreciable ease. Throughout this narrative, he seamlessly shifts backwards and forwards between the worlds of rugby, worldwide relations, American politics, protest actions, and the courtroom. In doing this, the creator manages to seize key occasions, whereas additionally giving the reader a glance inside the problems from the underside up.

One of many virtues of this strategy is that the precise, and considerably uneventful, rugby matches take a backseat to the issues truly taking place off of the sphere. For instance, Catsam devotes appreciable house within the chapter relating to the Springboks’ journey to New Zealand to the protests surrounding that leg of the tour. Within the context of the bigger ebook, this gives the reader with an appetizer earlier than the creator delves into the primary a part of his work: the journey to America.

Catsam does a wonderful job capturing the temper of the US within the early Eighties, each in the direction of the game of rugby and the Apartheid regime in South Africa. He additionally explains why South Africans selected to undertake this tour, regardless of the potential of opposition. Because the creator relates:

Generally portrayed as an oddity, generally, as an absurdity generally as a joke, and at all times throughout the context of ongoing politics, the tour of the US was understood for what it was, a ridiculous effort for the Springboks to realize one thing akin to legitimacy, but additionally a official political problem during which the Springboks, and thus South Africa, would obtain the imprimatur of the Reagan administration and thus a sure degree of credibility, if not endorsement (76-77).

But, the tour went on.

Catsam efficiently describes how the American leg of the tour unfolded. He begins with the Springboks’ low-key arrival in Hawaii earlier than chronicling the group’s descent into the American cauldron in Los Angeles, the place African-American Mayor Tom Bradley truly prevented the group from enjoying within the metropolis after their flight from Hawaii, forcing the Springboks to alter their plans and fly to Chicago as an alternative. Chicago proved no friendlier, with the scheduled match finally being moved to Wisconsin. The Chicago expertise permits Catsam to point out the energy of his work in his Catsam’s description of the reception the Springboks obtained within the Windy Metropolis illustrates the energy of his work. The group was capable of stroll round anonymously for essentially the most half, attending a Chicago Cubs recreation, buying in downtown Chicago, and even attending receptions. He captures the circumstances completely when he observes that the Springboks had been, “Heroes amongst white South Africans, pariahs amongst massive numbers of New Zealanders, these big-shouldered gents had been merely nameless within the Metropolis of the Huge Shoulders,” (87). One other energy of the ebook is clear right here, as Catsam used plentiful interviews with the South African members to realize their views.

Catsam does, nevertheless, see the beginnings of the American anti-apartheid motion in Chicago. He relates the story of how protestors found the situation of the group, initiating protests any time they may. Catsam additionally emphasizes that People actually didn’t know something about rugby, as evidenced by Wisconsin governor Lee Dreyfus’ remark that he would approve a recreation in his state so {that a} multiracial American squad may beat the South Africans at their very own recreation. Finally, after a lot negotiation, the match scheduled for Chicago can be performed in Racine, Wisconsin, creating one other pattern: matches being moved to smaller, and generally extra obscure, places.

When the tour acquired to Albany, New York, the Springboks had been confronted with a authorized problem that piled on high of the varied political and social challenges that the tour had already confronted. Catsam handles this a part of the story adeptly, because the matches had been finally permitted after the Springboks prevailed in a court docket case that discovered its technique to the US Supreme Court docket, with none aside from Thurgood Marshall supporting the South African group’s proper to play the matches over the objections of New York governor Hugh Carey.

In his evaluation of the tour, Catsam will get to the very coronary heart of the problem for the South Africans, the Springboks, and the People when he says that, “…the Springboks wanted allies, and the US, each in rugby phrases and politically, had confirmed to be such an ally,” (144). The creator brings the multitude of points to a head on this a part of the ebook, taking the American authorities to activity for permitting the tour and, within the creator’s estimation, absolutely understanding that they had been certainly supporting the Apartheid regime by welcoming the Springbok rugby group. Catsam additionally means that the American authorities knew the protestors had been appropriate of their assessments, therefore the fixed motion of the matches.

Catsam does a implausible job in bringing to mild a forgotten, but profoundly vital, episode that sits on the intersection of sport, politics, historical past, and society. He takes an occasion with many transferring elements and makes it accessible and comprehensible, successfully putting it within the bigger context of worldwide relations, American overseas coverage, and the historical past of a then-marginal-but-now-growing sport in the US. The ebook needs to be of curiosity to the overall reader and anybody involved in US-South African relations, anti-Apartheid actions, and the historical past of rugby.


Tony Calandrillo is a Physician of Letters candidate at Drew College in Madison, New Jersey, whose analysis entails the intersection of American overseas coverage and sports activities. His dissertation is an examination of baseball as a software of American overseas coverage within the context of Worldwide Relations principle

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