The Italian American Basketball Coach and Consumable Images of Racial and Ethnic Masculinity
The chapter discusses the Italian American presence in a popular, widely televised sport—NCAA college basketball—noting that that (differently from baseball and boxing) has been much more conspicuous among coaches than players. Italian American basketball coaches of the 1980s and later appear as the most credible interpreters and mediators of an inherently black culture—the best basketball playing—for the wider interracial markets of fans. What black and white spectators alike really “buy” with Italian basketball coaching is authenticity, an heritage of racially and class-inflected identities, and the entire universe of memory and cultural references that has been built in consumer culture around the urban experience of Italian Americans. As an economic and cultural phenomenon, NCAA owes overwhelmingly to the labor and artistry of African American athletes. Yet, as big-time college basketball has become blacker, it also has become more Italian, even as Italian Americans have been among the white ethnic groups whose on-court athletic presence has radically diminished.
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