We Average Unbeautiful Watchers


We Average Unbeautiful Watchers

Fan Narratives and the Reading of American Sports

Noah Cohan

Sports, Media, and Society Series

276 pages


July 2019


$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2019


$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2019


$45.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Sports fandom—often more than religious, political, or regional affiliation—determines how millions of Americans define themselves. In We Average Unbeautiful Watchers, Noah Cohan examines contemporary sports culture to show how mass-mediated athletics are in fact richly textured narrative entertainments rather than merely competitive displays. While it may seem that sports narratives are “written” by athletes and journalists, Cohan demonstrates that fans are not passive consumers but rather function as readers and writers who appropriate those narratives and generate their own stories in building their sense of identity. 

Critically reading stories of sports fans’ self-definition across genres, from the novel and the memoir to the film and the blog post, We Average Unbeautiful Watchers recovers sports games as sites where fan-authors theorize interpretation, historicity, and narrative itself. Fan stories demonstrate how unscripted sporting entertainments function as identity-building narratives—which, in turn, enhances our understanding of the way we incorporate a broad range of texts into our own life stories.

Building on the work of sports historians, theorists of fan behavior, and critics of American literature, Cohan shows that humanistic methods are urgently needed for developing nuanced critical conversations about athletics. Sports take shape as stories, and it is scholars in the humanities who can best identify how they do so—and why that matters for American culture more broadly.

Author Bio

Noah Cohan is a lecturer in American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis.


"Cohan's book will appeal to cultural critics, fans of all stripes, and American Studies scholars as it thoroughly and convincingly examines an understudied and undertheorized perspective of the Sport(s) Media Industrial Complex."—Scott D. Peterson, Sports Literature Association

"For a different look at sports fandom, this is a book well worth checking out."—Lance Smith, Guy Who Reviews Sports Books

“This is a first-rate contribution to the field of sports studies and an important work for scholars within literary studies. The thoroughness and breadth of this interdisciplinary research is breathtaking. But more impressive still is the deft and precise manner in which Noah Cohan has brought the many and varied concepts and sources to bear to clarify our understanding of his objects of study and of his argument. He manages to be at once engaging, vivid, interesting, and crystal clear. . . . This book is a pioneering and genuinely unique contribution.”—Yago Colás, professor of English at Oberlin College and author of Ball Don’t Lie: Myth, Genealogy, and Invention in the Cultures of Basketball

“Noah Cohan’s We Average Unbeautiful Watchers offers novel ways of thinking about and contextualizing sports fandom as an important, diverse, complex, and artful creative practice. It brings together an eclectic range of source material to broaden understandings of fandom beyond its stereotypical roots in ‘fanaticism’ and association with torso-painted and hollering bros to explain this phenomenon’s contested politics and cultural work.”—Travis Vogan, author of ABC Sports: The Rise and Fall of Network Sports Television

“Noah Cohan deftly demonstrates that, far from mindless entertainment, sports fandom is an enormously complex and significant form of human meaning-making. Analyzing sports fan narratives across a staggering range of media, Cohan draws us into the inner and the social lives of American sports fans, which are by turns disturbing, fascinating, and inspiring.”—Erin C. Tarver, associate professor of philosophy at Oxford College of Emory University and author of The I in Team: Sports Fandom and the Reproduction of Identity

Table of Contents

1. So We Fabricate: Baseball and the Unfriendly Confines of History
2. It was My Fate, My Destiny, My End, to Be a Fan: Football, Mental Illness, and the Autobiographical Novel
3. Race in the Basketball Memoir: Fan Identity and the Eros of “a Black Man’s Game”
4. It’s Been a Problem with Me and Women: Failed Masculinities in Depictions of Sports Fans on Film
5. Reimagined Communities: Web-Mediated Fandom and New Narrative Possibilities for Sport
Epilogue: Feminist Rewritings of Sports Fan Culture

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