Saturday, December 10, 2016

It's all Fun and Games until Someone Loses an Eye: Sports Law at the Fred Parks Law Library

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

As you may have heard, Super Bowl LI will be here in Houston. While the game itself will be Sunday, February 5, 2017, the preceding two weeks will see downtown turned into a football fan paradise complete with concerts, events, and family friendly-activities. I would like to take this opportunity to admit my total lack of knowledge on the game of football. I don’t know how many guys are on a team, I don’t know any of the rules, and I don’t know why the Dallas Cowboys are called America’s Team. As far as I can tell the goal of the game, aside from winning, is to kill the quarterback and avoid being squashed. My ignorance of the game aside, Houston hosting the Super Bowl is a pretty big deal and the perfect excuse to take a look at our collection to see what we have on sports law.
                Sports Law is a bit of a misnomer, as it can be argued that there isn’t any such thing.  Sports law is a combination of other areas of law including contract law, administrative law, employment law, torts, antitrust, and intellectual property. However, the increased focus on the health of athletes and drug use in recent years and the growing body of case and statutory law specific to the sports industry has added weight to the idea of sports law as its own specialized area of law.[i]
The history of sports runs parallel to human history. Cave paintings suggest wrestling and foot races as much as 15,300 years ago. Depiction of sports and games have been frequently found in the archaeological evidence of all ancient civilizations, from Sumer to China to Mesoamerica. Following the rise of urban civilization and the political and social structure that accompanied it, competitive sports reflected the complexity of the new social system. Sporting activities “seem to cluster around several basic themes: track and field, combative events, outdoor skills, gymnastics, water sports, and ball games.”[ii] Material from the ruins of Sumer and Egypt also show the presence of several games: board games, nine pins, and marbles.
                Did you know that Chess is recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee? Chess and the card game Bridge have applied for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games. Chess was included in the 2000 games in Sydney as an exhibition sport.[iii] Chances of either game being included in the Olympics are slim, however chess does have a long history. Originating in India in the 6th century, it migrated west along the silk road. By the year 1000 it had spread through Europe. The rules were modified over time and by 1475 it had essentially become the game that we play today. If you are so inclined, you can play a game of chess right now in the library lobby. There’s a set sitting in our reference area. In fact, the Fred Parks Law Library has several games you can check out to play here in the library. To find a full list of games available, search our online catalog STELLA for Puzzles and Games.
In honor of Houston hosting the Super Bowl, The Law of Fun and Games is now on display in the Library lobby. This exhibit showcases some of the sports law titles in our collection, including books on the Olympics, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, horseback riding, golf, and aquatic sports (just to name a few). The exhibit also encompasses games, and the law that has evolved concerning video games and the virtual world.  This exhibit will be on display until March 19, 2017.

[i] Davis, “What is Sports Law?” 11 Marq. Sports L. Rev. 211 (2011).
[ii] Blanchard, Kendall. The Anthropology of Sport: An Introduction. Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey, 1995, p. 100.
[iii] Pein, Malcolm. “Chess at the Olympics?” The Telegraph. June 16, 2015. Accessed 12/2/2016