A lively, literary exploration of one of the West’s most iconic cultural figures - the athlete.
Why is the athlete so important to us? Few public figures can dominate the public imagination with such power and authority. Even in our cynical times, when celebrities can be debunked at the speed of light, many still look to athletes as models for our moral and emotional lives. An aging fastballer goes for a few last wins in his final season, and he becomes an exemplar for our daily struggles against time.
A top golfer cheats on his wife, and his behavior sparks a symposium on marital fidelity more wideranging than if the lapse had come from a politician or religious leader.
Drawing from art, literature, politics, and history, Something like the Gods explores the powerful grip the athlete has always held on the Western imagination. Amidon examines the archetype of the competitor as it evolved from antiquity to the present day, from athlete-warriors such as Achilles and Ulysses to global media icons like Ali, Jordan, and Tiger Woods.
Above all, Something like the Gods is a lyrical study that will appeal to anyone who has ever imagined themselves in the spikes, boots, or sneakers of our greatest athletes—or wondered why people do.
This is a "popular history", that is, history from a lay perspective rather than an overly academic one. It's very easy to follow, and if you grew up in British or American culture, there will be several references that you'll know even if you don't follow the sport in question.
Many histories that tell the stories from a "Western" perspective (which Amidon does take pains to point out is actually relevant here) run the risk of focusing solely on white males only; not only does Amidon make certain not to do this, an entire chapter is devoted to the effects of athleticism on race relations (entitled "Shirts and Skins").
The narration is serviceable, but the pronunciation of several non-English words (classical Greek characters, French names and phrases, etc.) was so far off the versions I've heard, it unfortunately took me out of the narrative a few times. I'll be extremely embarrassed if he got them right and I've always gotten them wrong.
You don't have to be a sports fanatic to enjoy this book; you just have to acknowledge that athleticism is a part of the culture you live in.