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April 1, 2008

International colloquium tackles sports as a cultural force

America's great cultural divide may not be between rich and poor, urban and rural, or red and blue states. It may instead be between those who love sports and those who wonder what's the big deal. The distinction admittedly allows some gray zones among the millions who are mesmerized by football yet dismiss it as "only a game."

One of sports' most eloquent advocates does not have a microphone at the Superbowl—at least not yet—but he does attend every Stanford home football game, gives the team pep talks and has gone on the road with the players. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, the Albert Guerard Professor in Literature (and a heavyweight in medieval literature and the French Enlightenment), is also the author of In Praise of Athletic Beauty (2006), dedicated to the Stanford Cardinal football team "in (for once) speechless gratitude."

His enthusiasm gets a second venue April 10-12 in Kissick Auditorium at the Arrillaga Family Sports Center. The Cambridge-Stanford colloquium, "The Future of Sports and Sports History," is free and open to the public.

Gumbrecht has emphasized that although sports dominate headlines and weekends, few have approached the subject in a scholarly way. Hence, the colloquium will include representatives from the world of academia and the world of sports, from England, Germany and across the United States. They will discuss global and local dimensions of contemporary sports, fan culture, sports in ancient Rome, the future of Russian sports and pornosports, among other subjects.

Information on speakers and a schedule is available online at



Cynthia Haven, News Service: (650) 724-6184,


Corrie Goldman, Humanities Outreach: (650) 724-8156,

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