Root for the Home Team:
Building Community through Sports
Sports impact communities in significant ways. Sometimes teammates forge bonds that last for life and span countries. Sometimes teams become like family, helping players through times of trouble. Sometimes an entire community rallies around a team, whether or not it is the winning team. At times like these, sports reach the pinnacle and exemplify what it means to work together and to support each other.
Root for the Home Team: Building Community through Sports brings together many stories of sports and community from the Newton area. Imagine the grit and perseverance of players on a football team who work together for 10 years before securing a single win. Or imagine being a foreign student and finding community by introducing your new classmates to your favorite sport. Or imagine the bond shared when daughter, mother, and grandmother all play the same sport, but with vastly different experiences in the years before and after Title IX. The photographs and artifacts shared here tell the stories of success through adversity, of international friendships, and of sports passed on through generations.
These stories, however, sometimes had a dark side. Historically, many sports communities arose in an atmosphere of segregation and separation. At Bethel College, the long-running Buffalo Barbecue event, which brought national sports figures to campus, functioned to build community and recruit athletes for the school. For decades, however, this “stag dinner” created camaraderie in part based on its clearly stated “Women Excluded” arrangement, unthinkable in the setting of today. At Newton High School, decades of successful basketball teams under Frank Lindley and John Ravenscroft were a source of town pride. Denied participation in these all-white teams, however, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans in Newton created their own teams. Particularly for Newton’s large Mexican-American population, sports became the locus of community, a venue for socializing and recreation. The Newton Mexican-American Athletic Club now hosts the longest-running fast-pitch softball tournament in the country, a source of distinction and community pride.
Root for the Home Team connects to a state-wide initiative on sports and community sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Hometown Teams exhibition currently touring Kansas. This exhibition would not have been possible without the research assistance of Diane Flickner, David Kreider, Raymond Olais, John Thiesen at the Mennonite Library and Archives, and Kauffman Museum staff members, nor without the many Newton-area residents who so generously offered their artifacts and stories for display.
Dr. Rachel Epp Buller, guest curator
Exhibit team: Allie Chesbrough, David Kreider, Annette LeZotte, Paloma Olais, Rachel Pannabecker, Chuck Regier, Natalie Unruh, Emily Wedel
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