Joy of Sports

Endzones, Bases, Baskets, Balls, and the Consecration of the American Spirit


One of Sports Illustrated’s “Top 100 Sports Books of All Time”

Combines an immediate enjoyment of sports with an awareness of the influence of athletic heroes on our society's spiritual life, and relates each popular sport to the particular virtue and grace it ritualizes

Originally Published: 1976


“If America is the real religion of Americans, then the sports arena is our true church, and Michael Novak has more to say about this, and says it better, than anyone before him.”

Norman Mailer

“As one who is a passionate sports follower (and softball player), and who writes on the subject of sports, I read this with interesting excitement…an enormously entertaining and thought-provoking volume… and brilliant analysis.”

George Plimpton

“With unerring sensitivity and intelligence [Novak] analyzes the symbolic dimensions of our culture’s passion for sports. No other contemporary theologian has done more to prove the concrete symbols of our culture—politics, ethnicity, and now sports. Even for a non-believer in sports like myself, the analysis is persuasive…”

David Tracy
University of Chicago Divinity School

“There’s something here for almost everyone…with “sportsreels” (after the “newsreels” in John Dos Passos’ U.S.A.) to capture the concrete images of his enthusiasm; with lyrical meditations on the ontology of baseball, football, and basketball, his three principal passions… Mr. Novak clearly had a joyous time writing The Joy of Sports… and you should have an equally good time reading it, whether you are a true believer or not…”

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
The New York Times

“In applying his intellect to sports in America, Novak has, at the minimum, taken us sports fans out of the closet… Novak is full of ideas… nonsexist… He confesses a profound prejudice against men who either dislike or are totally ignorant of all sports. It is a prejudice which I had not previously articulated but which I thank Novak for defining… The Joy of Sports is… a first step toward analyzing one of our major passions…”

Michael Halberstam
Washington Post

“For sports fans who want to know why they’re so committed, this book may provide an answer… an exhilarating exercise full of uncanny insights into the motives and metaphysics of sports and seventh-inning stretches of legend and nostalgia.”

Publishers Weekly