2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Ellen Staurowsky

Drexel University
Revisiting Millard Lampell’s View of College Football as Industry and College Athlete Labor Efforts

In 1951, Columbia Pictures released the film Saturday’s Hero, based on an adaptation of a novel entitled The Hero by singer, song writer, and radio dramatist Millard Lampell.  Like Steve Nash, the protagonist in the book and film, Lampell left his home in Paterson, NJ to play football at a southern university.  The book was thought to offer “…a direct hit on the un-Americanism of American colleges, on the professionalism of amateur football” revealing that promises of a good education and virtuous pursuit of victory were never there for the taking, that Nash was encouraged to take easy courses, became a “kept man” funded by a booster, and was abandoned after he suffered a debilitating injury. The Hero is instructive not only because of its depiction of the exploitative nature of college football but the reactions that occur when people challenge it.  In Lampell’s case, he was deeply associated with labor politics.  He founded the Almanac Singers in 1940, where he collaborated with folk singers Pete Seeger, Lee Hayes, and eventually Woody Guthrie in writing anthems in support of working class unionization efforts.  He became a target of the McCarron Commission and struggled to work after being blacklisted. This presentation explores contemporary issues regarding the treatment of those who challenge college football in the 21st century in light of Lampell’s case.