O God of Players

The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs

Julie Byrne

Columbia University Press

O God of Players

Pub Date: October 2003

ISBN: 9780231127493

312 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£28.00

Pub Date: October 2003

ISBN: 9780231127486

312 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.00

Pub Date: October 2003

ISBN: 9780231501958

312 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£28.00

O God of Players

The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs

Julie Byrne

Columbia University Press

Between 1972 and 1974, the Mighty Macs of Immaculata College—a small Catholic women's school outside Philadelphia—made history by winning the first three women's national college basketball championships ever played. A true Cinderella team, this unlikely fifteenth-seeded squad triumphed against enormous odds and four powerhouse state teams to secure the championship title and capture the imaginations of fans and sportswriters across the country. But while they were making a significant contribution to legitimizing women's sports in America, the Mighty Macs were also challenging the traditional roles and obligations that circumscribed their Catholic schoolgirl lives. In this vivid account of Immaculata basketball, Julie Byrne goes beyond the fame to explore these young women's unusual lives, their rare opportunities and pleasures, their religious culture, and the broader ideas of womanhood they inspired and helped redefine.
The sports-religion connection is examined in fascinating depth, as Byrne probes the traditional Catholic position on sports, effectively building the case that basketball allowed young women the opportunity to be expressive without sacrificing their Catholic beliefs... In an era when athletes' values are routinely under attack, this is perhaps the most unusual sports book of the season. Mary Frances Wilkens, Booklist
Entertaining and eyeopening...Students in women's studies, religion, and sociology would benefit from this well-documented book. Library Journal
A vivid portrait of how faith can develop strong athletes, and how sports can help grow faith. Nancy Kruh, Dallas Morning News
Terrific... [Byrne's] nostalgic about the days when a little-engine-that-thinks-it-can could actually win a national championship, and clear-eyed enough to understand that the implementation of Title IX has erased the possibiity that it could happen again... [T]he story of the team that won three titles on a shoestring and a prayer makes a good book. NPR, Only a Game
O God offers a vivid portrait of how faith can develop strong athletes, and how sports can help grow faith. Nancy Kruh, Knight Ridder Tribune
The Immaculata story has long needed a comprehensive telling, and Julie Byrne does an excellent job inO God of Players....[It] is a necessary addition to basketball literature. Philadelphia City Paper
The reader will discover how these pioneers opened the door for young girls across the US, encouraging them to enjoy sports, especially basketball, and have fun idolizing their role models, who did their part to liberate national attitudes about women's athletics. This is a great book. Essential. Choice
Byrne's engaging social history of the Macs examines everything from the development of Philly's fearsome hoops culture to racial and religious bigotry to the challenge of coaching young ladies whose role model was the Virgin Mother. Philadelphia Magazine
With Byrne acting as translator, their stories are compelling indeed...Her readable style was one of the reasons why I assigned it. Kathleen Sprows Cummings, American Catholic Studies Newsletter
O God of Players details this basketball world, offering a window into an unexplored corner of American women's sports and American Catholicism. Pamela Grundy, The Journal of American History
This book is an important contribution to the history of American religion and American sport, this represents a signal achievement... If god moves in mysterious ways, we clearly need more local studies like this to understand how people live out those mysteries in everyday life. Richard Ian Kimball, American Historical Review
This ingenious study should find a place in both survey and seminar courses. Religious Studies Review
Introduction. Philadelphia Hoop and Catholic Fun
1. Making the Team, Making Identity
2. Practicing Basketball, Practicing Class
3. Bodies in Basketball
4. Praying for the Team
5. Ladies of the Court
6. Championships and Community
Postscript. Immaculata Basketball and U.S. Religious History
Appendix A. Immaculata College Basketball Survey
Appendix B. Surveys, Interviews, Correspondence, and Unpublished Memoirs

About the Author

Julie Byrne is an assistant professor of religion at Duke University. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.