What cultures and people have shaped the sports we love that can elicit great passion in all of us? Fifteen students, led by Falk College sport management professor of practice Dennis Deninger, researched this question in great detail as part of SPM 300—The History of Sport, which debuted during the Fall 2012 semester. Their research is the basis for a one-hour documentary entitled, “America’s First Sport,” set to premiere in Syracuse on April 22. The documentary will be narrated by ESPN commentator and Newhouse alumnus, Mike Tirico ’88, who serves on the Sport Management and Newhouse School Advisory Boards. The documentary will serve as the centerpiece of an academic symposium on lacrosse’s role in the culture of Central New York co-sponsored by the Falk College and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Each semester, SPM 300 will pinpoint a single topic for students to conduct original research and interviews, use primary sources, and explore multiple facets of the subject. Lacrosse was selected as the subject for the course’s inaugural year because of its ancient origins and cultural connections in Central New York. This past fall, Deninger, who is also the director of the Newhouse Sports Communications graduate program, required students to look at the origins of organized sport in the United States, answering such questions as, how has sport impacted American society, how does it play a cultural role, and what does the history and current state of American sports foreshadow for the future? Each student completed a final research project on lacrosse entitled, America's First Sport.

Five students who enrolled in the course during Fall 2012 are continuing the independent study this spring, including undergraduate students from the Falk College, Newhouse School, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts. They have done research on amateur and professional lacrosse to support 45 interviews done by professor Deninger since February. These include in-depth discussions with Native American leaders, current and legendary players and coaches, presidents of the Federation of International Lacrosse and U.S. Lacrosse, the commissioner of Major League Lacrosse, media from ESPN and Inside Lacrosse Magazine and lacrosse historians. Onondaga Nation Chief Irving Powless, current Onondaga Community College players, including All-World Under-19 goalkeeper, Warren Hill, and SU coaches Roy Simmons Jr., Gary Gait and John Desko are among those featured in the documentary.

Students will play key roles in planning the symposium and are currently identifying topics to be placed before the panel and related lines of questioning. “It is a unique learning opportunity for our sport management students to see the work they have done become something as tangible as a documentary film,” said Michael D. Veley, director and chair, Department of Sport Management. “In most classes, students hand in a paper and after they receive their grade, the process ends,” said Deninger. “But in our History of Sport class, the student’s work will become part of a legacy of research that will help define the Falk College and its Sport Management Department for years to come.” For more information about the premiere, contact the Department of Sport Management at (315) 443-9881.

Read an article on the documentary by Major League Lacrosse:
majorleaguelacrosse.com/news/6858/americas-first-sport-documentary-visits-mll-offices/

Credits:
Written & Directed by Dennis Deninger
Producer, John Craddock
Director of Photography, Michael Barletta
Edited by Holly Rodricks

Copyright Syracuse University 2013

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