Passion Plays: How Religion Shaped Sports in North America Available as an Audiobook

Passion Plays: How Religion Shaped Sports in North America by Randall Balmer is now available as an audiobook, narrated by Randall, from Audible,, and Kobo.

Praise for Passion Plays:

“An engaging look at the historical conditions surrounding America’s secular, on-field religions.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This entertaining history examines the religious and cultural roots of baseball, basketball, football, and hockey…The illuminating insights into how sports reflect the historical periods and communities in which they developed will change how fans see the games. This one is a winner.”—Publishers Weekly

Randall Balmer was a late convert to sports talk radio, but he quickly became addicted, just like millions of other devoted American sports fans. As a historian of religion, the more he listened, Balmer couldn’t help but wonder how the fervor he heard related to religious practice. Houses of worship once railed against Sabbath-busting sports events, but today most willingly accommodate Super Bowl Sunday. On the other hand, basketball’s inventor, James Naismith, was an ardent follower of Muscular Christianity and believed the game would help develop religious character. But today those religious roots are largely forgotten.

Here one of our most insightful writers on American religion trains his focus on that other great passion—team sports—to reveal their surprising connections. From baseball to basketball and football to ice hockey, Balmer explores the origins and histories of big-time sports from the late nineteenth century to the present, with entertaining anecdotes and fresh insights into their ties to religious life. Referring to Notre Dame football, the Catholic Sun called its fandom “a kind of sacramental.” Legions of sports fans reading Passion Plays will recognize exactly what that means.

Randall Balmer is a prize-winning historian, leading public commentator on religion, and author of more than dozen books. He holds the John Phillips Chair in Religion at Dartmouth College.