This fall, a bus carrying undergraduate students from a Princeton writing seminar arrived at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands for a Monday Night Football game between heated NFL rivals the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. The students filed out, notepads and phones in hand to record interviews and take in the scene.
The assignment? Write about anything but the game.
Steve Fainaru, visiting lecturer in the Humanities Council and McGraw Professor of Writing, used the exercise to show how sports can be “a prism to so many different things,” from human rights to income equality to public health. Fainaru won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting as a writer at The Washington Post in 2008 and is now a senior writer and investigative reporter for ESPN.
Fainaru’s course, “What Sports Tells Us about Our World,” was offered through the Humanities Council’s Program in Journalism. Through in-depth discussions surrounding several complex social and political issues – from CTE and the NFL to staging the World Cup in Qatar against a backdrop of discrimination and human rights abuses – Fainaru pressed students to look beyond the spectacle of touchdowns and slam dunks, digging deeper and asking why and how fans consume sports, and why certain images predominate on their screens.