Sports helped temper year of rage in 1968

From SABR member Tim Wendel at on February 19, 2012:

Culture wars. Political discord. A divisive presidential campaign.

One of the reassuring aspects of history is we can often find an era, even a year, when the times were as bad or even worse than they are now.

One such year was 1968. In April, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Two months later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was killed. By late August, emotions boiled over on the streets of Chicago, where thousands protested what was unfolding at the Democratic National Convention. Through it all, the presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon, Hubert H. Humphrey and George C. Wallace slung the mud, and the electorate was often left disillusioned and angry.

“A year of great convulsion and heartbreak, 1968 was the closest we’ve come to a national nervous breakdown since the Civil War,” said Hampton Sides, the author of “Hellhound on His Trail,” which described the events of King’s assassination.

The traumatic year of 1968 has been analyzed and written about from all sorts of angles — political, cultural, even musical. For this was the period between the Summer of Love and Woodstock. A time when even the best band in the world, the Beatles, was shaken to its core.

But what has often been overlooked in that crucible of years was the pivotal role sports played.

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Originally published: February 21, 2012. Last Updated: February 21, 2012.