What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Identities

When Pac-Man Started a National “Media Panic”

Video Games Revived a Perpetual Debate Over the Virtues and Vices of Technology for Kids

A youth tries a Ms. Pac-Man TV game in New York, in October 2004. Photo by Richard Drew/Associated Press.

By Michael Z. Newman

In the early 1980s, spurred by the incredible popularity of Atari, Space Invaders and Pac-Man, everyone seemed to be talking about video games, if not obsessively playing them. A 1982 cover of Time magazine screamed “GRONK! FLASH! ZAP! Video Games are Blitzing the World!” If you turned on the radio that year you’d likely hear “Pac-Man Fever,” a Top 40 hit by Buckner & Garcia. Children begged their parents to buy them an Atari for Christmas or to give them …

Identities

How Irish American Athletes Slugged Their Way to Respectability

Sportsmen with Roots in the Emerald Isle Reshaped the Image of the Shantytown Ruffian

In 1949, 86-year-old baseball legend Connie Mack was honored in front of 65,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. The Philadelphia Athletics manager, known for his upright and gentle character, helped pave the way for an emerging Irish American establishment. Photo by Jacob Harris/Associated Press.

By James Silas Rogers

In his 1888 book The Ethics of Boxing and Manly Sport, a high-minded treatise on the ennobling effect of sports, the journalist, poet, and Irish exile John Boyle O’Reilly wrote that “there is no branch of athletics in which Irishmen, or the sons of Irishmen, do not hold first place in all the world.” The boast was closer to true than many would realize. By the turn of the 20th century, America’s professional sports were bursting at the seams with …