Dec 2, 2019
In this episode of Counsel to Counsel, I take a break from the ordinary discussion of legal careers to speak with my father-in-law William Gamson. In our interview, Bill talks about his career, his love of baseball and how he combined the two.
Bill Gamson is a sociologist who is well known for his work involving social movements and media framing. He is also well known for developing several highly successful simulation games that he created in order to shift his own teaching away from a lecture model. In addition, during the Vietnam War, Bill organized the first anti-war teach-ins at the University of Michigan.
While many sociologists know Bill for his professional work and as a past president of the American Sociological Association, Bill is also a pioneer in the world of fantasy sports. In 1960, he formed a forerunner of the fantasy baseball league that he called The Baseball Seminar. There is a direct connection from Bill’s game to the rotisserie leagues that took hold in the 1980s. Dan Okrent, who proposed the rules for a league to his friends in a New York City restaurant La Rotisserie Francaise in 1980, came up with the idea after talking to the Michigan historian Robert Sklar, a regular participant in William Gamson’s “Seminar”.
Bill talks about how The Baseball Seminar grew in part from his academic understanding of statistics. It also became a way for him to build professional relationships with academics all over the country. And it influenced Bill in developing the simulation game SIMSOC as a more effective way to teach his students about economic inequality, justice, diversity, trust, power dynamics, and leadership.
There is a message here for lawyers: if you find ways to enhance your career that go beyond the straight practice of law, you will have a more fulfilling career. You’ll also make more connections, have more fun and you may even end up with a Wikipedia page!