A paper "The Historical and the Present Day Acts in What My Name, Fool?" reports that from football to baseball to soccer to tennis to boxing to the Olympics, Zirin digs into the history and shines a light into the dark corners that the major leagues would prefer to remain unexplored…
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Citing both the historical and the present day acts of resistance by athletes, in national spot-light sports, DC area socialist Dave Zirin challenges it with clear and crisp writing. From football to baseball to soccer to tennis to boxing to the Olympics, Zirin digs into the history and shines a light into the dark corners that the major leagues would prefer to remain unexplored. Zirin discusses racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia, and also profiles uplifting examples of athletes fighting the power and speaking the truth. Focusing on the United States over the last century, the book connects past struggles with contemporary injustices and calls on readers to challenge the militarism, homophobia, racism and sexism, the greed, myths, freeloading, cover-ups, censorships, and consumer and taxpayer gouging that continue to tarnish our country. Professional sports are intertwined with American socio-politics, including the historic movements for civil rights and to counter imperialist war. Dave Zirin's examines this history with a progressive's eye. Zirin serves a hard look at "class" as the fundamental prism through which to view sport. He also charges the net, and volleys the themes of sport as mass entertainment for profit, the "success myth," the myth of meritocracy. Glaring examples in the book include the domination of a Nazi boxer by Joe Lewis, the smashing of the color barrier in baseball with years of organizing by members of the Negro leagues and communist sports writers, the Black Power salute given after winning the gold and bronze medals by the American Olympic Track Team to protest apartheid and segregation, and current day examples of antiwar women's college hipster Toni Smith or all-star slugger Barry Bonds criticizing racism and the war in Iraq and then being targeted by the Bush administration as anti-American or pro-bowl Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams refusing to be used anymore to sell tickets. Zirin points out another recent example: John Dennis, a WEEI host, commented on a photo of an escaped gorilla standing near a city bus stop. He said it was "probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus to take him to [the affluent white suburb] Lexington." Metco is a program for inner city kids, mostly black students, to attend public schools in the suburbs.Taken together with flyovers by military fighter jets and military flag-bearers, this amounts to pro-war propaganda for the consumption of sports fans. When these games are broadcast nationally, by media companies like Fox or Disney/ABC/ESPN, the companies are promoting war and patriotic nationalism to millions of fans watching TV. These displays are perhaps a way of further selling their product as "truly American," or buying favor with an administration whose business is war.
As Zirin puts it in the book's introduction, "In many cities, the average Sunday NFL game contains more patriotic overkill than a USO show in Kuwait". In fact, the all-sports network ESPN (owned by Disney) broadcast its popular Sports Center program for an entire "Salute to Our Troops Week," from a military base in Kuwait during the summer of 2004. War is the metaphor most often used in describing football when quarterbacks throw "bullet passes" and "bombs," and linemen "battle in the trenches."
Zirin cites many contemporary examples of athletes, like baseball player Carlos Delgado, who have spoken out and resisted the war in Iraq. The book also features fascinating, Studs Terkel-style interviews with past players who resisted the Vietnam War.
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