Sunday, June 10, 2007

When athletes speak out for social justice, they break what Howard Cosell called "Rule number one of the 'Jockocracy'-that athletes and politics don't mix." But history also shows that when the iron wall of the Jockocracy is dented, it's usually the sign of deeper discontent in society.*

Right now, I am in the middle of a bunch of books, which is pretty typical for me. I am hell in a bookstore, because I have no compunctions about browsing around and adding more fuel to the reading fires. I popped into the Metairie Barnes and Noble for a short break from camp counselor orientation and found copies of this book on a table of New Orleans books:

First off, this is more of a general sports book rather than a New Orleans book, though I'm glad it was on that table. It can safely be said that Dave Zirin is probably one of the greatest sportswriters you've never heard of, which is a criminal thing in itself. The subtitle of Welcome To The Terrordome gives a clue as to why: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports. I know many bloggers, including myself, who enjoy watching sports, keeping up with favorite teams, and just generally basking a little in its glow. When it's good, it's good. Zirin goes waaay beyond that, however: if we wish to reclaim sports, we must look at history, learn from the role sports play in our world, and listen to the athletic rebels of today who are so often ignored by the media.*

Zirin's book goes beyond Katrina and into subjects such as why Barry Bonds is so reviled by the mainstream press, what Roberto Clemente can teach us today, a chapter about the NBA's uneasy symbiosis with hip-hop culture and its attempts to put the genie back in the bottle, the reasons why one should not bring the Olympic games to your city, and many, many other interweavings of politics, racism, sports, human rights, antiwar protests, and the use and misuse of athletes in society. Pick it up. Read it. Add the link below to your favorites.

And, while we're at it, add New Orleans to Zirin's book tour dates. The pertinent information about contacting his publisher is on there, but I'll put it down here for those who don't wanna use the link for some weird reason: please call or email Julie Fain at Haymarket Books. Julie's email is and her phone number is (773)583-7884. Inundate our local bookstores with this information, people. This is a sports-crazy town, after all. And if the bookstores can't bring him on down, maybe, uhh, the Rising Tide conference could? Just a thought...

James Baldwin once said, "America is a nation devoted to the death of the paradox." In other words, to use the updated version by pro wrestler The Rock, "Know your role and shut your mouth." Stay in your box. If you're a cashier, a Wal-Mart employee, a sanitation worker, a teacher, that is how you are defined and all you can be. Don't think about being a cashier/artist, a firefighter/activist. We endure model/actresses and oil company executive/politicians but that is it.*

Edge of sports, indeed. What is happening in these parts has caused many of us to break out of the box to ensure our very survival. Let's support Dave Zirin in his box-busting reporting and commentary on sports in this crazy world.

*All quotes from Dave Zirin's Welcome To The Terrordome


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I wandered into B&N today and wandered out with 3 mags: Inc., Fortune & The Economist. If only I'd come here first!! I think I would enjoy this book. Thanks, darlin'.

Sometimes the word verifications are interesting. I'm not always sure why.


Resisting Empire said...

Hi Leigh. I couldn't agree more -- on both Dave being "one of the greatest sportswriters you've never heard of" and on the need to change that dynamic with a "Tear Down the Terrordome" tour stop in New Orleans.

I should admit that I'm a bit biased though, as I work for the publisher... We tried to book a NOLA venue early on that didn't work out; I'd love to touch base around other ideas for a potential tour stop:

Many thanks for your support!