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Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you are a sports fan, or a progressive, you can't let this book get by you. I was truly caught flat-footed by Zirin's frozen ropes of insight into why I haven't been as inspired by the games I grew up loving so much--and by his ideas about what it will take to reclaim the game from profit driven owners. As a resident of Seattle, I was impressed how well Zirin tackled the saga of Clay Bennett and his sell out of our city by shipping of our beloved Sonics to Oklahoma. But this book is much more than an expose of rapacious sports team moguls. It is sociological study of sports and its fans that uncovers previously obscured ideas about why people marvel and partake in play. It is a study of urban planning in America and the role of the sports teams and stadiums in the modern metropolis. Moreover, it is a playbook for fans and social activists to make our cities and our teams inspiring once again.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky to get my hands on this at my neighborhood bookstore before it's officially released. If you like sports, it's a must read to understand how the owners are messing with the game and our society more generally. If you like politics, it's a must read so you can understand what the hell sports fans are talking about when they complain about the latest outrageous trade or missed opportunity (plus you'll get some good cocktail talking points to come at these questions from a different angle). If you don't like sports or politics, I don't know why you got this far, but any writer that Chuck D, Naomi Klein and Robert Lipsyte all like is worth checking out.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I will admit up front, I am a veteran reader and lover of Dave Zirin's books so I come to this book with a certain degree of ideological and literary prejudice. The thing is, I don't even like sports all that much. I haven't watched a series of anything with avid interest since the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz the last time those two teams were in a playoff series together (note, I can't even remember what year it was). But I am a fan of good writing and I am a fan of any writier willing to stand up and acknowledge the disturbing stranglehold that owners, big business, and evil American financiers(read: AIG, Citigroup, their politico pals, and all the big wigs that invest in such institutions of greed and avarice) have on every aspect of our society today, including sports. Not only do they rip our economy out from under us, they also want to destroy our fun, our games, our sources of pleasure. Well, they can't take this book from me.... As usual, Dave's deep knowledge of the history and business of sports, keen understanding of American society, and exceptional sense of humor make this book a must-read for sports fans, literature lovers, and anyone who considers themselves an aware and independent American citizen. Dave, you have done it again....
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm an avid follower of Zirin's website, Edge of Sports, and a weekly listener to his radio show. For ANY sports fan OR political activist who likes what he has had to say on issues ranging from the Lebron saga, popularizing the fight against Arizona's anti-immigrant SB1070 to his on the ground coverage of resistance to the Olympics in Vancouver and his reporting from South Africa in the lead up to the World Cup - you will love Bad Sports!

The first ever sports editor for the Nation magazine steps up to the plate and delivers a real winner. This book is a must read! I am not personally the most hard core sports fan, but I've eagerly read all of Zirin's previous books and they make great gifts for the politico or sports fan in your family. Bad Sports does not disappoint.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've read all of Dave Zirin's books and am a fan of his historical writing about sports and politics. This book however is in a different category. It's a book about America, seen through the lens of sports. Zirin talks about modern sports ownerships as the template that has "socialized debt and privatized profit", a template that we've seen in the bank and real estate bailouts.

The book is also really, laugh out loud hilarious. The chapters about Clippers owner Donald Sterling (Slumlord Billionaire!) and Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins (When Costanza got Hair!) split my sides. People should buy this book and also buy it for their sports loving friends they are trying to nudge in a more progressive direction.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A very enjoyable and informative read. Dave Zirin is the nation's best writer on the intersection of sports and politics. Sports fans will appreciate the shots Zirin takes at particular owners and the histories of their stadium swindles. Political wonks will appreciate Zirin's astute analyses of how rich owners use sports to basically fleece the poor. This book should serve as a seminal text for anyone hoping to change the way sports work in America -- in other words, for anyone who wants sports to be fun again.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For anyone like me whose love of sports has waned due to money-grubbing owners and right-wing league marketing departments (yay for war!) this book is like medicine. It managed to remind me that the teams I love don't belong to turds in suits, they belong to the players and us. (And that the turds can't get away with any more than we let them, so we should stop letting them.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 24, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I have enjoyed Dave Zirin's columns for "The Nation" for years, but his books I find even more useful. They serve as an important antidote to the nostalgia and saccharine life lessons that are so much a part of sports writing in the United States. He brings a liberal slant to the story and offers a useful corrective to the conservative ideology expressed by much of the sports journalism establishment. His earlier books took on the labor system, athletic activism, and the like. "Bad Sports" is an outstanding muckraking book that filets the owners who are intent on taking our money in publicly-funded stadium deals and giving us less than their best in return. It might appropriately have been titled "Owners Gone Wild."

No professional league is left standing in this solid journalistic account of modern sports franchises and their owners. All of the major team sports in the U.S.--MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL--and soccer in the U.K. are skewered by Zirin's prose. He singles out for abuse--or perhaps they singled themselves out with their ridiculous behavior--such owners as George Steinbrenner, Peter Angelos, Charlie Monfort, David Glass, and Bud Selig in MLB; Clay Bennett, James Dolan, Dick DeVos, and Donald Sterling of the NBA; Dan Snyder and others in the NFL; and Tom Hicks who bought the Liverpool FC soccer club but also owns the MLB Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars of the NHL.

What do all of these people, as well as others profiled in the book, have in common? They all own professional sports franchises, they all take taxpayers' dollars in the form of stadiums and other types of transfer payments, they all seek to control everything about the world around them including bullying players and other employees, and they all put on the field less skillful teams than should by rights be expected. Case in point, David Glass owns the Kansas City Royals, a franchise created in 1969 with Ewing Kauffman as owner and within less than a decade was a contender every year in the American League West, winning division titles in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1984, the AL pennant in 1980, and the World Series in 1985. Once Glass took over, however, the team has endured losing seasons every year since 1995 with Glass pocketing the luxury tax rather than investing in the team.

This type of activity is repeated many other places. Zirin has the goods on lots of owners and their shenanigans. For sheer outrageousness, he narrates the story of Donald Sterling and the LA Clippers, a woeful team that has been pillaged by Sterling for decades. The team has the worst record of any NBA franchise since Sterling bought it in 1981, a distinction that prompted writers at ESPN.com to name him the "nation's worst owner" in a field with many contenders, while "Sports Illustrated" named the Clippers "the worst franchise in professional sports."

OK, so Zirin chronicles the horror stories of owners behaving badly, and that is interesting, entertaining, and innervating but I have to ask what we might take away from this book? There are three major messages that I got from reading "Bad Sports."

First, as Zirin writes, "we need to make demands about how we expect our teams to be run" (p. 181). He believes we have every right to make demands on the owners since we who live in cities where they exist help pay for their upkeep through our tax dollars for stadiums and infrastructure. We can debate whether or not the public should be subsidizing the activities of billionaires, but since we are Zirin believes we should have a say in what happens with the team. "We should have the right to withhold tax money for a stadium unless a public advocate is added to a team's board of directors" (p. 181), writes Zirin. A whole series of other rights should flow from that. Zirin even goes so far as to argue that a municipally-owned team such as the Green Bay Packers should be the norm rather than the exception in all of these sports activities. He recognizes that these leagues will never allow this unless they are on the verge of collapse but this should become a long-term objective.

The second message that Zirin makes clear is that the greater the socialism present in the sports league the greater the success of the league overall. The most socialistic, because of its revenue sharing, is the NFL. This has allowed a team like the Green Bay Packers to be successful even though they play in the smallest market in the U.S. with a major sports franchise. And parity is good for the fans and the leagues. MLB has also advanced in its socialistic agenda with much greater revenue sharing in the last decade. The result has been the greatest era of parity among the teams than ever before in the history of the baseball.

Finally, with owners behaving so badly, why is there such a poor effort to discipline them. There are constant calls for the players to comport themselves with dignity and honor. And they receive punishment when they violate those rules. Fair enough, but it's not just players who get into trouble. Where is the same discipline when it comes to owners? And it's not just individual misbehavior, there are conspiracies for which they should be brought to account. The most striking example in the last twenty years has been the conspiracy from top to bottom in MLB concerning the use of performance enhancing drugs. Of course, the players deserve punishment whenever they cheated or broke the law. But where were the owners, the general managers, the managers, the clubhouse people, the trainers, etc. who were a part of the MLB establishment? Why did they take no action whatsoever even after it had become obvious to everyone, and that happened at least by the time that Ken Caminiti came out about the abuse of steroids in 2002? I don't think there is any doubt; they turned a blind eye to this issue.

Among all of the other rotten things that MLB owners have done--and as the co-author of a biography of Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley, I've chronicled a lot of those rotten things--the steroids conspiracy ranks as one of the top two most unconscionable collective actions by owners in the history of the sport. The other was the top to bottom conspiracy to ban African American players from the MLB for more than 70 years.

"Bad Sports" is a fascinating book. It is a work of journalism, muckraking journalism to be sure, and not a work of history. It should, and I'm sure it will, raise your ire. That's its purpose. Sports writers like Zirin serve an important purpose. I wish there were more like him.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
What a fantastic book! Not only did I learn a whole lot about what goes on in the owners box, I was thoroughly entertained by it. Tremendous work here from one of our age's great sports writers in Dave Zirin. Bad Sports is worth every penny!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If the saying "Do what you love and the money will follow" is true, the rest of the saying must be, "but not if making money is what you love." As journalist Dave Zirin's BAD SPORTS: HOW OWNERS ARE RUINING THE GAMES WE LOVE reports, today too many sports team owners concern themselves only with numbers - and by that I don't mean how many points or runs the team scored - instead of the good of the game, players, and fans. Ask certain football franchise owners to identify the tight end and they might point to the team's hottest cheerleader. However, they know their earnings, the club being just a means to an amount. BAD SPORTS is no less than a two-minute warning, because the profits from overpriced tickets, parking, and refreshments ("$6 hot dogs and $9 beers," the book notes) are adding up to the loss of fans who no longer can or will pay.

Baseball is the only major sport I follow and, living near New York City, I would like to attend a game now and then. But three years ago I left it at "then" after security guards searched fans entering Shea Stadium for a Mets game. I wondered, "Am I a guest of the New York Mets or a criminal suspect? If they are worried about someone having a gun or bomb in a crowd, then won't everyone walking into a shopping mall have to be searched, by the same logic? And what are the qualifications of the people who pat down the fans? Are they police officers? Would they know what to do if they came across someone with a weapon? Isn't it riskier having an untrained person searching someone who unwittingly has a gun on him? It could lead to a tragic confrontation, couldn't it?"

Until I hear the Mets no longer reward paying customers with such indignity, I will not attend another game. I should also refuse to buy a ticket until the Mets pay back New York taxpayers who involuntarily helped pay for the team's new ballpark, Citi Field - named after another corporate welfare queen, Citigroup, as if they wanted to make sure you felt insulted. If it seems as though BAD SPORTS has a lot to say about public financing of the private business of sports it's because every owner, seeing taxpayer money bankrolling team arenas and stadiums, wines and dines elected officials to do the same for his club.

And BAD SPORTS does a good job reminding us that team owners get little public scrutiny compared to players - even some fans would not know the name of the men who own their teams. Should you disagree that money isn't everything, BAD SPORTS may convince you having it sure doesn't mean you know what to do with a sports franchise. But then, when you realize George W. Bush once owned baseball's Texas Rangers, you know anyone can own a team. Anyway, if public stadium financing, high ticket prices and fan searches have not already caused you to put your pennant in storage, the behind-the-scenes tales of the low-life characters who own the teams will.

Read BAD SPORTS.
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