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A People's History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play (New Press People's History) Hardcover – September 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Zirin (What's My Name, Fool!), writer of a politically minded online sports column, examines the intersection of sports and politics, chronicling the struggles of America's oppressed, starting with Choctaws playing lacrosse and slaves in the South, and reaching all the way to a critique of Michael Jordan as an apolitical athlete. There are many worthy and deserving stories of courage and conscience in this vast canvas; however, the telling suffers from Zirin's term paper–like prose that relies far too much on overly long quotes from source material. For example, three pages about NFL player Dave Meggyesy has a short introductory paragraph by Zirin and then excerpts Meggyesy's autobiography for the bulk of the section. This book would have been more engaging and logically organized as a reference book with entries on each athlete or group, rather than a linear historical narrative of sports. (Sept.)
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This account by blogger Zirin (edgeofsports.com) is not really a “people’s history” so much as it is a 250-year chronicle of the nexus between sports and politics in America. True to its blog roots, the book has a casualness to it (Zirin details the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, for example, without naming the crime for which they were convicted), yet the author has done his legwork (and cites sources). More important, he shows how powerfully sports and politics, with a touch of class warfare, have interacted over the centuries, much to the denial of both sides that there’s any connection. Most of the story, unsurprisingly, takes place after the Civil War, with Zirin tracing the development of the major sports in the context of the political events of their times. Emphasis is given to the sixties, particularly Muhammad Ali’s role in the advancement of racial equality. A thought-provoking, contrarian take on American sport. --Alan Moores
Top customer reviews
At some level this is more of a counter narrative to the dominant reverence for sports and sporting figures in the United States. It takes aims at the ruling elite in sports and their shortsightedness. There is quite a lot about labor relations, race relations, and other assorted divisive issues. This is a relatively straightforward short introduction to the subject, but there is little here that gets below a surface discussion. There is considerable overlap with what is contained in this book and what Zirin has to say about these same subjects in other books that he has written, especially "Bad Sports" (2010) and "Welcome to the Terrordome" (2007).
This book is interesting, and certainly worth reading, but there are other issues that deserve serious consideration not covered here in any appropriate manner. These include subjects of class, ethnic identity, immigration, and the like. There is also considerably more to be delved into concerning the race and labor issues that Zirin does explore. As it is, this book is a useful introduction to a counter history of sports in America.