Monday, August 9, 2010

Screw U.S. Steel. We're bigger than the damn mafia

When I first heard this was the book we were going to be reading for my book club I thought to myself, "Well the point of book club is so I can read books I wouldn't pick up on my own".  That's a lie.  My first thoughts were "What is this book?  Sports?  Who picked this one? I don't want to read this." And the point of book club is mostly so we can all get together, drink wine, catch up and maybe, if a couple people have read the book, discuss some of it.  Reading the book is not actually a necessary part of this book club, which means that if I really didn't want to read the book, I can still hang out with everyone.  

But I decided to suck it up and at least see what the book is actually about.  Radical idea, right?  I know Amazon is a great big bully, but they at least provide the first few pages of this apparently out-of-print-only-found-online book and I learned that this book is actually about discrimination in sports and how various people and groups have fought against injustice.  Ah, this sounds more like something my reading group would come up with.  And so I decided to actually read the book.

If you didn't guess from my knee-jerk reaction to the book, I'm not a huge sports fan.  Or even a little one.  But sports still regularly fit into my life as both my dad and Boyfriend are huge sports fans and Boyfriend works in sports.  I just can't get away from it.  But their enthusiasm has somewhat helped me with this book.  I at least recognized certain players, even if Boyfriend was disappointed I didn't know all of the teams Carlos Delgado has played for.  I tried to explain that he's lucky I recognize the name at all (Boyfriend is a Mets fan).  Oh well. That was a long way of saying I won't be able to comment on the sports aspect of the book with any sort of authority. 

I liked this book to a point.  It's not so much a single coherent book as it's a series of related short essays about racism, sexism and homophobia in sports.  This format worked for me as it made it easier for me to move quickly through certain essays.  The sections of the book where he discusses Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and Billie Jean King are wonderful, sad and thought provoking.  He includes interviews with Lee Evans and David Meggyesy to give a first person take on some of the biggest moments in sports.  Maybe it's because these stories aren't so fresh but he's had the benefit of hindsight when writing that these stories come off as more powerful for me.  His essays on Pat Tillman, the Fab Five, Kate Hnida and Maurice Clarett still tell important stories but his anger over the injustices he discusses, while justified and understandable, overshadows the larger point he's trying to make. He uses these examples as jumping off points to a larger issue, but the leap happens so abruptly that I feel like there is more to the stories about Tillman et al. that I'm missing.

It was an interesting read that I think could have been better.  I may have a follow up post once we have book club again and I see what others have to say.  I'm also going to recommend the book to Boyfriend and my dad.  I'd like to see what a sports fan thinks about the book.

Title quote from page 17

Zirin, Dave.  What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States.  Haymarket Books, Chicago. 2005


  1. Hi
    Really interested in this post...My husband and I are huge sports fans (me, baseball first and foremost, to lesser extent, hockey and football; husband, baseball, basketball and football). I never would have guessed the serious content of this book from the cover, but from your review it sounds like this is no lightweight book...
    By the way, just does a woman from MA meet a NY Mets fan...when you said your boyfriend was a sports fan, I immediately thought Red Sox :)

  2. TheBookGirl - The cover made me think this was going to be a quick light read, but I suppose when you consider everything Ali did for Civil Rights and the anti-Vietnam war movement it makes sense to have him yelling on the cover. I was happy it was focused on the tougher aspects of the sports world but it was hard to read at times.
    Boyfriend and I are both originally from the NYC/NJ area. I grew up going to Yankees games, something that does not sit well with Sox fans. :)But since Boyfriend is a Mets fan and I've started somewhat following them the Sox fans have forgiven me. I've also sat outside in the snow for Sox tickets, so I also earned some extra points


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