People's History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play (New Press People's History)

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9781595584779: People's History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play (New Press People's History)
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From the author Robert Lipsyte calls “the best young sportswriter in America,” a rollicking, rebellious, myth-busting history of sports in America that puts politics in the ring with pop culture

In this long-waited book from the rising superstar of sportswriting, whose blog Edge of Sports is read each week by thousands of people across the country, Dave Zirin offers a riotously entertaining chronicle of larger-than-life sporting characters and dramatic contests and what amounts to an alternative history of the United States as seen through the games its people played. Through Zirin’s eyes, sports are never mere games, but a reflection of—and spur toward—the political conflicts that shape American society.

Half a century before Jackie Robinson was born, the black ballplayer Moses Fleetwood Walker brandished a revolver to keep racist fans at bay, then took his regular place in the lineup. In the midst of the Depression, when almost no black athletes were allowed on the U.S. Olympic team, athletes held a Counter Olympics where a third of the participants were African American.

A People’s History of Sports in the United States is replete with surprises for seasoned sports fans, while anyone interested in history will be amazed by the connections Zirin draws between politics and pop flies. As Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, puts it, “After you read him, you’ll never see sports the same way again.”


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About the Author:

One of UTNE Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World,” Dave Zirin is a columnist for The Nation, SLAM Magazine, and The Progressive. His books include A People’s History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play; Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love; and Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down (all published by The New Press), as well as What’s My Name, Fool?, Welcome to the Terrordome, and The John Carlos Story. He is the host of Sirius XM’s popular weekly show Edge of Sports Radio and a regular guest on ESPN’s Outside the Lines and on MSNBC. He lives near Washington, D.C.

Review:

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.

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...



Sportswriter Zirin (Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports, 2007, etc.) looks through the eyes of the left at the political forces shaping the history of American sports....

[...] The most satisfying sections of A People's History of Sports remind us of such brave moments, and of the courage of Paul Robeson, who was persecuted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and of Jackie Robinson, who, at Branch Rickey's urging, initially repudiated and attacked Robeson, but then grew wiser regarding "America's destructiveness." [...] -- Bill Littlefield "Contests and contentions" (12/28/2008)

[...] this sprawling, insightful and contrarian book is worth reading for its portrayal of the rebel athletes to whom it is dedicated, and to whom we are all indebted.

-- Alex Altman

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