Book Review

If you think you know about sports, you don’t know nothin’ if you haven’t read this book. The book’s author, David Zirin, is today’s Lester Rodney, the famous Daily Worker sports editor who helped lead the struggle for baseball’s integration.

Zirin’s book takes you deep into the pores of the sports world. True tales of corporate greed, racism and homophobia, alongside various athletes’ struggles against war and for civil rights and women’s rights are just a few of the topics that are spoken of in this well-written work.

The author reaffirms that no matter where in the United States you are, you can’t escape the fact that racism exists and lives on in the belly of the beast.

From Zirin’s examples, which include the treatment of baseball player Barry Bonds, the notorious decision by the University of Alabama’s board of trustees to pass on hiring a black football coach, and the attempts to wipe away the legacy of the outspoken world boxing champion Muhammad Ali, it is obvious that racism is alive and well.

The facts listed in this book will not just anger anyone of good conscience. There are also inspiring stories, showing that there are people who continue the tradition of resistance, like Young Communist League member and basketball player Toni Smith of Manhattanville College. Smith, who has now graduated, achieved notoriety by turning her back during the national anthem before her basketball games in protest of the U.S. war on Iraq.

Other athletes who have resisted injustice, like power forward Elan Thomas of the Washington Wizards basketball team, who spoke out against war and injustices here at home, are also profiled.

While Zirin is able to paint a picture of horrible injustices against impoverished communities, he is also able to show that there are people who speak out against them. An inspiring story of women’s power is the one of the great Mia Hamm, the greatest soccer player to ever play for the United States. She dominated her sport and helped the U.S. win the Women’s World Cup — a feat the men most likely will never do.

This book is easy to enjoy. It is written with pure-muscle facts and very little fat, but Zirin’s opinions are very funny and true. This is also a great book for any aspiring sports journalist.

Reprinted with permission from magazine.

What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States

By David Zirin

Haymarket Books, 2005

Softcover, 304 pp., $15