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Book Reviews ...
Reviewed: What's My Name, Fool? by David Zirin
Written by James Generic
"What's My Name, Fool?" shatters the image that many on the left think of athletes. Citing both historical and present day acts of resistance by athletes in national spot-light sports, DC area socialist Dave Zirin challenges this sometimes elitist with clear and crisp writing. The title comes from Muhammad Ali challenging white reporters, who made it a point to call him Cassius Clay, his former name, after a dominating victory. From football to baseball to soccer to tennis to boxing to the Olympics, Zirin digs into the history and shines a light into the dark corners that the major leagues would prefer remain unexplored. Zirin discusses racism, classism, sexism and homophobia, and also profiles uplifting examples of athletes fighting the power and speaking the truth.
Such glaring examples include the domination of a nazi boxer by Joe Lewis, the smashing of the color barrier in baseball with years of organizing by members of the Negro leagues and communist sports writers, the Black Power salute given after winning the gold and bronze medals by the American Olympic Track Team to protest apartheid and segregation, and current day examples of antiwar women's college hoopster Toni Smith or all-star slugger Barry Bonds criticizing racism and the war in Iraq and then being targeted by the Bush adminstration as anti-american or pro-bowl Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams refusing to be used anymore to sell tickets.
As an rabid sports fan, I loved this book and saw it as the connect between my two major interests, political action and sports. Zirin criticizes the sports industry by taking solid aim at the ownership who make it their goal to exploit athletes who are mainly working class people of color, sacrificing their bodies in order to bring their families out of poverty. He does a good job at pointing out that athletes are not the dumb idiots that society encourages them to be, but instead many use their fame for good causes. For every Michael Jordan being silent on the issues like sweatshops, there is a Kareem Abu Jabar who the right wishes would just shut up and go away. I also believe it is a huge mistkae to dismiss all sports fans, possibly because of classism, and some of the best organizing can be done amongst sporting events.
Read the transcripts or Listen to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewing the author David Zirin about this book.