Tag Archives: Dave Zirin

Journalism is printing what some else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations *

2 Aug



I don’t care that the Indians reside in Cleveland, I still follow them.  And frankly being a godless Jew (I have developed an indifference to racial slurs).Thus I am not offended by their longtime mascot Chief Wahoo, a caricature of a Native American, It is interesting that Indians have supposedly bowed to societal pressures and stopped using Wahoo, relying on A big red ‘C’ as their logo. what then to make of the continued sale of MLB approved Indian paraphernalia festooned with the banished Chief?

Chief Wahoo


Matt Taibbi’s ‘Castle Trumpsylvania’ **rivals Charles Pierce’s ‘Camp Runamuck’ for my favorite mordant sobriquet for the current regime.

The body of former White House Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci was discovered on the White House lawn Monday. Scaramucci’s neatly-coiffed head, along with the mushier, more panicked capitulum of former chief of staff and freshly-resigned rival Reince Priebus, was found a short distance away, gored on the White House gates as a message to their replacements.



So, the response to the new Netflix series Ozark*** has, appropriately, been positive, as an ensemble including Laura Linney, Jason Bateman, and Esai Morales warrants. I noted a number of comments along the line of looking forward to watching this narrative as an “escape from the real world.”Which suggests to me a disturbing naivete. Stories about money laundering, drug dealing cartels over zealous government agents and corrupt police are about a very real world. That narco terrorism has become entertainment ( including the grimly imaginative methods of torture and murder employed )is as disturbing as the grossly stupid War on Drugs. Another symptom of the cultural desensitization to the chaos around us.





NFL should be indicted under RICO statutes*****

“…If NFL players can access that science and find the beginnings of CTE—cases can range from mild to severe—would they retire at 24 or 25? If it can be detected in NCAA players, could the multibillion-dollar edifice of “amateur” athletics at institutions of higher learning justify football’s existence? Will universities justify brain injury in overwhelmingly black athletes for the entertainment of overwhelmingly white students? If it can be something easily detected at the high-school level, would football be impossible to insure or morally justify?

These are the questions that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will need to confront openly if his sport is going to have a future. Or he could just say that the report is “fake news.” That also seems to be working well these days, and such a move will undoubtedly be supported by more than a few of his bosses in the owner’s box. Let’s hope Commissioner Goodell has more character than the person that NFL owners supported to become president.”

And oh yeah the NFL  doesn’t encourage violence…oh what’s this*****?





* George Orwell

**  Matt Taibbi…http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/taibbi-there-is-no-way-to-survive-the-trump-white-house-w495284

***Re Ozark…https://www.whats-on-netflix.com/news/ozark-season-2-netflix-renewal-status-and-release-date/

**** Me opining on baseball books and whatever https://ourmaninboston.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/baseball-by-the-book-or-lets-play-two/

*****Dave Zirin talks about the organized crime organization called the NFL https://www.thenation.com/article/new-concussion-report-calls-the-nfls-future-into-question/

****** Ranking the football training camp fights https://www.sbnation.com/2017/8/2/16082508/nfl-training-camp-fights-julian-edelman-vontaze-burfict

Baseball by the Book

13 Jul


My take-away from weeks of World Cup hysteria is that futball is 1) truly the people’s sport and 2) that the organizations that purport to administer nonprofessional sports (The Olympic Committee, FICA, NCAA,International Cycling Union) are frequently reported to be corrupt or negligent in their oversight of their purviews ( read Dave Zirin or Franklin Foer for more on this). This can not be said about professional sports— as their obvious mandate to see the wheels of commerce (aka the profit motive) kept churning, obviates concerns about venality and criminality.

Geopolitically, it is an interesting turn that the nations most disliked on their respective continents (Germany and Argentina)are finalists for the World Cup. Any way, the annual Major League Baseball spectacle, The All-Star Game, is upon us. I see it as a pretty useless interlude in the long season (well, there is all that revenue generated) excepting that the winner is awarded home field advantage in the US National Tournament Championship (aka The World Series). And players have a few days of rest and who-knows-what.

Earlier this season I published an annotated array of new baseball books. As you will discover from what follows, there is an abundance of new books limning the century and a half of baseball’s history

When Baseball Went White by Ryan A. Swanson

When Baseball Went White by Ryan A. Swanson

When Baseball Went White: Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Dreams of a National Pastime by Ryan A. Swanson (University of Nebraska Press)

University of New Mexico mentor Ryan Swanson did some fruitful research to tell the story of the few moments that baseball was bi-racial and its subsequent descent into its post Civil War racist iteration. Not surprisingly, segregating baseball was mostly about the money. Swanson spotlights three cities—Philadelphia, Washington DC and Richmond— metropolises with large black populations, to exhibit the implementation of Jim Crow in baseball.

Miracle at Fenway    by Saul Wisnia

Miracle at Fenway by Saul Wisnia

Miracle at Fenway: The Inside Story of the Boston Red Sox 2004 Championship Season by Saul Wisnia and Dave Roberts (St Martins)

Career sports writer Saul Wisnia (his web journal is Fenway Reflections) assembles a useful oral history of the now ‘legendary” 2004 Boston Red Sox National tournament champions. Ten years is a sufficiently elapsed period of time to take a look back and enough (for Bosox fans) to revisit and refresh the time when long suffering fans’s dreams came true.

Wild Pitches  by Jayson Stark

Wild Pitches by Jayson Stark

Wild Pitches: Rumblings, Grumblings, and Reflections on the Game I Love Hardcover by Jayson Stark (Triumph Books )

Philly homeboy and Phladelphia Inquirer scribbler turned ESPN talking head Jayson Stark, anthologizes some of his columns on baseball. Here’s fellow Philly sports guy Stan Hochman on Stark’s new opus:

Stark did 21 years of hard time here, covering baseball for the morning paper. Made the move to ESPN, the worldwide leader, in 2000. Digs out nuggets all the time. Uncovers a lot of baubles, bangles and beads. Weird stuff, funny stuff.

The next best thing to watching memorable baseball is reading Stark, writing about memorable baseball. And now they have gathered a sampling of those nuggets in an anthology called “Wild Pitches: Rumblings, Grumblings and Reflections on the Game I Love.”

The job has gotten tougher as the players have gotten richer, more aloof, more hostile. The job has gotten easier with technology. Tony Gwynn struck out fewer than 20 times in eight different seasons. Ever done before? Never done before? Often? Seldom? Stark can find out in 90 seconds.

Bull City Summer by  Alex Harris, Frank Hunter, Kate Joyce, Elizabeth Matheson, Leah Sobsey, Alec Soth, Hank Willis Thomas and Hiroshi Watanabe

Bull City Summer by Alex Harris, Frank Hunter, Kate Joyce, Elizabeth Matheson, Leah Sobsey, Alec Soth, Hank Willis Thomas and Hiroshi Watanabe

Bull City Summer: A Season at the Ballpark by Howard Craft,Adam Sobsey,Emma Miller,Sam Stephenson (Daylight Books)

This 200 page monograph is the culmination of the Bull City Summer documentary project, inspired by the 25th anniversary of the movie Bull Durham, documents the 2013 season of the Durham Bulls, one of the most successful minor league teams in the US. A number of artists collaborated to contribute 129 photographs to this handsome and well produced book— some of which can be found here.

The Closer by Mariano Rivera and Wayne Coffey

The Closer by Mariano Rivera and Wayne Coffey

The Closer by Mariano Rivera and Wayne Coffey (Little Brown)

Even the most casual baseball fan knows of the legendary New York Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera and his omnipotent cut fastball, and perhaps his 5 national tournament rings and his record 652 career saves and 1173 career strikeouts. His is a true rags-to-riches story— from a poor Panamanian fishing village to becoming one of the most popular New York Yankees ever—admired by fans and opponents alike. Colin Fleming opines:

The book vividly sketches out his origin story: a Panamanian kid, smelling of fish from working on his father’s boat, coming to America to begin what seems, from any perspective, a most unlikely baseball career. There’s real terror in the early pages as Rivera, without any command of the English language, gets a flight for Florida when he’d never been more than six hours from home.

He’s anxious, you’re anxious, and no matter what team you usually root for, you’ll root for Rivera in the early pages of “The Closer.” It’s the kind of baseball odyssey that leaves readers with a sense of the Homerian that later extends to the stuff of clutch strikeouts, “Casey at the Bat”-style grandeur and fallen records.

American Jews and America's Game  by Larry Ruttman

American Jews and America’s Game by Larry Ruttman

American Jews and America’s Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball by Larry Ruttman (University of Nebraska Press)

Being a god-less Semite, it would a fool’s errand for me to dismiss Larry Ruttman’s diligent effort to document (and not so subtly, lionize)the Jews place in what was once America’s National Pastime (certainly no longer America’s Game, a rubric invented to for the NFL). By and large an oral history, Ruttman includes the testimonies of Bud Selig, the late Marvin Miller, Kevin Youkilis, Ian
Kinsler, Ken Holtzman(the second coming of Sandy Koufax), Al Rosen, Art Shamsky, Gabe Kapler, Ron Blomberg, Shawn Green, and Brad Ausmus, Jerry Reinsdorf Stuart Sternberg, Randy Levine, Theo Epstein and Mark Shapiro , sportswriters Murray Chass, Ira Berkow, Roger Kahn, Ross Newhan ,Alan Dershowitz and Barney Frank.
Alan Dershowitz and Barney Frank? Ruttman even manages a Gay Talese stroke (“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”) with a chapter on what a mensch Sandy Koufax is for personally calling him to refuse an interview.

The Yankee Way BY  Willie Randolph

The Yankee Way BY Willie Randolph

The Yankee Way: Playing, Coaching, and My Life in Baseball by Willie Randolph (It Books)

Brooklyn born and raised Randolph’s credentials as a Yankee are slightly tarnished as he was a one time manager of the New York Mets.Nonetheless, he was a Yankee when some great baseball personalities were in the game, that’s worth something. And universally regarded as a good guy.

Double Play by Ben Zobrist

Double Play by Ben Zobrist

Double Play by Ben Zobrist, Julianna Zobristand Mike Yorkey (B&H Books )

Christianity and baseball. That’s Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist’s story.



Throwback: A Big-League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played by Jason Kendall, Lee Judge (St. Martin’s Press)

Jason Kendall was star Major League catcher from 1996 to 2004, playing with six different teams and suffering some terrible injuries, garnering accolades and awards and some dubious achievements (a career 254 times being hit by a pitch, fifth all time). Given the notion that catchers are the smartest and most aware players on the field you an be sure that Kendall’s revelations bring a new insights to viewing baseball.

Ted Williams, My Father BY Claudia Williams

Ted Williams, My Father BY Claudia Williams

Ted Williams, My Father: A Memoir by Claudia Williams(Ecco)

Personally, I would recommend Ben Bradlee’s excellent biography on Ted Williams, The Kid.

Blood Sportby Tim Elfrink  &    Gus Garcia-Roberts

Blood Sportby Tim Elfrink & Gus Garcia-Roberts

Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era by Tim Elfrink, Gus Garcia-Roberts (Dutton)

This is a compelling true crime story that involves the universally despised Alex Rodriguez, the highest paid and the most overpaid major league player and 14 other ball players, in their acquisition and use of performance enhancing drugs and their unsuccessful efforts to cover up these practices.Taking place in a Miami clinic, Biogenesis,of course, adds a frisson of decadence to the alleged criminality and reporters Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts flesh out the tawdry details. If you can stand reading yet another word about Rodriguez, by all means have at Blood Sport.

The Forgotten History of African American Baseball by Lawrence Hogan

The Forgotten History of African American Baseball by Lawrence Hogan

by Lawrence Hogan (Praeger)

Its a misleading title, as in order to be forgotten something first has to be known—maybe “The Ignored History…” would be more appropriate. In any case, baseball historian Hogan who has also written Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball delves into the origins of African-American participation in baseball, from southern plantations through the Jim Crow era and onward.To say this a valuable and much needed piece of work is an understatment.

Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1902-1931 by Micheal Lomax

Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1902-1931 by Micheal Lomax

Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1902-1931: The Negro National and Eastern Colored Leagues by Michael E. Lomax ( Syracuse University Press)

A solid piece of scholarship that fills in big gaps in baseball historiography.

Outsider Baseball  by Scott Simkus

Outsider Baseball by Scott Simkus

Outsider Baseball: The Weird World of Hardball on the Fringe, 1876–1950 by Scott Simkus (Chicago Review Press)

This tome might also have been entitled Oddball Baseball as it accounts for a segment of baseball history populated by the likes of independents and novelties such as the Cuban Stars, Tokyo Giants, Brooklyn Bushwicks, Negro league teams,the House of David and Bloomer Girls and heretofore ignored. Its a world that vanishes by the mid 20th century and Simkus does history and the game a great service with this book His Outsider Baseball Bulletin is on hiatus and he plans to start up again in 2014.

currently reading Perfidia by James Ellroy (Knopf)

Big Round Ball

11 Jun

You have probably noticed football aka soccer is much in the news. And will continue to be for the duration of the world wide tournament known as the World Cup. Personally. I don’t know what any true blue, red blooded nortamericano can find attractive about this sport.But that’s me.

Steve Fagin (photo: Robert Birnbaum

Steve Fagin (photo: Robert Birnbaum

On the other hand cultural polymath David Thomson seems to find beauty in the sport. And, one of my best friends, multi visual media artist Steve Fagin,also a lover of baseball, is a soccer zealot. And sage progressive writer and activist Eduardo Galeano has written brilliantly on the sport he so loves in “Soccer in Sun and Shadow” excepts pf whihc ypu may find at Mother Jones and Tom Englehardt’s web magazine TomDispatch.com Galeano explains about writing a book about soccer:

Eduardo Galeano (w dear, departed hound Rosie) (photo :Robert Birnbaum

Eduardo Galeano (w dear, departed hound Rosie) (photo :Robert Birnbaum

For years I have felt challenged by the memory and reality of soccer, and I have tried to write something worthy of this great pagan mass able to speak such different languages and unleash such universal passion. By writing, I was going to do with my hands what I never could accomplish with my feet: irredeemable klutz, disgrace of the playing fields, I had no choice but to ask of words what the ball I so desired denied me.

From that challenge, and from that need for expiation, this book was born. Homage to soccer, celebration of its lights, denunciation of its shadows. I don’t know if it has turned out the way soccer would have liked, but I know it grew within me and has reached the final page, and now that it is born it is yours. And I feel that irreparable melancholy we all feel after making love and at the end of the match.

Soccer in the Sun  and Shadow by Eduardo  Galeano

Soccer in the Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

Though I know virtually nothing about soccer (something that rarely restrains me from commentary and forming opinions) I note a handful of recent books on soccer that appear to rise above the level of fan’s notes. And my unscientific view is that soccer may challenge George Plimption’s Law of Inverse Proportionality (the smaller the ball the more books that have been written about the sport. Marbles? Billiards?)

Among the Thugs by Bill Buford

Among the Thugs by Bill Buford

In addition to the above mentioned classic by Eduardo Galeano, Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs rates some attention as Buford gives a smart account of the sociopathic underclass that afflicts soccer (at least in England)Here’s some excerpts:

…the day had consisted of such a strange succes- sion of events that, by this point in the evening, it was the most natural thing in the world to be watching a football game surrounded by policemen: there was one on my left, another on my right, two directly behind me, and five in front. It didn’t bother me; it certainly didn’t bother the supporters, who, despite the distractions, were watching the match with complete attentive- ness. And when Manchester United tied, the goal was witnessed, as it unfolded, by everyone there (except me; I was looking over my shoulder for missiles), and jubilation shot through them, their cheers and songs suddenly tinny and small in that great cavity of the Juventus football ground, its sev- enty thousand Italians now comprehensively silent. The United supporters jumped up and down, fell over each other, embraced.

But the euphoria was brief. In the final two minutes Juventus scored again. The exhilaration felt but minutes before by that small band of United supporters was now felt-magnified many times~by the seventy thousand Italian fans who, previously humiliated, directed their powerful glee into our corner. The roar was deafening, invading the senses like a bomb.

And with that explosive roar, the mood changed…

There is a truism bandied about that more people like to read about baseball than watch it. Perhaps that’s true of soccer as well, especially as there are long stretches during matches when men in shorts are running willy nilly around a field.

Here some recent soccer books:

Why Soccer Matters by Pele

Why Soccer Matters by Pele

Why Soccer Matters by Pelé with Brian Winter(Celebra)

The Ted Williams of soccer, Edson Arantes do Nascimento aka Pelé, is certainly one to represent the sport—three World Cup championships and the all-time scoring record, with 1,283 goals in his twenty year career.

Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil through Soccer by Dave Goldblatt

Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil through Soccer by Dave Goldblatt

Futebol Nation:The Story of Brazil through Soccer by David Goldblatt (Nation Books)

The World Cup returns to Brazil for the first time in 60 years and historian Goldblatt( The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer) provides context for that nations singular contribution to the sport now known the world over as O Jogo Bonito—the Beautiful Game.

Fear and Loathing in La Liga by Sid Lowe

Fear and Loathing in La Liga by Sid Lowe

Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the World’s Greatest Sports Rivalry by Sid Lowe (Nation Books)

Yankees vs Red Sox? Lakers vs Celtics? Cubs vs Cardinals? If you think these are the greatest sports rivalries, guess again. Apparently, two Spanish soccer teams fall under that rubric.Spanish soccer expert and historian Lowe covers 100 years of that rivalry and as seems to obtain in most intense competitions, it is never about just the game.

The  Country of Football by Roger Kittleson

The Country of Football by Roger Kittleson

The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making of Modern Brazil by Roger Kittleson ( University of California Press)

Jacues Barzun might have transposed his observation about the United States and baseball—”Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball—to apply to Brazil and soccer. Roger Kittleson details the inextricable link between sport and history in this well researched account. And yet all the sports news about soccer is about the big money money franchises in Britain and Spain. Hmmm.

Dance with the Devil- Dave Zirin

Brazil’s Dance with the Devil- Dave Zirin

Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy by Dave Zirin (Haymarket Books)

Dave Zirin (People’s History of Sports in the United States, Welcome to the Terrordome)is an astute and dependable sports observer who can be counted on to provide an incisive critique to the world of sports and the blather and cliche that obscure the financial underpinnings of almost all organized sports. In his new opus, Zirin travels throughout Brazil shedding light on why ordinary Brazilians are holding the country’s biggest protest marches in decades about the proffered benefits of hosting the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics

If you are interested in background on the world of soccer there are a trio of books that should be useful Inverting The Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson (Nation Books) ,The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt (Riverhead ) and New Republic‘s editor Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization (Harper Perennial)

Currently reading Euphoria by Lily King (Grove Atlantic

Small Ball, Big Balls

29 Mar
Make it,Take it by Rus Bradburd

Make it,Take it by Rus Bradburd

As theories go, George Plimpton’s Small Ball theory of literature has held up pretty well since he pronounced it in 1992— it stated “that there seems to be a correlation between the standard of writing about a particular sport and the ball it utilizes — that the smaller the ball, the more formidable the literature.” As far as basketball goes,I am only aware of a couple of books that make the cut to literary excellence— Pete Axthelm’s The City Game and Forty Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson by Rus Bradburd.

I am told that the planet Earth is currently afflicted by something called March Madness and much attention is thereby focused on college round ball. Which is a propitious time to mention that Bradburd has a new novel Make it, Take it (Cinco Puntos Press) about which the Nation’s sports guy effuses:

Rus Bradburd has given us an original novel about college basketball that is compelling, unsettling, yet downright funny and sad at the same time. Make It, Take It is even better than his incisive non-fiction—and, frankly, that’s just not fair.”

Bradburd, who is also a professor at New Mexico State University knows what he is taking about, as you can judge below—

It should not go unsaid that Bradburd’s chronicle of the trials and tribulations of former National Championship coach Nolan Richardson is a book which has not been given it proper due. And if we are taking about big balls,Coach Nolan Richardson has them.

Currently reading Gulp by Mary Roach (WW Norton)

Good Sports

27 Jan

Apparently, sports writing is the bastard child of journalism except when blowhards like George Will take their lifeless and desiccated prose to bloviating about baseball—which, by the way, seems to be the sport writers most like to indulge their wordsmithing. A few writers enjoy the sweet science of boxing (Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, Gay Talese,Pete Hamill*) and, of course, David Foster Wallace’s 2006 piece on Roger Federer apparently already stands as a classic piece of sports literature.

Anyway, I got to thinking about this matter for a couple of random reasons. One, I recently discovered Philadelphia’s Hall of Fame writer Bill Conlin (shortly before he was disgraced by allegations of long ago, sexually abusing his nephews and nieces). He had written an especially flattering piece on Bobby Valentine and at the same time taking some shots at out going Red Sox manager Terry Francona (whip had previously managed the Phillies. I got to corresponding with Conlin whose writing I approached with the same eagerness I had for the late great George Kimball and Bob Ryan when he was writing on Roundball. Bill Conlin’s columns (if you can overcome the conflict) are still available (and not to make to fine a point about the repercussions of disgrace, his photo is still up at the Baseball Hall of Fame)

Now there are still a (very) few writers out there regularly covering sports whom I actively seek out. Dave Zifrin (The People’s History of Sports), not a particulaRLY outstanding stylist writes sports for the NATION (which may be akin to covering football for Women’s Wear Daily) and distinguishes himself by recognizing that sport is not separate from politics

Michael Rosenberg,at Sports Illustrated, has occasionally grabbed my attention and if he keeps writing pieces such as his assessment of David Stern and his stewardship of the NBA, I will look for him more often;

The best franchises find ways to manage their stars’ egos and complement their talents. The worst ones stand on false principles and turn their teams into a dysfunctional mess. We now know why David Stern has stood by so many lousy owners over the years: He is one.

Secondly, the McSweeney’s cadre entered the sports world with Grantland
edited by ESPN’s Basketball guy, Bill Simmons (The Basketball Book). There is lots of fine writing (and images) noteworthy for an iconoclastic tone and solid grasp of the sports being written about. All this by familiar writers(Tom Bissell Colson Whitehead, Chuck Klosterman, Malcom Gladwell and Jane Leavey). What grabbed me immediately in the debut volume Grantland Quarterly was the Boston Globe’s movie critic Wesley Morris’The Rise of the NBA Nerd Basketball style and black identitywhich I commend to your attention.Here’s a snatch from it:

…”Nerd” is a kind of drag in which ballers are liberated to pretend to be someone else.

When David Stern imposed the league’s reductive dress code six years ago, all this role-playing, reinvention, and experimentation didn’t seem a likely outcome. We all feared Today’s Man. But the players — and the stylists — were being challenged to think creatively about dismantling Stern’s black-male stereotyping. The upside of all this intentionality is that these guys are trying stuff out to see what works. Which can be exciting. No sport has undergone such a radical shift of self-expression and self-understanding, wearing the clothes of both the boys it once mocked and the men it desires to be.

I was lucky enough to have worked briefly in the same place (The Boston Phoenix) as George Kimball and that proximity acquainted me with his persona and his nonpareil work.Alex Belth has a wonderful tribute piece on Kimball. Here he explains why he put together At The Fights:

“It was as if I woke up one morning and realized that however good or bad it might have been, well over 95 percent of what I’d written in my life had been used to wrap fish,” George told me. “If I wanted to leave something more permanent, write things I’d always planned to write, and leave a worthwhile body of work behind, I needed to get off my ass and do it.”

*At The Fights Kimball & John Schulian (Library of America)

Another Brick in The Wall

29 Sep

The Boston Red Sox, no slouches when it comes to monetizing every iota and molecule of their mighty brand, came up with another ambitious product, er, project. You can have your very own brick in Fenway Park, emblazoned with your name (as well as a facsimile to adorn your home) for between $250 to $475—this in celebration of Fenway’s 100th anniversary

And that is not all. Wondering to what level of doltishness the conversation about the Red Sox would descend, I spent a few minutes listening to a sports radio talk show. One of the Cro-Magnons offered the idea that he would buy a brick if he could heave it at the Red Sox player most responsible for their demise. Ho ho ho. His companion chimed in that given John Lackey’s chubbiness, the bricks would probably bounce off of him. Hee, hee, hee

Well anyway…

More Than A Game

17 Aug

Back in 1992 (I think it was ) I made good on a long standing intention and went to Cuba on the occasion of the Pan American Games (if you are not familiar, these are essentially hemispheric Olympics) being held in Havana. My traveling companions were the inestimable Mike James, well loved activist and proprietor of Chicago’s Heartland Cafe and Dave Meggesey, former NFL lineman for the then St Louis (football) Cardinals and author of the seminal football book, Out of Their League

Dave went on to become, among other things, an apparatchik for the NFLPA and president of Athletes United for Peace and co-founded the Esalen Sports Center. Recently he co-wrote an essay Aug 15/22 issue) with the Nation’s sports editor Dave Zirin entitled How the Players Won the NFL Lockout Its a bold analysis which concludes

Winning this battle didn’t only secure for the players a fair collective bargaining agreement. It didn’t only increase the earnings of veteran athletes, strengthen benefits and mercifully keep the season at sixteen games. It also raised even more important questions, which NBA players should be asking as well: What do we need owners for? Players are the game-no one shows up at Cowboys Stadium to watch Jerry Jones pace imperially up and down the sideline. We should be asking why we can’t have more fan-owned teams, similar to the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers-that’s a team with 112,000 owners. Why can’t players get equity and even ownership of the franchises themselves? And why can’t a big chunk of the revenues that players produce go back to the communities where they play? A thick percentage of all proceeds at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field goes to local charities. Given the current state of our cities, this would be a huge benefit to urban America. Also,think about how this argument combines the logical and the radical. It opens up discussions about economic democracy that the people who run the NFL-and the people who run our country-would prefer we not have.

Pro football is a players’ and fans’ game. The fans come to see the players, and taxpayers build the stadiums. The one irrelevant element is the owners. It’s time for a change. •

By the way. Dave Zirin (Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love and A People’s History of Sports in the United States), has narrated a documentary, Not Just A Game: Power, Politics and American Sports (the Media Education Foundation). which takes the unorthodox (but righteous) view that sports in the USA are inextricably bound up with politics (who doesn’t believe that commercialism, sexism, racism , militarism and homophobia are not ever present in America sports? Huh,huh.). I watched the video with my young son,a budding athlete and he gave it his approval—which to my mind —is an important endorsement.

Zirin is one of the few journalists covering sports (there is also Robert Lypsite) who intelligently places sports in the larger social context. If there are such things as must reads,add Dave Zirin to your list

Currently reading: Warlock-Oakley Hall(NYRB), The Forgotten Waltz- Anne Enright (WW Norton), The Forgotten of The Somme-Geoff Dyer (Vintage)