From sportswriter Zirin (What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the U.S., 2005), an analysis of how the worlds of sports and politics collide.
Zirin’s title, referencing a Public Enemy song (Chuck D wrote the book’s foreword), is used to describe how the Superdome was transformed from sporting arena to a deplorable refugee shelter during Hurricane Katrina, and in a larger sense to describe the often-negative political and cultural consequences of sports. The Superdome is a somewhat awkward metaphor, since it was selected as a shelter more for its identity as a large building than as a sports icon, but it’s also quite appropriate, since Zirin often attempts to fuse sports and politics, even if the two don’t necessarily coincide. For example, he castigates Lance Armstrong for enjoying a bike ride with President Bush and refusing to admit the two ever discussed the Iraq war, despite Armstrong having made a comment a year before in Paris about how he thought that funds for the war might be better spent on cancer research. The criticism is a bit of a reach, and it detract from Zirin’s more valid points, about corporate interests versus hip-hop culture in the NBA, the baseball factories in the Dominican Republic, the influence of race on the perception of Barry Bonds and the steroids controversy in baseball. But for each of Zirin’s compelling arguments, he often follows it with something ill-conceived, such as exploring the issue of racism in soccer and then speculating that the famous head-butt delivered by France’s Zinedine Zidane against Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup must have been a reprisal for a racial taunt, despite the fact that neither Zidane nor Materazzi said what inspired the attack.
Zirin displays a witty writing style, but the book lacks focus and too often presents conclusions that, while provocative, aren’t supported by sufficient evidence.