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

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  360 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
“Zirin is America’s best sportswriter.”—Lee Ballinger, Rock and Rap Confidential

“Zirin is one of the brightest, most audacious voices I can remember on the sportswriting scene, and my memory goes back to the 1920s.”—Lester Rodney, N.Y. Daily Worker sports editor, 1936–1958

“Zirin has an amazing talent for covering the sports and politics beat. Ranging like a great shortstop
Paperback, 300 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Haymarket Books
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Jan 21, 2009 Erok rated it really liked it
Once i started this, I had trouble putting it down. Part of me was hoping that the book would give me a reason to like sports, enlightening me on something that i've just missed out on or didn't see, but in reality, it only gave me a reason to like certain athletes using their popularity as a pulpit, despite going completely against the grain. It actually gave more reasons to be critical of the sports industrial complex. It's hard enough to be a dissident in normal US society, try doing it in th ...more
May 16, 2013 spoko rated it really liked it
Basically this is a collection of entries from Dave Zirin's The Edge of Sports column. Which, for those of you who (like myself) had never heard of it, is apparently a sports column with a progressive political slant.

The reason I'd never heard of the column is that I'm not at all a sports fan. Which is one of the reasons I decided to read this book, actually. I think it's good to get outside your ken once in a while. Not exactly outside my comfort zone, though, since I'm all about progressive po
Feb 27, 2015 Doug rated it it was amazing
Outstanding in all regards. Zirin gives us the historical story of struggle for social and economic equality in the world of big money corporate professional sports. You cheer for trail blazers like Ali, Kareem, Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King and others who used their platform for the betterment of all. You also wonder how things would be different if Michael Jordan, Carmello Anthony, and other athletes would use their platform likewise, instead of remaining silent to protect their commercial via ...more
Dec 28, 2015 Bree rated it really liked it
This book made me care about sports. Which I didn't think was possible.
The Milkcrate
Oct 16, 2008 The Milkcrate rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sport's Fans, Politically Conscience, Sara Palin - Since she doesn't read.
Recommended to The by: My Awesome Mom - Cherylyn
Great book for sports fans or people like me who would like to like sports again.

This book is a series of short articles by Dave Zirin connecting sports to polotics. Unions, sexism, racism, segregation, corporate favoritism, war, propaganda, protests, and gender issues all come up routinely in sports and we often overlook their significance. David Zirin ties these issues to sports events.

For example: Did you know the REDSKINS are the most racist team in football. They were the last team to int
Karl Schaeffer
Jul 11, 2011 Karl Schaeffer rated it really liked it
"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." Sports mirrors our society as a whole. Let's look at Sports framed in the progressive viewpoint. Interesting book. Can't say that I agree with all Zirin's positions; but I find his telling of the '68 Olympics, Muhammad Ali interesting, because I remember how the national media treated the subjects at the time. I find Zirin's connecting Pro Sports and ESPN (and Disney) to the military industrial complex very enlightening. Zirin is the Amy ...more
Nov 25, 2013 Miranda rated it really liked it

A couple notes on the e-version of this text: photos are cropped strangely and most of the time all I got was a close-up of some athlete's eyeball instead of the whole photo. It doesn't take away from the text itself, but entire images certainly would have been nice. Also, the second half of this book is largely a compilation of contemporary articles and essays Zirin published. Some were concurrent with the publication of the book, and others were obviously a few years older. Each co
Apr 13, 2013 Ben rated it liked it
My feelings about this book fluctuated quite a bit as I was reading it. It begins with longer sections about Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali, and does a very nice job of describing the obstacles they faced and what they overcame. Later on in the book, he has a longer interview with Toni Smith, a basketball player who protested the second Iraq War. He does a nice job of letting her tell her story, placing it in context and allowing her to make her own argument. The conclusion is also very strong ...more
Nov 25, 2011 Jo rated it it was amazing
This quote from Bill Russell pretty much sums up the book: "You're not going to reduce me to an entertainer. I'm a man who stands up for what I believe in and you're going to respect me for it." Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, etc.--what they're best known for: their politics and athleticism (but mostly politics)--are chronicled in this book. But Zirin goes beyond the athletes' struggles. He also touches on fan reaction toward issues where sports and politics meet--iss ...more
Jul 12, 2009 Kevin rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2009
I would like to start this review by stating that I am among the minority that question exactly why we play the national anthem before a sporting event. Also, I am among those people who feel a slight pinch of joy inside when an athlete refuses to stand and salute the flag before a game. And, like Zirin, I am of the mindset that it is not only acceptable, but also admirable when an athlete uses his or her celebrity to speak out on injustices. And, while I found myself agreeing with Zirin in many ...more
Jul 14, 2008 Peony rated it really liked it
Recommended to Peony by: V to the 10th in New Orleans
I'm someone that at one period in my life had as my homepage solely so I'd have some inkling of what was happening in the sports world. So, I have an interest in sports and sport culture, but not enough to really know much about it. I was totally engrossed by the first half of this book, which covers the civil rights movement and athletes who spoke out against racism, segregation, and the Vietnam war, during the 60s. The title of the book came from a boxing match with Muhammad Ali, soon ...more
Nov 20, 2007 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports
"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 Olymp ...more
Nov 26, 2007 shaw rated it really liked it
I thought this would be a lame Sports Illustrated, pop culture or cheap history book style presentation of famous sports figures and moments. Something to add even more fodder for my sports-disinterested friends to use against me. But I'm happy to say I was so wrong. Zirin really knows his stuff! As a sports lover, he doesn't shy for a moment away from the ugly sides of sports...from racism, sexism, and homophobia to the ill effects of publicly-financed stadiums. It reads like a people's history ...more
David Lucander
Sep 10, 2015 David Lucander rated it it was ok
Shelves: race-and-culture
A very uneven book of essays that ranges from lucid and insightful to ideologically dogmatic and plodding. The opening essays about Jackie Robinson and sports writing in the radial press are excellent, but may other pieces are just reprints of the author's ultra-left writings in "The Nation" and transcripts of the interviews that he used to write those essays. Zirin has been called something like the Zinn of sportswriting (I wouldn't put him there yet) and I'd really like to see him take a more ...more
Matthew Antosh
Aug 09, 2012 Matthew Antosh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: activism, sports
I really enjoyed this book. It's the perfect combination of my new obsession (sports) and my old obsession (left-wing politics). Zirin really breaks down the long history of sports as a space of resistance to the dominate political-cultural-economic systems of oppression. He really understands that sports is a cultural commodity, not a distinct, separate and special sector of society - and like all cultural commodities in our society, it can be twisted and ugly, but it also can be beautiful and ...more
Dec 14, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
Starts very strong with an essay about Lester Rodney, a sports columnist for the Daily Worker. I never heard of Lester Rodney, and the essay was very enlightening. Finishes strong as well. Some of the shorter pieces are weaker, and there is some repetition, but overall a fine collection.
Apr 29, 2014 Ron rated it it was amazing
It is not true that politics has no place in sports.

Actually, politics has been at the center often in US sports history.

Lots of stories of heroic sports figures who fought against the injustices that do occur in sports.

Sports and Resistance go hand in hand.

Great book!!!!!!

Mar 13, 2013 Gabi rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
As a sports fan, there was a lot of things I already knew about: Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Barry Bonds, corruption of the NCAA, racism in sports, the under-representation of women's sports and intolerance of gay athletes, etc.

But by the same token, as a sports fan, there were a lot of things I was completely ignorant to: *see all of "The Games that Bosses Play" chapter*

While the book was very entertaining and improved upon things I already knew without sounding recycled as well as teaching
Aug 27, 2014 SJ rated it liked it
I wish the organization of this book would have been a bit different, perhaps more well organized and/or cohesive. That said, I enjoy Zirin's work. Note: The e-book version includes strangely cropped photos.
HHS Staff
Sep 11, 2009 HHS Staff rated it really liked it
Zirin's about the only sportswriter who consistently looks at sports in the larger framework of society. He's called the Howard Zinn of sports reporters; that's a somewhat ludicrous exaggeration (his style and scholarship don't come close), but he will make any sports fan think twice about what seem to be closed arguments. Check out his weekly column at and be sure to read the commentary, which is sometimes as interesting as the columns. (Note: the title refers to wha ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Steph rated it it was ok
Shelves: political, nonfiction
i should have loved this book -- it is about sports & social justice, but it doesn't work for me. first off, the kindle version has a lot of typos and the photos are not resized. but more importantly, the writing is not good. i think this was probably a compilation of articles that were pulled together for a book and the lack of transitions didn't work for me. i also totally agree w/ zirin's politics, but i thought the arguments he made were sloppy and with little to no backup. he just expec ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Malcolm rated it really liked it
Zirin is a rare breed – not just a progressive journalist but a progressive (that is, firmly on the political left) sports journalist. This collection of his columns is engaging, provocative, and gives us some of the most forcefull insights into the current experence of classed, racialised sport in late capitalist America. Zirin's strength is in his Marxism, his principal weakness is his problematic understanding of gender, with the effect that his analysis of coverage of the Kobe Bryant rape al ...more
Ryan Mishap
Feb 05, 2009 Ryan Mishap rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
Subtitled “Sports and Resistance in the United States.” After the introduction where he explains why any of us should care, Zirin begins by tracing lefty sports writing to a writer for a communist newspaper. From there, he tracks forward in time covering Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, and modern ball players challenging the status quo and forced patriotism of sports. I came away from this having been impressed but the connections he makes between sports and our soci ...more
Thorne Clark
Sep 29, 2010 Thorne Clark rated it really liked it
One standard of what makes a book good is whether it tugs at your emotions -- as long as it's based on an honest presentation, whether fiction or nonfiction. This one makes me angry over and over again at the subjects in Zirin's sights. His knock-knock similes and metaphors are forgivable because he does such a good job dealing with his subject matter (and sports writers can't seem to help themselves generally, so some of it can be written off to traditions of the industry). The chapters on John ...more
Dec 20, 2007 Glenda rated it liked it
I really don't make it a practice to write reviews on the books that I list, but I really enjoyed this book! Zirin pulls out from the past century examples of sports and resistance in the U.S. Although people may see sports as an opium of the masses (oh, wait, that's something else!...sports come as a close second!), Zirin says that resistance is part of sport's history from Jackie Robinson to Barry Bonds.

If you are an activist sports enthusiast, then this is a good read! You may not agree with
Apr 26, 2007 Tim rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-justice
Dozens of whip-smart mini-essays on the many intersections of sports and social justice. The range of topics is impressive: Muhammad Ali, Title IX, Pat Tillman and the social costs of public stadium financing, to name a few. And the best part is that Zirin's book doesn't make you want to wash your hands of the whole sordid business of pro sports -- rather he ends with a call to arms for politically engaged fans and athletes.
Jun 25, 2008 JulieK rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
Dave Zirin says even lefties like me can feel OK about liking sports, although you have to ignore all the nationalistic propaganda that gets thrown in (military flyovers, etc.). He talks about Muhammad Ali's now mostly forgotten radicalism, John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics, and athletes' protests against the Iraq War, as well as players' unions, municipally funded stadiums, sexism and homophobia in athletics, and more. A different view of the sports world from an author who love ...more
Matthew Picardat
Apr 27, 2016 Matthew Picardat rated it really liked it
Big fan of Zirin's work
I'm now a big fan of Dave Zirin. A thinking man's sports writer with a sharp (left) political analysis. He's had me completely rethink (and develop an appreciation for) Barry Bonds, Terrell Owens and Ricky Williams. My only complaint is that it was mostly short essays. While that made it hard to put down ("Oh, I'll just read one more..."), I really wanted a complete and connected narrative. I guess I'll have to read A People's History of Sports in the United States for that.
Jan 28, 2008 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Great topic. There's all kinds of literature out there about social justice, but there's not much out there concerning social justice in sports, which, as Dave Zirin points out, is one of the hardest places to stand up for issues in which you believe (because of owners, sponsors, close-minded fans, or fans who don't want to mix their politics and their entertainment).

Anyway, this book is full of great stories and is a worthwhile read.
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Named of the UTNE Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World”, Dave Zirin writes about the politics of sports for the Nation Magazine. He is their first sports writer in 150 years of existence. Zirin is also the host of Sirius XM Radio’s popular weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio. He has been called “the best sportswriter in the United States,” by Robert Lipsyte. Dave Zirin is, in addition ...more
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