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

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  443 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
Book by Zirin, Dave
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Haymarket Books
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May 09, 2008 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
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that everyone should read. I am always amazed how some believe that athletes who protest is something when they have been for over 100 years. This book is well written and provides a great discussion on the topic.
May 16, 2013 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
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book made me care about sports. Which I didn't think was possible.
Rachel Smalter Hall
When I saw this new release about the history of sports and resistance, it immediately piqued my curiosity. With all the media hype surrounding Colin Kaepernick and NFL boycotts in 2017, I was interested in learning more about the lineage of these types of movements. What’s My Name, Fool? isn’t a perfect book, but it was a fascinating entry point into learning about athletes like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Billie Jean King who’ve used their platforms to make powerful statements about wha ...more
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Phil Macioce
I discovered Zirin via his Edge of Sports podcast a few years back and believe he is the tops at combining sports and politics. It is about the only palatable way to view sports for me at this point, after logging a ton of hours as a mere watcher and lover of the numbers. This book is a great introduction to his writing, as it collects short articles about a variety of sports. Didn't matter at all that I was way late to the original printing, since these issues are still relevant. And thanks to ...more
Joy Messinger
[3.5 stars] A decent overview of history and “current” (around its 2005) publication at the intersections of sports, social justice, and politics. The first few sections are written as whole chapters while the latter were collections of essays from Zirin’s Edge of Sports column. New readers will benefit from the learning in this content; frequent consumers of Zirin’s writing and/or podcast (like me) will be left wanting more. The book’s gender analysis isn’t strong, with cis het women and all LG ...more
Jack Tomascak
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've followed Zirin since his appearances on W. Kamau Bell's Totally Biased in 2012, and continue to be impressed at his singularness within the world of both sports journalism and progressive political writing speaking more generally. This is a great survey towards the intersection of sports and US political resistance - especially for folks who are not sports-minded. The first half of the book is a primer on forgotten/whitewashed histories of the most-cited sport-US politics intersections (Ali ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. This is not the kind of book I would usually read but I did enjoy it. The chapters on the history of sports and resistance in the US were pretty interesting, even for a non-sportser like myself. The later chapters (reprints of Zirin's essays) were sometimes a little too detailed for my interest.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
a worthwhile read, even though i expected it to be more 'tied together'. i love analogies, and while some of zirin's are kinda weak, others are apt and hilarious. i'm also "into" "sports" and "resistance" so this was pretty up my alley in that sense. and i even learned some stuff!
Buck Plankchest
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
disappointingly journalism
Jun 17, 2008 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
Jul 06, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2009, nonfiction
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
Jun 05, 2007 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
Mar 03, 2010 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 05, 2011 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
Nov 26, 2007 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
The Milkcrate
Oct 16, 2008 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 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 13, 2013 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
Matthew Antosh
Jul 24, 2012 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
Feb 27, 2015 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
Feb 27, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Ryan Mishap
Nov 30, 2008 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
Dec 03, 2013 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
Thorne Clark
Sep 29, 2010 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
Jul 23, 2011 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
HHS Staff
Sep 11, 2009 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
Apr 21, 2007 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.
David Lucander
Sep 01, 2015 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
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