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

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Item description for What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States by Dave Zirin, Kokichi Sugihara, Elizabeth Cottle, Melanie Morrissey Clark, Eugene L. Cottingham & Timothy R. Jones...

"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, 19361958

"Zirin has an amazing talent for covering the sports and politics beat. Ranging like a great shortstop, he scoops up everything! He profiles the courageous and inspiring athletes who are standing up for peace and civil liberties in this repressive age. A must read!"-Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive

"This is cutting-edge analysis delivered with wit and compassion."-Mike Marqusee, author, Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties

Here sportswriter Dave Zirin shows how sports express the worst, as well as the most creative and exciting, features of American society.

Zirin explores how Janet Jackson's Super Bowl flash-time show exposed more than a breast, why the labor movement has everything to learn from sports unions and why a new generation of athletes is no longer content to "play one game at a time" and is starting to get political.

What's My Name, Fool! draws on original interviews with former heavyweight champ George Foreman, Olympian and black power saluter John Carlos, NBA basketball player and anti-death penalty activist Etan Thomas, antiwar women's college hoopster Toni Smith, Olympic Project for Human Rights leader Lee Evans and many others.

Popular sportswriter and commentator Dave Zirin is editor of The Prince George's Post (Maryland) and writes the weekly column "Edge of Sports" ( He is a senior writer at Zirin's writing has also appeared in The Source, Common Dreams, College Sporting News, CounterPunch, Alternet, International Socialist Review, Black Sports Network, War Times, San Francisco Bay View and Z Magazine.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   293
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 7.75"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 13, 2005
Publisher   Haymarket Books
ISBN  1931859205  
ISBN13  9781931859202  

Availability  0 units.

More About Dave Zirin, Kokichi Sugihara, Elizabeth Cottle, Melanie Morrissey Clark, Eugene L. Cottingham & Timothy R. Jones

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! John Wesley Carlos: John Carlos is an African American former track and field athlete and professional football player. He was a founding member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights and won the bronze-medal in the 200 meters race at the 1968 Summer Olympics. His black power salute on the podium with Tommie Smith caused much political controversy. He went on to equal the world record in the 100 yard dash and beat the 200 meters world record. After his track career, he enjoyed brief stints in the National Football League and Canadian Football League but retired due to injury. He became involved with the United States Olympic Committee and helped to organize the 1984 Summer Olympics. He later became a track coach at a high school in Palm Springs, where he now resides. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2003. "John Carlos Memoir" is his first book.
Dave Zirin is the author of four books, including Bad Sports, A Peoples' History of Sports in the United States, What's My Name Fool! and Welcome to the Terrordome. He writes the popular weekly column "The Edge of Sports" ( and is a regular contributor to, SLAM, The Los Angeles Times, and The Nation where he is the publications first Sports Editor. He lives in Washington, D.C..

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > History > United States
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > 20th Century > General
3Books > Subjects > Sports > General

Reviews - What do customers think about What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States?

AMAZING  Oct 4, 2007
"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.
Hard Serve and Volley in your Face  Sep 4, 2007
What's My Name, Fool!
Reviewed by Richard Arlin (Dick) Stull, Professor, Department of Health and Physical Education, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California

AUGUST 9, 2006 archive of Arete - Sport Literataure Association

[What's My Name, Fool!]
Hard Serve and Volley in your Face

Unless you listen to Amy Goodman or are an inveterate Noam Chomsky reader, Dave Zirin's What's My Name, Fool! Sports and Resistance in the United States will be uncomfortable reading for those who get their sports commentary from local stations or conventional media. Zirin serves a hard look at "class" as the fundamental prism through which to view sport. He also charges the net, and volleys the themes of sport as mass entertainment for profit, the "success myth," the myth of meritocracy and the historical and still-present racism, sexism and homophobia in American sport in your face.

Zirin details the struggles of those "rebel" athletes like Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King, Muhammad Ali, Dave Meggysey and others who spoke out about economic and political injustices and were discriminated against by wealthy corporate interests on the basis of race, sex, or objectionable political views. He also writes critically on the history and significance of unions be it in interviews with Marvin Miller, Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 to 1982, Dave Meggysey, recently retired Director of the West Coast chapter of the NFL Players Association, or ex-boxer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad who founded JAB, the Joint Association of Boxers, a union for professional boxers, who have been historically exploited arguably more than any other class of professionals. "You guys would have the most imposing picket line," Zirin quips. "No doubt," replied Muhammad. If this sounds like Marxist 60's radical rhetoric rehashed, Zirin also writes about contemporary "rebel" athletes like Eton Thomas, Carlos Delgado, and Adonal Foyle, all of whom are rarities in that they have taken open political stances in society that wraps sport in the American flag as if all athletes should support the current Administration's foreign and national policies or, in the words of ESPN's radio sport feature, "just shut up." Zirin also writes about the government's and media's shameless promotion of ex-professional football star turned army ranger Pat Tillman as well as the even more shameful circumstances behind the cover-up of the circumstances behind his untimely death. There are also prickly features on logo issues, Tile IX, women in sport, and athletes as diverse as Barry Bonds, Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace, Green Bay's Reggie White, Mia Hamm, Martina Navratilova, Lacey O'Neal, and many, many more. Zirin doesn't hide the fact that he likes Barry Bonds' defiance toward what Zirin believes to be a self-righteous, hypocritical and partially closet-racist media and public despite Bonds' general unlikeability and accusations of his steroid use. Indeed, the latter half of Zirin's book deals with the state of contemporary sport in America, and anyone who wants a wholly different take from the conventional media treatment of sport issues could get a primer starting on page 100. And yet, the most valuable insights come from Zirin's discussions and synopses of sport before the 1990's. Zirin's mining of the history of groundbreaking notables in the crusade for economic and social justice gives even the lover of sport history fresh new insights. His opening chapter on Lester "Red" Rodney, the editor for the Daily Worker's sport section from 1934 to 1958, is a workers/class perspective on sport history rarely highlighted. Jackie Robinson's audacity in stealing home as "an emblem of possibility for social change" in chapter two also yields interesting insights about the man who broke the color barrier in professional baseball in 1947. Though much has been written about Robinson, Zirin's focus on Robinson's relationship to other black athletes and leaders like Joe Louis, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Paul Robeson give thoughtful insights into the argument that Robinson, though a courageous figure, was not militant enough later in his life.

The title of the book "What's My Name, Fool!" is taken up in chapter three, and was Muhammad Ali's taunt to Floyd Patterson during their heavyweight title fight. Patterson, who dubbed himself a "patriotic Catholic," challenged not only Ali's title but also called into question his conversion to the Nation of Islam. Zirin uses the boxing ring as an effective vehicle for rope-a-doping the reader into understanding the history of racism in American sport. He discusses America's first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, and his open defiance of racial "convention" in the first part of the twentieth century, the carefully conceived comportment of Joe Louis in the 1930's and 1940's as a reaction to Johnson, and Ali's reassertion of defiance and dissent in the 1960's where he was stripped of his heavyweight championship title in 1967 for refusing induction into the military on religious grounds. Ali was eventually vindicated, winning an unanimous Supreme Court decision in his favor in 1970. Zirin writes of Ali's later co-option by the establishment that had formerly reviled him and quotes Hall of Fame football superstar and social activist Jim Brown's lament that what he (Brown) admired most about Ali was his "warrior spirit," clearly preferring the Ali of the 60's to the new acceptable, safe and "harmless" Ali.

Zirin's volume is an excellent addition to older works such as James Michener's "Sports in America" and Christopher Lasch's "The Culture of Narcissism," which had interesting analyses of the role of sport in American society. Stanley Eitzen and Jay Coakley, George Sage and Dick Crepeau have also done excellent work in the economics of sport, the stadium rip-offs, the astronomical odds against "making it" in the pros versus the wildly unrealistic expectation by high school and college athletes of achieving this, abetted of course, by peers, parents, owners, coaches, campus administrators, and fans. All of the above parties are wont to perpetuate this success myth in the face of a reality that simply has never nor presently supports this belief. Zirin touches on all of these themes, though with a more anecdotal approach as opposed to bringing sociological methodologies or writing as a cultural historian. Finally, Zirin's book deals with the power of symbol. A scene in the movie Remember the Titans shows one of the black football players putting up a picture of the infamous 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games black-gloved salute of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the wall in his dorm room. The white player says something to the effect of, "Take that down, I ain't lookin' at that." The symbolism behind the famous picture is explained in fascinating interviews by Zirin with John Carlos himself and teammate Lee Evans in chapter four. The actions of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal stand earned them the opprobrium of many in the United States. The two were banned from the Olympic Village and their medals removed. And yet each gesture (the raised fist in the black glove, beads, bare feet, head downcast) was a specifically thought out symbol indicating solidarity with one of the principles of The Olympic Program for Human Rights which they believed in. Standing shoeless, for example, represented the athlete's identification with poverty and economic injustice, the beads were worn in memory of those who were lynched or who died in the Middle Passage, and the raised fist in the black glove was a protest against shaking the hand of the "notorious white-supremacist" and then head of the US Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage. Paid little attention to by most was silver medalist Chris Norman, white and from Australia, who sprinted in to the stands to grab a ribbon to show solidarity with Smith and Carlos, though he zipped up his sweatshirt. The fascinating and poignant interviews with Evans and Carlos are by themselves worth the price of the book.

Zirin is clearly contemptuous of those who wrap sport in patriotic rhetoric to serve their agendas but who then cast stones at those individual athletes whose thoughts and actions take issue with economic and social injustice - in other words those who truly believe and act in accordance with the principles of democracy and who reflect the most sacred principle of all - the right to dissent. What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States is a thought-provoking read for any sports fan, American history buff, or even newshound, not to mention a resource for history, sociology, cultural or American Studies courses. These are not simply "feel good" sports stories. They are stories of athletes whose moral courage invariably took great tolls on their careers and livelihoods, but made it better for the rest of us, athletes and fans alike who stood on their shoulders. Zirin serves hard. Try returning his serve if you can, but he'll be at the net waiting to volley right back in your face.

Zirin, Dave. What's My Name, Fool! Sports and Resistance in the United States. Haymarket Books, 2005. 304 pp. Photographs, bibliographic references, index. $15.00 (paperback) ISBN 1931859205

Copyright © 2006 by Richard Arlin Stull.
You'll love this book- even if you don't like sports.  Jul 26, 2007
I'm just not into sports. Sure, ocassionally the Olympics grab my attention- but that's only once every four years, and even then, not that intensely. I loved this book.

Suddenly, sports are exciting! I had no idea it involved so much politics and issues of racism and sexism. I had no real knowledge of the strides that Muhammed Ali and Jackie Robinson had made, and the troubles they had to walk through, to bring us to a better place. Zirin does an amazing job of tracing the world behind sports, looking at all of the politics and greed that drive those who control the machine. He does this with a real love for the game, but recognizing that many have distorted and perverted it's purity.

Zirin's writing style is journalistic, flowing, and easy to read. At times he attempts to inject humorous asides that are simply jarring, as they don't fit with the overall tone of the book. The book was also weak on looking at the issues that women face. Zirin certainly addressed them, and felt the issues were important. (Having been abroad the last few years, I had no idea that the WUSA was now disbanded, after the Americans were the best in the world for a number of years!) However, women are here relegated to only half a chapter.

However, overall a highly recommended work. If you love sports, you'll love this book. If you can't stand sports, you'll discover for the first time why they are very exciting, mythic, and central to all of modern society.
A Great Book  Jul 22, 2007
This book should be read whether you're a sports fan or not. Zirin explains why sports is not the "great equalizer" when it comes to race, class and ownership. Those with feeble, narrow minds call it liberal and left-wing. I would like to see Zirin debate Lush Rambo about sports. But Lush only preaches to his flock.
Much Needed analysis  Dec 12, 2006
By going deeper than scores and personalities, Zirin takes an unconventional approach to sports analysis by delving deeper into the role the social, political and economic environment plays in the games we all love. Easily one of the best books on sports written as it is informative, challenging and rather fun to read.

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