Book Review: What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States
by Dave Zirin
Publication Date: Jul 01, 2005
List Price: $15.00
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Imprint: Haymarket Books
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Parent Company: Haymarket Books
Book Reviewed by Kam Williams
’The most violent anti-busing demonstrations in America were not in Birmingham or Biloxi, but Boston. Every city has its stories of both racism and resistance. Yet Boston’s history is particularly nasty’ In an interview with the Boston Globe, [Barry] Bonds was asked whether he would consider finishing his career in Beantown. Bonds shook his head and said, ’Boston is too racist for me; I couldn't play there. That’s been going on ever since my dad was playing baseball. That’s not for me, brother.’
When the reporter countered that the racial climate has changed in Boston,
Bonds responded, ’It Ain't changing.’’
’Excerpted from Ch. 7: Sports, Racism, and the Modern Athlete
If you consider yourself a cerebral sports fan who enjoys examining the social issues surrounding a game as much as you do the contest itself, then you are likely to enjoy What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States. Its author, Dave Zirin, editor-in-chief of the Prince George’s Post, also pens a syndicated column called Edge of Sports, wherein he takes a weekly look at athletics from a politically-progressive perspective Zirin brings that same sensibility to this terrific tome, devoting considerable space to explain why spectator sports primary function is as an opiate of the masses. Then, he goes on to show how the Establishment comes down hard on any athlete who might dare question the status quo.
A mix of history lessons, academic essays, thought-provoking interviews and topical opinion pieces, What’s My Name, Fool? is at its best when taking us deeper inside the minds of adored icons than we're used to. His subjects include some of the most controversial sports figures of the past 100 years from color line crossing Jackie Robinson to draft dodging Muhammad Ali to Toni Smith, the college basketball player who recently came under attack for turning her back on the flag during the playing of the national anthem.
Consider the revealing interview with 1968 Olympic medalist John Carlos, famous for raising a gloved black fist over his head (with teammate Tommie Smith). There, we learn that he found the inspiration for his act of defiance from Dr. Martin Luther King. ’I was with Dr. King ten days before he died,’ Carlos recalls. ’He told me he was sent a bullet in the mail with his name on it. I remember looking in his eyes to see if there was any fear, and there was none. He had love and that in itself changed my life.’
The author’s point, in highlighting the so-called troublemakers, is that sports are ’a profitable form of mass entertainment’ designed ’by the political and financial elite as a way to package their values and ideas.’
And when anyone like Ali or Toni comes along who wants to do more than just box or bounce a ball, they are a serious threat to be dealt with before they awaken Boobus Americana out of its blissful state of total passivity.
What’s My Name, Fool? is a seminal contribution to the annals of sports journals with the potential to rouse a nation of couch potatoes before their brains turn totally to mush.