People's History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play (New Press People's History)

People's History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play (New Press People's History)

Dave Zirin

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 1595584773

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this long-waited book from the rising superstar of sportswriting, whose blog Edge of Sports is read each week by thousands of people across the country, Dave Zirin offers a riotously entertaining chronicle of larger-than-life sporting characters and dramatic contests and what amounts to an alternative history of the United States as seen through the games its people played. Through Zirin’s eyes, sports are never mere games, but a reflection of—and spur toward—the political conflicts that shape American society.

Half a century before Jackie Robinson was born, the black ballplayer Moses Fleetwood Walker brandished a revolver to keep racist fans at bay, then took his regular place in the lineup. In the midst of the Depression, when almost no black athletes were allowed on the U.S. Olympic team, athletes held a Counter Olympics where a third of the participants were African American.

A People’s History of Sports in the United States is replete with surprises for seasoned sports fans, while anyone interested in history will be amazed by the connections Zirin draws between politics and pop flies. As Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, puts it, “After you read him, you’ll never see sports the same way again.”

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www.studsterkel.org/htimes.php. 4 “Phyllis Bryant Remembers Her Christmas Doll Bed,” Michigan History Magazine, January-February 1982, www.michigan.gov/hal/0,1607,7-160-17451_18670_18793-53511—,00.html . 5 Sharon Smith, Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States (Haymarket Books, 2006), 111-14. 6 Genora (Johnson) Dollinger, as told to Susan Rosenthal, Striking Flint: Genora (Johnson) Dollinger Remembers (Haymarket, 1998). 7 Zinn, 387. 8 Mark Naison,

are many. Nevada, Penn State, and Duquesne cancelled games rather than bench Negro players. Wyoming is to be barred from New York, because coach Irv Shelton shouted racial epithets on the Garden floor. Robinson set to join Dodgers. Buddy Young and Paul Patterson played in the Rose Bowl. Negroes are playing in both professional football leagues. New York has a Negro boxing commissioner, judge, referee, and announcer.” 51 Professional football, still a decidedly second-tier sport at the time, also

activists, thirty buildings bombed, and thirty-six churches burned by the Ku Klux Klan and their sympathizers. In 1964, the first of the urban uprisings and riots in the northern ghettoes took place in Harlem. The politics of black power was starting to emerge, and Muhammad Ali became the critical symbol in this transformation. As news anchor Bryant Gumbel said, “One of the reasons the civil rights movement went forward was that Black people were able to overcome their fear. And I honestly

Chrysler’s board) while the company received huge government loan guarantees. BusinessWeek put it even more bluntly: “It will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow—the idea of doing with less so that business can have more. . . . Nothing that this nation, or any other nation, has done in modern economic history compares in difficulty with the selling job that must be done to make people accept the new reality.”76 After a decade that had seen unprecedented efforts to politicize sports, to

“personal responsibility.” Under Clinton, however, America’s prison population rose astronomically. By the end of the 1990s, blacks made up 13 percent of the population but 50 percent of those in prison. At the end of 2000, 791,600 black men were behind bars and 603,032 were enrolled in college. By contrast, in 1980—before the prison boom—black men in college outnumbered black men behind bars by a ratio of more than three to one. And, as promised, “personal responsibility” became the order of

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