Playing The Fool

I'm just getting around to posting about this now, but last week Linds and I had the pleasure of attending the Toronto book launch for Dave Zirin's What's My Name, Fool!

Our pleasure was doubled by the fact that in the process we discovered The Victory Cafe, the location for the event, as well as the quaint little area known as Mirvish Village.

Let me get this out of the way first: Zirin is white.

I suppose this "outs" some of my biases right from the get-go, which is a good thing. In the back of my mind I am expecting that an author who is writing about politics and resistance in American sports (which predominantly — and necessarily — entails a racial politics and resistance), nevermind one who invokes Muhammad Ali on the cover of his book in both title and image, to be black.

But of course, any struggle for equality is not neatly confined to some demographic ideal type. That Zirin is white underscores the importance of that idea, while at the same time not really being important at all.

However, as a result, I felt (and again, perhaps this is the bias of my read) that Zirin did a lot of name-dropping to establish his bona fides: along with Ali, we heard about Jim Brown, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Harry Edwards, Etan Thomas, Dave Meggyesy, Pat Tillman, and others.

To be fair, I think Zirin's audience consisted more of liberal-sympathetic casual sports fans, rather than critical scholars of sport, so the light tone of the talk could be forgiven. I wanted more though, and perhaps it is in the book (I haven't read it yet). I also hope he will make links with the academic critical sport community — Ben Carrington and Grant Farred are but two examples of many who are doing interesting work at the intersection of race and sport.

Though I came away from the evening slightly disappointed in terms of what I was personally hoping for, I was able to seize on this final point (and I am paraphrasing Mr. Zirin): In order to conceptualize resistance, we must first understand that it is not an insurmountable task, as it may appear to be. Rather, we stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us.

If the project of What's My Name, Fool! is to articulate the stories of those giants and hopefully engage some of the largely uncritical consumers of sport, then that is enough for me. I look forward to learning more.

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