Friday Open Thread: What are you reading? ~ Dave Zirin


Dave Zirin, born 1974, is an American political sportswriter. He is the sports editor for The Nation, a weekly progressive magazine dedicated to politics and culture, and writes a blog named Edge of Sports: the weekly sports column by Dave Zirin.

Dave Zirin, "Protocols exist to protect players from themselves and - during a pandemic -from each other."


Baseball has always, even more than other sports, reflected the times in which we live. Last night the national pastime, in this regard, did not disappoint. Dodgers third baseman, the man with the fire-red hair and firebrand personality, Justin Turner—recognized as the heart of the team—has entered the realm of infamy after being pulled from the game in the eighth inning on orders from Major League Baseball for having tested positive for the coronavirus.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. After being told to self-isolate, Turner insisted on being on the field for the postgame celebration. And so there he was—unmasked, kissing his wife, and commingling with his teammates. He sat for commemorative photos next to his beloved manager, Dave Roberts, who 10 years ago was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, putting him at an exceptionally high risk if he ends up contracting the virus.

Turner should have never taken the field in the first place. His initial test came back “inconclusive.” The Dodgers and MLB let him play anyway, at least until his sample—tested and retested—came back positive.

Covid Takes Center Stage at the World Series


In 2014, the first athlete to bring the Black Lives Matter movement to a place of protest during the National Anthem wasn’t an NBA or NFL player. It was Ariyana Smith of Knox College. We speak to her about the recent explosion of BLM activism in sports.

We also have some ‘Choice Words’ about the state of college football and the move by some athletes to move forward with the season. In addition, we have ‘Just Stand Up’ and ‘Just Sit Down’ awards to Lebron James and others for keeping the focus on the killing of Breonna Taylor. All that and more on this week’s Edge of Sports!

Ariyana Smith Has A Story To Tell


A very influential and powerful leader, Zirin has written many works that make him worthy of the title “servant leader,” though at first one may not recognize the politics of sports as a subject that could truly enhance people’s lives and make a difference in the world.

Making Way For A Just World

Zirin recently came to Butler University for the 2015 CCOM Symposium and discussed the topic of jock culture and rape culture. Though at the beginning of his talk he mentioned his topic as not fitting in with the others, I am willing to argue that Zirin is in fact a servant leader.

The main argument of Zirin’s speech was that “rape culture is exacerbated by sports” however “male team sports can actually be a force to stop sexual violence.” Zirin argues that jock culture can be “wielded to fight instances of sexual assault.”

What Exactly Is Jock Culture and Rape Culture?

As defined by Zirin, jock culture is the “personality and character of the male locker room” and this environment is determined by the coach and older players. Student athletes feel empowered because the position they hold as male team sports players is worshiped and praised and founded on the idea of what it is to be a man.

Student Athletes are fed to believe that they are entitled. Jock Culture enhances the idea of being a man and that being a man gives you certain rights over others.

According to Zurin, jock culture can be used to encourage rape culture. Rape culture is the fact that sexual violence and assault occur, and both men and woman see that this is happening all around them so often that they choose not to take action about it. Rape is normalized, and the sense of entitlement that jock culture builds in young men worsens and magnifies rape culture.

Happening Now: Jock Culture Does Not Fight, But Encourages Rape Culture

In order to further his point on how much jock culture effects and even stimulates rape culture, Zirin gives examples of incidents in universities. One, for example, was the case in Maryville, where athletes were actually counting on the jock culture to keep rapes and sexual assaults quiet.

Turn Jock Culture Around

Zirin emphasizes that jock culture does not always have to be negative and is not always negative, but nonetheless produces in student athletes an empowerment and feeling that they are “special.” He argues that it can actually be reformed into a place in which rape culture is fought and rates of sexual violence incidents are lowered.

Servant Leadership, In Conclusion

The reason that Zirin fits so easily into the category of servant leadership is because of the message that he conveys. Also the act of him pursuing writing and speaking about how we should use jock culture to fight rape culture proves his loyalty to the making the world a better and more just place.


Let's take a look at his books below the fold ...

Named one of UTNE Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World”, Dave Zirin writes about the politics of sports for the Nation Magazine. He is their first sports writer in 150 years of existence. Winner of Sport in Society and Northeastern University School of Journalism's 'Excellence in Sports Journalism' Award, Zirin is also the host of Sirius XM Radio’s popular weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio. He has been called “the best sportswriter in the United States,” by Robert Lipsyte. Dave Zirin is, in addition, a columnist for SLAM Magazine and the Progressive.

His most recent book, is the acclaimed Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down (The New Press.) which Christine Brennan of USA Today called "the perfect book for our time in sports." Sports Illustrated called the book “provocative”, writing, “It will make you think about what we're really seeing when we watch the games we love.”

Zirin is the co-author of the NAACP Image Award nominated The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment that Changed the World, published by Haymarket Books in September 2011.

In 2010, Zirin published Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love (Scribner). Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein called Bad Sports “an original and scathing look at how America works.”

Zirin is also the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States, part of Howard Zinn’s People’s History Series for the New Press. A People’s History of Sports forms the basis of a documentary co-written and narrated by Zirin called Not Just A Game: Power, Politics and American Sports, produced by the Media Education Foundation. He has a second documentary produced with MEF called Race, Power, and Politics in American Sports.

In addition he has written Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports (Haymarket Books), with a foreword by the immortal Chuck D. Sports Illustrated wrote that Terrordome is “a provocative, sometimes chilling, look at sports and society right now.” His first book, What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States (Haymarket Books) has entered its third printing. He has also written Brazil's Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy

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phillybluesfan's picture

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Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

mimi's picture

these days I try to read Trump's mind and know now that I am dyslexic. I kind of think that is through the grace of God./s

Otherwise I read c99p. That's about it.

7 users have voted.


Lookout's picture

It seems to me to be a way to train young folks for war.

And I'm not alone. The Army thinks so too.

I came across a statement by the US Military while researching physical fitness and training in World War I

“Training for sport is training for war.”

Playing sports and participating in games are a natural way to train for war. Field, court, and combat sports replicate battle and train the performance traits needed for war.

Too bad our culture does not focus on cooperation rather than competition. No offense to you sports fans out there. Couldn't live here in AL if I was intolerant of sports...just not my cup of tea.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout A distraction from everything that truly matters. Sports have been used for this since the Roman Empire. Look how well things turned out for them.

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TheOtherMaven's picture


The Western Empire went to rack and ruin after gladiatorial games were outlawed (although correlation does not prove causation). The Eastern (Byzantine) Empire switched over to chariot races and kept rolling for another thousand years.

Most people discount the Byzantine Empire, because it was "too far away" to have any impact on ENGLAND, which as everyone knows was the only important country (snark).

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There is no justice. There can be no peace.

@TheOtherMaven Well before the Gladiatorial Games were outlawed. Here is a lnk to information about this.

The Decline of the Games

Gladiatoral contests were first known to be outlawed by Constantine I in 325 AD, but they did continue through the mid 5th century. The Emperor Honorius is credited with putting a stop to it as the western empire was nearing its fall. The last known gladiator competition in the city of Rome occurred on 1st January 404.

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whenever I need information about some news in sports. Sports reporters are often ahead of the curve on culture and politics. As my interest in sports is very low, I don't often check out Zirin's reports. My loss probably.

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Situational Lefty's picture

@Marie If we're going to change this country, we need to appeal to the people.

People like sports and entertainment. They don't like politics.

...sports are more than just a sounding board for war, graft and mind-numbing moralism. It can also be a place of inspiration that doesn't transcend the political but becomes the political, a place where we see our own dreams and aspirations played out in dynamic Technicolor. Politics are remote and alien to the vast majority of people. But the playing field is where we can project our every hope, thought and fear. We want to believe fiercely that this is the one place where ability alone determines how we are judged. If you can play, you will play, no matter your color, class or gender. This is why boxers such as Joe Louis and the great Muhammad Ali, Olympic stars such as Wilma Rudolph and Jim Thorpe, Tennis players such as Billie Jean King and the Williams sisters, and even golf's Tiger Woods (although he would never want the title) are viewed, consciously or not, as political beings--carriers of the dream that the playing field for all of us might be made a little more level

--David Zirin "A People's History of Sports in the United States"

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"The enemy is anybody who is going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on." Yossarian

usefewersyllables's picture

"The Shockwave Rider", arguably John Brunner's greatest work of speculative fiction. Dating back to 1975, it is eerily prescient. He accurately predicts ubiquitous computing, social media, reality TV, large-scale computer hackery, and a bunch of other things that will be jarringly familiar as the story unfolds. I reread it before every election without fail, because I really need some cheering-up at about this point in each cycle.

It was out of print for a long time, but it has showed up for Kindle recently, as Amazon buys up the rights to everything under the sun. And I think that there are still bootleg pre-Amazon PDFs floating around out there as well. My dog-eared hardcopy lives on the shelf for preservation, and I just read the digital copies now.

Gotta love anything that treats cats and dogs with equal respect. It is one of the classics, IMNSHO, and well worth seeking out if you like a well-spun escapist tale with the odd "ouch" every few pages...

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Twice bitten, permanently shy.

earthling1's picture

@usefewersyllables @usefewersyllables
I could not find it (The Shockwave Rider) anywhere when looking for it two or three years running.
Even tried to get my local library to purchase one.
Will renew my efforts.
Thanks for the tip.

6 users have voted.

After six years, still getting robo-calls from Marriot Hotels.
They're like herpes.

@usefewersyllables @usefewersyllables I used to think Brunner must have had a time machine, there is so much in that book that the me of 1975 or so would never have forseen, and I think I have a decent imagination.

There is so much more to like in the book as well. Dystopian and Utopian in turns. One of my all time favorites.

Edit to add: I recently heard the argument that time-machines *must* be impossible. If there was such an invention in the future, 2020 would be flooded with time-traveling tourists here to get a firsthand look at the year it all went to hell...

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enhydra lutris's picture

Mr. Zirin.

Sports culture is just that, a culture or at least cultural phenonema, and hence subject to change.I can't find it quickly, but both our bodies and our minds need us to engage in physical exercise. January 2020 Scientific American "Active Body, Active Brain. How exercise keeps the mind sharp, for starters) We evolved to be active and engage in complex physical activities. Sport, or sporting activities, is one way to obtain that exercise. In my youth and young adult days, I engaged in sports, both organized and ad hoc, some even invented by the players themselves. Two of the latter I particularly recall; one involved two players, tennis racquets, a volleyball and a 3 wall handball court, the other two table tennis tables set up paralley and separated by 4 to 5 feet, 4 players, 4 paddles, and a superball. There was also a variant of ultimate frisbee played by moonlight. Any how, I feel I must speak in defense of sports and sporting activities a bit.

At any rate, before jogging was a thing, there were those of us who ran for fun, often, and not competitively, ditto bicycling, and I'm sure that endorphins played a role in all that, but there is something else, something connecting zen archery, baseball and beautiful equations. We had beautiful weather yar 'round and used to play a lot of a "baseball" variant called 500 which was basically practicing hitting and catching. I don't know how many thousands of times I hit a baseball, but I know the usual "hit", you swing, make contact and there is a 'kthunk', you feel in your whole body, hear and somewhat globally sense. I also recall quite vividly the first time I hit the ball perfectly - no kthunk, no jar, the ball flew off the bat and the only sensation was an immediate "oh yes, that's a good one, that's gone!" perceived with my entire body and mind. It was at that instant that you knew what you were trying to do up there, what it was all for and all about, and you wanted to do it again and it was vaguely addicting. Similarly, the first perfect catch was a cause of incredulity, I had to check to see if the ball was really there, smoothly, effortlessly, quietly trapped in the webbing of my glove. When I first heard that there was such a thing as Zen Archery, I was baffled, but later I understood and saw the connection to thosse perfect hits and catches, or semi-miraculous jumping or diving football catches or basketball saves, the first time I bicycled from the flats to the top of Grizzly Peak without pausing, all and how they related to the first time it suddenly hit me that a particular equation was beautiful - there is a mini satori there, and it comes from doing the thing just so when you are in a receptive frame of mind or consciousness.

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

earthling1's picture

for the introduction to Dave Zirin. Have been missing a good sportswriter since Jim Murray passed away.
I was a Murray fan for decades and rarely failed to read his collumns and marvelled at his special kind of humor.
Dave seems like a fine alternative.
Famous Murray quote for the Indy 500: "Gentlemen, start your coffins".

7 users have voted.

After six years, still getting robo-calls from Marriot Hotels.
They're like herpes.

Granma's picture

I've just started reading Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. Both were recommended by C99 ers. Thank you! Both were available at the Open Library of the Internet Archive.

I prefer hard copies of books. There is something very enjoyable about holding a book in my hands and turning the pages as I read. But I read a lot and I'm grateful to get books from the internet archive with libraries closed for so long.

edit to clean up

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