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A People's History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play

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A chronicle of larger-than-life sporting characters, dramatic contests and what amounts to an alternative history of the Unites States.


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A chronicle of larger-than-life sporting characters, dramatic contests and what amounts to an alternative history of the Unites States.

30 review for A People's History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play

  1. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

    You know I really wanted to love this book...I think Zirin's short pieces in The Nation and elsewhere are terrific, and a book about how sports are political and how athletes have taken a stand for what they believe? A book telling the stories of those athletes who are often forgotten or marginalized because of their gender or race or sexual orientation (or all of the above)? Come on. This is such a Madeline book...what self-respecting leftist sports geek (*I ran competitive track for 14 years, You know I really wanted to love this book...I think Zirin's short pieces in The Nation and elsewhere are terrific, and a book about how sports are political and how athletes have taken a stand for what they believe? A book telling the stories of those athletes who are often forgotten or marginalized because of their gender or race or sexual orientation (or all of the above)? Come on. This is such a Madeline book...what self-respecting leftist sports geek (*I ran competitive track for 14 years, did you know that?) wouldn't love this? But honestly, I find Zirin's columns a lot more impressive than this book. The writing is kind of choppy--lots of short sections, interesting for sure but sometimes not tied together at all. And no conclusion to speak of: the book just ends. The title's not totally accurate either...the first 150 of the 250 years are covered in a few pages, leaving the rest of the book for the last 100 years. And this is not so much a "People's History of Sports" (which to me implies an attempt at telling the stories of all US athletes who've been marginalized when we look at sports) as it is a history of the struggles of male African American athletes to desegregate big-name sports. Fascinating subject for a book for sure, and a huge step forward given that the dominant sports narrative is one of white male athletes and invisible privilege. But women athletes of all backgrounds seemed like footnotes here, and women of color even more so...as did any athletes who weren't white or African American (baseball in the WWII Japanese American incarceration camps gets a couple paragraphs, as does Scott Fujita...that's honestly about it). I do think this is an important book, and there's value in reading it just for its coverage of the struggles I mention above. But truly doing justice to a people's history of sports in the US would take much more than 300 pages. This isn't bad for an overview...but I'll still take Zirin's columns over this book any day.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

    This book deserves to be widely read – my fairly restrained rating is explained below; bear with me please. The (political) left has, for too long written sport off as a distraction from the real work of politics, as the world of bread and circuses making capitalism and the state safe for those in power – a view that sits somewhere between patronising and a foolish failure to recognise the vital role that the everyday life of working people plays in their consciousness and awareness. We don’t ha This book deserves to be widely read – my fairly restrained rating is explained below; bear with me please. The (political) left has, for too long written sport off as a distraction from the real work of politics, as the world of bread and circuses making capitalism and the state safe for those in power – a view that sits somewhere between patronising and a foolish failure to recognise the vital role that the everyday life of working people plays in their consciousness and awareness. We don’t have to go far to hear contempt expressed for the plutocrats who own major sports teams, regret over what wholesale injection of outrageous amounts of money has done to athletes (while recognising that it has allowed many of them to hone their craft), rejection of the corporate circuses that are the global mega-events of various world cups and Olympic games, superbowls and other (to my mind) nausea inducing moments of ostentation. Yet, for the most part, the Left treats sport as a sideshow to the real world of politics – something that may surprise the working people of Atlanta expelled from their homes to build an ‘athlete’s village’ that priced them out of their communities, the people of London’s East End who have lost public space to a corporate enclave that is becoming a security island testing new surveillance technology, the Bangladeshi workers making big label sports clothes and who die in sweatshop fires while the labels they work for cream huge profits, and countless others who suffer at the hands of the sport industries and their corporate masters. Although this book has been in my to-read pile for an awfully long time, I was looking forward to this history of US sports by one of the sharpest of the current sports writers (and one of the few openly asserting a political position from well to the left of centre) in a series launched by Howard Zinn, whose ‘people’s history’ series has been consistently impressive. That said, I may be the wrong person to legitimately pass too much comment on this book – given that I am professional sports historian (yip, that’s my job, as I hear so many chaps out there sigh with envy). First up, this should probably be entitled ‘A People’s History of Sports in the United States during the 20th Century’, given that we reach that period after only 31 pages (leaving almost all of the remaining 230 pages to this period). Now, I accept that, the team sports that are the (not exclusive) focus of Zirin’s discussion here trend to have reached their mature forms in the 20th century, but I was surprised by the absence of, for instance, Tom Molineax – the former Virginia slave turned prize fighter who dominated that sport in Britain in the early 19th century, surely worth a mention in the context of ante-bellum sport. I accept that all authors need to make really difficult decisions about what stays in our texts and what goes out, and that Zirin is writing for a broad audience – and to his credit the opening line of his acknowledgements recognise the many things that “ended up on the cutting room floor” followed by a call to petition the publishers for a Volume II. What’s more, I do not want to appear as if I am one of those anoraks (sports history nerds – for non-British readers) playing at anachronist shouting ‘but what about’ from the corner, so Dave, consider this a ‘what should be in the next volume plea’. Many of the key things are here – the stories of Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson, the 1968 Olympics, the difficult desegregation of baseball and the disastrous effect on the Negro Leagues, the reactionary politics of the US Olympic Committee (especially but not only Avery Brundage in his support for the Berlin Olympics as fascist celebration), the active marginalisation of women. Furthermore, I recognise the faultline that is the politics of race that runs through US popular culture, the marginalisation and oppression of African-Americans, the conflation of urban injustice, race and class that is encapsulated in so much African American life – and as a result the prominent place that politics of race needs to play in histories of American sport. That said, race often becomes African American, so there are groups whose absence is marked – aside from the great Roberto Clemente, Latinos do not play a prominent part in the book despite the important tales of US imperialism that are encapsulated in baseball farming in the Caribbean. There are, as far as I could see, only two references to Native American athletes (Jim Thorpe & Billy MiIlls) despite the prominent place of Native athletes in early 20th century baseball and the vital role of, say, the Carlisle Indian School’s football team in the development of the game in the early 20th century, or the way the Fort Shaw Indian School ‘girls’ basketball team dominated the game at the St Louis Olympics in 1904 – beating the US National team to become ‘champions of the world’ and the ‘aboriginal days’ and the 1904 Olympics designed to assert a naturalised politics of whiteness-as-logical-dominance. These instances are well known to sports historians, but have become obscured in broader popular discourse, and are, I think, things followers of contemporary sport need to know. It was good to see, however, good treatment of the place of baseball in the camps where Japanese-Americans were interned during WW2 (surely one of the great times of shame in US history). Women play an ambiguous role in the book, but remain relatively marginal – which in a sense is a fair reflection of the world of sport. It doesn’t however help when slips of the keyboard (I hope) mean that we are told on p199 that Arthur Ashe was “the first person of African descent to win a grand slam tennis title” – the US Open in 1968 – when we already been told on p 122 that Althea Gibson “won both Wimbeldon and the US Open on her way to becoming the first African American women to be named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year”; surely an perplexing definition of ‘African descent’ if it excludes the Harlem born and raised Gibson. That said, many of the key moments in assertion of women in the masculinist world of sport are here – the women’s professional baseball league of the 1940s and ‘50s, the politically savvy organising of one of sport’s highest profile white working class women, Billie Jean King, the complex corporate place of late 1990s women’s soccer, Althea Gibson’s challenge to the class and race politics of 1950s tennis. I suspect, however, that Zirin’s focus on team sports exacerbated the relative exclusion of women from this ‘people’s history’. More surprising is a seeming exclusion or downplaying of class as a primary dynamic – or perhaps an obvious focus on the white working class; King is the only obviously white working class athlete who plays a major role in the book. This may be the product of a team sport focus, but is also likely to be part of the corporatisation of US sport and distinctive place of college sport in the US sports system. Finally, Dave if you do get to do a Volume 2, please include a further reading list – there is an awful lot that is out there (so much more than appears in the, sadly, quite limited reference list). I’m left with two problems in writing a commentary however – the first is identified earlier, I do this stuff for a living as an academic/professional historian of sport and place myself firmly on the Left so much of what I read here I had encountered before leading to the ‘but-what-about’ response. This probably accounts for only ‘liking’ this – not a more effusive response. In other words, I think I was disappointed in part because of my expectation, and in part because I suspect I am not the intended audience, which leads to my second concern. I wonder who the intended audience is; I hope it is widely read by sports fans and by people on the left but wonder how many have/will (all should!). So, please read this – but remember, as Zirin implies in his acknowledgement, this barely scratches the surface of a(n alternative) people’s history of US sport.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shana

    Americans do not live or work in a vacuum, and this book reminds us that we do not play in a vacuum either. Zirin's book is part of a series based on "A People's History of the United States," Howard Zinn's alternative history told through previously unheard voices. Zirin, Press Action's 2005 and 2006 Sportswriter of the Year, sportswriter for edgeofsports.com, and The Nation's first sportswriter in its history, uses uncommon connections, a wealth of quotations new and old, and a left-leaning na Americans do not live or work in a vacuum, and this book reminds us that we do not play in a vacuum either. Zirin's book is part of a series based on "A People's History of the United States," Howard Zinn's alternative history told through previously unheard voices. Zirin, Press Action's 2005 and 2006 Sportswriter of the Year, sportswriter for edgeofsports.com, and The Nation's first sportswriter in its history, uses uncommon connections, a wealth of quotations new and old, and a left-leaning narrative to trace the interplay of sports, politics, and social movements in modern America. He begins by reminding us that sports has uses far from today's entertainment and business worlds. One early function was to teach agricultural skills. Another, perhaps more nefarious, was to turn civilians into troops at the ready. "But [English King] James's view that sports were essential was also quite mercenary: 'The other inconvenience is that this prohibition [against sports] barreth the common and meaner sort of people from using such exercises as may make their bodies more able for warre, when Wee or our successors shall have occasion to use them.' This is the seventeenth-century version of Dwight Eisenhower's famed dictum, 'The true mission of American sports is to prepare young men for war.'" Religion also found its uses for sports. "Instead of seeing sports as an immoral waste of time and an express lane to sin, [muscular Christianity] began to separate 'good sports,' which taught obeisance to authority, values, godliness . . . from bad sports such as cockfighting and rat-baiting." After an overview of sports in early world history, Zirin focuses each chapter on a particular time in twentieth and twenty-first century America. Social and political movements like civil rights and Communism; issues like class, racism, sexism, doping, and sports economics; and the continuing interplay between sports, war, and discontent are woven throughout. Baseball makes an appearance almost everywhere, with its separate leagues for blacks and women, long-lasting racism, and chattel-like "reserve clause." Readers may begin to see the long-lamented Series drought for the Boston Red Sox (until 2004) in an entirely different light after Zirin's account of the team's long and shameful struggle to maintain segregation. For those of us raised in the era of Mike Tyson, who is never mentioned in the book, it may be impossible to see boxing as simply a brutal sport after reading what Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali endured, meant, and accomplished. At its best, the book traces deep roots of sports like baseball, NASCAR, boxing, tennis, and football. It assesses each sport's relation to or complicity in various causes and injustices over the years, as it does the impact of and on the athletes themselves. Throughout is the debate over what behavior is to be expected of athletes – professional or collegiate or Olympian -- in an unjust world. A final chapter touches on recent events. When the Superdome sheltered Hurricane Katrina victims, it was the first time that most had ever entered the expensive stadium, one originally built with public funds that might have gone to reinforce the levies and recently rebuilt as a higher priority than the plight of any sheltering resident. Sports and politics and prejudice: they span every chapter. Although Zirin can be heavy-handed, reaching beyond sports to air an injustice that particularly rankles, he also helps us see light and shadow. Where the integration of baseball was a righteous step, not to be argued with, the dissolution of the Negro Leagues had real consequences for black-owned businesses. Zirin's book starts out tightly woven, becoming more episodic toward the end. Although irony abounds, the only bit of humor comes from quotations, and it is simply the distance we have come that allows us to find that humor. An 1878 issue of American Christian Review predicted a 12-step tragedy for any woman playing croquet, moving from "1. A social party" to "3. A croquet party" to "10. Poverty and discontent. 11. Shame and disgrace. 12. Ruin." A good book changes our perception of something well known or something never before considered. In sport as in history, it turns out you cannot be a spectator without being a participant.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    This book was written the way Dave Zirin talks. Calm and factual builds to highly amused rage at just the sheer obvious awfulness of it all. If you're going to be entertained by sports, read this and know what you're getting into. This book was written the way Dave Zirin talks. Calm and factual builds to highly amused rage at just the sheer obvious awfulness of it all. If you're going to be entertained by sports, read this and know what you're getting into.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Edward Donato

    A Sports Eye Opener This work clearly shows that the world of sports cannot be divorced from other aspects of society, especially the world of politics. Sports reflects what is going on in our society, though sometimes in a subtle way. The inequities, biases, and prejudices that exist in our society do carry over into the sports world. In the world of sports we can see the unfair treatment of women, the enduring commercialization in our society, the persistence of racism, the selfishness and gree A Sports Eye Opener This work clearly shows that the world of sports cannot be divorced from other aspects of society, especially the world of politics. Sports reflects what is going on in our society, though sometimes in a subtle way. The inequities, biases, and prejudices that exist in our society do carry over into the sports world. In the world of sports we can see the unfair treatment of women, the enduring commercialization in our society, the persistence of racism, the selfishness and greed of certain athletes, the increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, and the inordinate influence of the business class. It is not a surprise that our democratic failures as a country are reflected in our various sports activities. Ed Donato

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emily Heying

    There is a lot of important history from the sports world presented in this book that is insightful and relevant to today's world. It was a hard book to get into, but once I got about half way through I couldn't put it down. I loved the quotes from sports writers and officials through our history. The format was a little choppy and made it hard to read at times. There is a lot of important history from the sports world presented in this book that is insightful and relevant to today's world. It was a hard book to get into, but once I got about half way through I couldn't put it down. I loved the quotes from sports writers and officials through our history. The format was a little choppy and made it hard to read at times.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    this actually had a lot of the same information from "whats my name, fool" but a good read none-the-less. this actually had a lot of the same information from "whats my name, fool" but a good read none-the-less.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sharber

    if you are a leftist and a sports fan then this is a book for you. of course, you probably have already come across dave zirin... like dave, i do not think sports is merely a haven of reaction and distraction and this book has some great examples of the uplifting and community building nature of sports. the story of the gay olympics in 82 and 86 is amazing (and worthy of a book all on its own) as well as how jack scott tried to turn athletics into something liberatory at oberlin college in the 1 if you are a leftist and a sports fan then this is a book for you. of course, you probably have already come across dave zirin... like dave, i do not think sports is merely a haven of reaction and distraction and this book has some great examples of the uplifting and community building nature of sports. the story of the gay olympics in 82 and 86 is amazing (and worthy of a book all on its own) as well as how jack scott tried to turn athletics into something liberatory at oberlin college in the 1970's. dave doesn't see the world through rose colored glasses though. there is tons wrong with sports as there is also tons wrong with society at large. but as this book shows, sports can also be a place where we shine. a place where we can stand a little taller and fight for what is right and be heard at distances much further than our voices usually travel. and that is when athletes, as well as people in general, are at our best. sports is what we make it. and it is not immutable for all time. or as i am fond of saying, what people have created, people can change. as a tangentially related side note, i am from houston and grew up going to the astrodome. it was pleasing to me to see houston (and the houston area) feature so prominently. ali fought terrel at the astrodome all the while shouting 'what's my name, fool?' billie jean king king destroyed the chauvinist pig bobby riggs in the battle of the sexes. the dome also became a home for many katrina refugees after the hurricane in new orleans. also jack johnson the amazing fighter came from just down the road in galveston. and babe didrickson one of the first and most athletically gifted woman trailblazer was from port arthur. even calvin murphy (who most people my age know from announcing rockets games) made an appearance when he stood up for more black players at his small catholic college in upstate new york. ali made another appearance in houston when he defied the draft board and stood in front of a federal judge to explain his actions. some houstonians even picketed outside with 'draft beer, not ali' signs... so for those also interested in a little houston area texana, pick up this book and remember these things when astrodome is discussed for a possible demolition...

  9. 5 out of 5

    William

    I really wanted to like this, but it was pretty much any other ol' history book. I mean, I enjoyed the progressive focus, but it didn't seem to say much that I didn't already know. Didn't leave with any new perspectives or anything. I hate for-profit sports as much as I always have. They suck. People watch them on the sofa, and money gets wasted. And it's sexist. And it's racist. Whoopty doo. I really wanted to like this, but it was pretty much any other ol' history book. I mean, I enjoyed the progressive focus, but it didn't seem to say much that I didn't already know. Didn't leave with any new perspectives or anything. I hate for-profit sports as much as I always have. They suck. People watch them on the sofa, and money gets wasted. And it's sexist. And it's racist. Whoopty doo.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    A lot of info. A lot of detailed info for my not very detail oriented brain. Bookclub motivation proves valuable. There was some general sports ideas and then some focus on indivual events and people. Like the myth of meritocracy. Like the idea of sports as a form of social control...one that would orient people towards safe activities and discipline, pacify angry workers, and offput radicalism. There was a lot of baseball. Baseball as a hark back to an agricultural past. Soldiers in WW1 playing A lot of info. A lot of detailed info for my not very detail oriented brain. Bookclub motivation proves valuable. There was some general sports ideas and then some focus on indivual events and people. Like the myth of meritocracy. Like the idea of sports as a form of social control...one that would orient people towards safe activities and discipline, pacify angry workers, and offput radicalism. There was a lot of baseball. Baseball as a hark back to an agricultural past. Soldiers in WW1 playing baseball to pass the time. Rich people wanted their sons to play baseball so they would become less pale. There was a lot of civil rights struggle mirrored by baseball. The baseball commisioner tried to pass a black man, Charley Grant, off as an indian named Tokohoma. Then all Charley Grant's friends came to watch him play. Sick. There was a guy named Moses Fleetwood Walker who integrateted baseball before Jackie Robinson. He was a seperatist who wanted to lead a back to Africa movement. He talked about the "incurability of white supremacy." Interesting because I always want to believe in people and that things are possible. Muhammad Ali was disrepected by people and media who called him his slave name instead of his chosen religous name. Sick. One thing that unifies oppression for me is the need for everyone to be called what they want to be called. The naming and the unnaming. I liked the Olympic protesters. People giving black power fists on the podium. I liked the teammates who banded together in antiwar communion. I liked the tennis stars who were POWerful women. Notes: Warhol exhibit on masculinty and sports, being in the huddle, Chitra Ganesh, little faces on big white papers

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Excellent look at sports and labor relations throughout US history. I'd be interested to read a follow-up / new edition that takes into account the numerous athletes (and coaches!) who have spoken out in the world of politics in the last decade. Excellent look at sports and labor relations throughout US history. I'd be interested to read a follow-up / new edition that takes into account the numerous athletes (and coaches!) who have spoken out in the world of politics in the last decade.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karina Girón

    I really liked this book but I had two major problems with it. The first one being Zirin wrote one page on gymnastics and it was basically to say gymnasts were all eating disordered victims of sexual abuse which he got from one reading of Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. That's not only really offensive but completely inaccurate, and he willfully ignored all the strides American gymnastics made from 1996 to 2008. I think the book was published before 2012 but if he would have even glanced at the 20 I really liked this book but I had two major problems with it. The first one being Zirin wrote one page on gymnastics and it was basically to say gymnasts were all eating disordered victims of sexual abuse which he got from one reading of Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. That's not only really offensive but completely inaccurate, and he willfully ignored all the strides American gymnastics made from 1996 to 2008. I think the book was published before 2012 but if he would have even glanced at the 2008 team he would have seen that it's a very different sport from the 80s and early 90s. The only major problem I had was that even though he posed as a feminist and talked about how female athletes are sexualized and overlooked in sports he went on to pretty much to overlook female athletes. He only talks about female athletes, even the most famous ones, briefly while the male athletes get pages and pages of backstory. I was not impressed. The book is pretty much about a couple of boxers, with baseball and football taking up the majority of the book, and a little bit of basketball on the side.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stop

    Read an excerpt from A People's History of Sports at STOP SMILING Online: JORDAN, INC. Much is expected of those with power. And no athlete has ever had more and done less than Michael Jeffrey Jordan. The 1990s in sports saw the corporatization of the game gain an even stronger hand. The fall of the Berlin Wall meant there were new markets to conquer and new products to shill. Athletes on the whole didn’t want to take a stand and become the next Craig Hodges. As basketball all-star Chris Webber sai Read an excerpt from A People's History of Sports at STOP SMILING Online: JORDAN, INC. Much is expected of those with power. And no athlete has ever had more and done less than Michael Jeffrey Jordan. The 1990s in sports saw the corporatization of the game gain an even stronger hand. The fall of the Berlin Wall meant there were new markets to conquer and new products to shill. Athletes on the whole didn’t want to take a stand and become the next Craig Hodges. As basketball all-star Chris Webber said, “People will be so worried about how they will be seen by history or how their commercials are going to be taken away. Now the thing is, ‘Don’t step out of line.’ Now the cool thing is, ‘I don’t want to be looked at. Don’t separate me; don’t pick on me.’ I’ve even felt that way a couple of times, too — and that’s not good. We have so much influence; I don’t think we know how much we have.” Read the excerpt...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ron Davidson

    An interesting book in need of a good editor. The author tells important stories of American culture and politics from the perspective of sports and sports people, but it seemed just a little disjointed, and with more than a few (albeit minor) factual errors. (Of course, the only one I remember now is calling Biggie Munn the Michigan State football coach in 1969; he quit coaching in 1952, and was the Athletic Director. Other mistakes were mostly things like putting players on the wrong team, etc An interesting book in need of a good editor. The author tells important stories of American culture and politics from the perspective of sports and sports people, but it seemed just a little disjointed, and with more than a few (albeit minor) factual errors. (Of course, the only one I remember now is calling Biggie Munn the Michigan State football coach in 1969; he quit coaching in 1952, and was the Athletic Director. Other mistakes were mostly things like putting players on the wrong team, etc.) The narrative was strictly chronological, but I wish the author could have tied it all together a little better with a strong central thesis. Racism and class conflict are obviously important issues in the book. I wish there was a little more analysis with the reporting. In general, a book that will keep you reading, especially if you like "People's History" narratives. I'll be reading Zirin's latest book, "Game Over," soon.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    It delivers more or less exactly what it promises, so if you're a leftist who's into sports, this is a solid book for you. There are two main problems that bumped me down from a 5: first, the history was a bit lopsided. The book claims to be about the past 250 years, but in reality, it mostly covers the last 70 years or so. Not that I minded - I somehow doubt sports history was that big of a thing before the 20th century - but it just felt lopsided. The second issue was that I would have liked mo It delivers more or less exactly what it promises, so if you're a leftist who's into sports, this is a solid book for you. There are two main problems that bumped me down from a 5: first, the history was a bit lopsided. The book claims to be about the past 250 years, but in reality, it mostly covers the last 70 years or so. Not that I minded - I somehow doubt sports history was that big of a thing before the 20th century - but it just felt lopsided. The second issue was that I would have liked more on the "stadiums instead of urban policy" debate. I've read some of Zirin's other stuff on this in the past, and it's pretty awesome stuff. I was hoping for more of that here. Otherwise, pretty good.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    Realizing he's following the path laid down by Howard Zinn, I would still change the title to "A Political History of Spectator Sports" to more accurately reflect the focus. While I had hoped for a more grass-roots level history of people's participation in athletics, sport, and spectator sports--admittedly a huge undertaking that would necessitate a much longer tome--this is still a lively and worthwhile look at the forgotten, marginalized, and alternative sides of sports history in the United Realizing he's following the path laid down by Howard Zinn, I would still change the title to "A Political History of Spectator Sports" to more accurately reflect the focus. While I had hoped for a more grass-roots level history of people's participation in athletics, sport, and spectator sports--admittedly a huge undertaking that would necessitate a much longer tome--this is still a lively and worthwhile look at the forgotten, marginalized, and alternative sides of sports history in the United States. The main focus is also mainly the 20th Century, with emphasis on the Sixties, but there was much here to discover and an optimism at the end of the Bush era that proved unfounded. Sigh.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    This was the second book in the People's History Series offered by The New Press. I have earlier read and loved A People's History of the Civil War. This book, like that one, follows in Zinn's footsteps and confronts some very key issues in a remarkably clear manner. The only thing I really find myself disappointed with is that it is so short. Really, the book could stand to be at least 600 pages long. I was particularly hoping that there would be more 19th century material, and that there would This was the second book in the People's History Series offered by The New Press. I have earlier read and loved A People's History of the Civil War. This book, like that one, follows in Zinn's footsteps and confronts some very key issues in a remarkably clear manner. The only thing I really find myself disappointed with is that it is so short. Really, the book could stand to be at least 600 pages long. I was particularly hoping that there would be more 19th century material, and that there would be some mention of hockey (people who know me will not be surprised by this) outside of the 1980 Olympic Team.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Considering the vast time frame implicated in the title, this is a relatively quick jaunt through sports in the U.S. This is NOT revisionist history, it's simply not written by those in power and thus challenges conventional knowledge about sports. While some sections seemed obligatory to include in a truly accurate history of all sports, I would love to read an entire book this size focusing on the whole story of baseball or basketball. Certainly there are many more little-know anecdotes surroun Considering the vast time frame implicated in the title, this is a relatively quick jaunt through sports in the U.S. This is NOT revisionist history, it's simply not written by those in power and thus challenges conventional knowledge about sports. While some sections seemed obligatory to include in a truly accurate history of all sports, I would love to read an entire book this size focusing on the whole story of baseball or basketball. Certainly there are many more little-know anecdotes surrounding these more widespread/popular sports, and no doubt Zirin has the chops to graft them into a larger narrative.

  19. 5 out of 5

    ēva

    i think the first half of this tries to cover too much ground in too few pages, and ends up struggling to tie things together in a coherent way. every chapter just skims over a half dozen events & personalities that could've been chapters on their own. its coverage of the civil rights movement and vietnam eras is really well-fleshed out, though. definitely made me want to read more zirin - just not in this format. i think the first half of this tries to cover too much ground in too few pages, and ends up struggling to tie things together in a coherent way. every chapter just skims over a half dozen events & personalities that could've been chapters on their own. its coverage of the civil rights movement and vietnam eras is really well-fleshed out, though. definitely made me want to read more zirin - just not in this format.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Short

    A good history of sports in the US. Zirin take the road less traveled by most sports writers as he analyzes the political, social and cultural implications sports most well-known and obscure figures and events have had for America. Great pieces on Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Pat Tillman, and Billie Jean King to name a few well-known figures. Better pieces on the lesser known events of the early 20th century football, the true origins of baseball, and more.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Been reading some of Z's columns for The Nation. He's quite good. Recent piece on merging U-Miami scandal takes a different stance than the typical shouting for "death penalty" for Hurricanes, instead arguing the hypocrisy of NCAA is the larger problem. He's particularly adept at placing sporting events and figures in larger cultural or political context. Writes with an engaging voice filled with informed outrage. Been reading some of Z's columns for The Nation. He's quite good. Recent piece on merging U-Miami scandal takes a different stance than the typical shouting for "death penalty" for Hurricanes, instead arguing the hypocrisy of NCAA is the larger problem. He's particularly adept at placing sporting events and figures in larger cultural or political context. Writes with an engaging voice filled with informed outrage.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    I loved this book, but that love has some reservations. Zirin writes well in the mold of Howard Zinn, but most of the time the book feels airy and disconnected. Zirin tells a hundred different tales, but he never weaves those tales together. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book very much. I could hardly put it down. Zirn wonderfully tells the story the innumerable struggles within American sports over the centuries.

  23. 5 out of 5

    George

    if you have read zirin's other books, this doesnt really bring all that much to the table... if you have not, i think it is very nice summary of his work. also, done in the classic People's History format... lots of first person sources. interesting and important on its own, but i would recommend reading his other books for greater detail and more persuasive argument. --gw if you have read zirin's other books, this doesnt really bring all that much to the table... if you have not, i think it is very nice summary of his work. also, done in the classic People's History format... lots of first person sources. interesting and important on its own, but i would recommend reading his other books for greater detail and more persuasive argument. --gw

  24. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    If you like progressive politics or sports,you'll enjoy this book. If,like me,you like both progressive politics and sports, this is a must read. It's part of the Howard Zinn legacy of the "People's History of the US." Learned a great deal about Ali, Jackie Robinson, and some lesser know female sports figures. And Zirin pulls no punches with Michael Jordon, which was intriguing. If you like progressive politics or sports,you'll enjoy this book. If,like me,you like both progressive politics and sports, this is a must read. It's part of the Howard Zinn legacy of the "People's History of the US." Learned a great deal about Ali, Jackie Robinson, and some lesser know female sports figures. And Zirin pulls no punches with Michael Jordon, which was intriguing.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Chappell

    The rough start to this book was worth it in the end. I am admittedly not a history buff. But I loved reading the history in this book through the lens of sports. I enjoyed getting snippets on a cast of characters from Jimmy Carter to Arthur Ashe. I was shocked, disappointed, and thrilled by many of the things said about sports, politics, and race.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ozzie

    Just finished this bad boy. It's a breezy interesting read. I already knew a lot of it but I'm a sports nut who's already done work in college with negro league baseball. Still, it's well sourced and researched with plenty of citations. Academic sports history for the layman! Just finished this bad boy. It's a breezy interesting read. I already knew a lot of it but I'm a sports nut who's already done work in college with negro league baseball. Still, it's well sourced and researched with plenty of citations. Academic sports history for the layman!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Larry Lutz

    This was thought provoking but, because of it's overarching nature, often made stamens with little support for the argument behind the statement. I could have like a little more development of some themes - rise of women in sports, for example - rather than an unceasing march to the conclusions. This was thought provoking but, because of it's overarching nature, often made stamens with little support for the argument behind the statement. I could have like a little more development of some themes - rise of women in sports, for example - rather than an unceasing march to the conclusions.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    An interesting reflection of how the sports world has mirrored social change and movements in the United States.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    Recommended reading, sports fans.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eddie

    NF - Part of the People's History series. Athletics and NF - Part of the People's History series. Athletics and

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