Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dave Zirin: Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports (Haymarket Books) Someone said Dave Zirin believes “everything is about race.” The fact is a great many issues come down to race. Obviously, the United States is built upon the backs of slavery. All these many years later, much has changed, but many, perhaps most, things remain the same for African-Americans. This truism was exposed in the aftermath of Katrina, when the poor, black, forgotten faces were seen on television by the nation and the world, abandoned, desperate and without hope, left behind in the mammoth structure called the Superdome.

It is upon this ugly symbol of the race gap that Zirin introduces his new book, Welcome to the Terrordome. Zirin re-examines the moment when, in his words, this tragedy became a farce, when the Superdome refugees were moved “not to government housing, public shelters, or even another location in the area, but to the Houston Astrodome.” Then the woman who might best symbolize white American privilege and all that is so terribly wrong with this country, Barbara Bush, showed up to give her words of wisdom on the hopeless situation. According to Barbara: “What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas.” Then the son of the witch, whom Zirin calls “Barbara’s spawn,” shows up to offer his words of wisdom and his “sympathy… for segregationist Trent Lott.” According to George the younger, out of the rubble of Trent’s house “there is going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.”

From the devastation of New Orleans, Zirin moves forward to examine a variety of issues. These are issues that define the United States in 2007. He examines them all through the lens of sports and sports celebrities. The scandal of Barry Bonds' supposed flirtation with steroids becomes a lens through which Zirin exposes the continuing presence of racism in the “sports journalism” of the present era. Zirin exposes the diminishing presence of African-Americans in baseball, and he shows how this is rooted in the basic, hopeless economics of the black ghetto. Zirin writes about sports with a passion and integrity you will not find in your average sports page or monthly sports magazine. Welcome to the Terrordome is a devastating collection of the best of his work.


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