Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sports and Politics, Book Review of Game Over

41hAKt30pLL._AA160_[1]The lesson I learned from this read is that a good book can be ruined by too much soap-box.  Game Over by Dave Zirin is mostly a well-written, engaging book.  It looks at the sports-world, both in America and abroad, and it’s relationship with politics.  These are connections that need to be better recognized and Zirin does a good job of drawing the lines to make the connections.

The first chapter begins with the Green Bay Packers – so of course, how could I not love that – and the connections between the Packers, the NFL Lockout, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Occupy Movement.  Other chapters cover soccer and the Arab Spring, the Olympics and a global movement towards police states, and the NCAA and labor. 

The most powerful chapter is the one on Joe Paterno and the sports world’s willingness to turn its eyes from very terrible wrongs.  As Zirin points out, “this is what happens when a football program becomes the economic, social, and spiritual heartbeat of an entire region.”  I have no doubt that had this book been written a few months later, that chapter would have included conversation about Stubenville as well.

The chapter on “Sexuality and Sports” highlights far more than just your average “woman aren’t treated equally” view.  Zirin gets into everything from the ultra-sexualization of some women athletes to the full gender spectrum that includes more than those on the outer edges of masculine and feminine.   If you were to pick up this book and only read 2 chapters, I’d definitely suggest this one and the one on Paterno.

As I said, Game Over is mostly well-written.  It’s sprinkled throughout with a little too much of Zirin’s own politics.  These things can be glossed over for the most part, until you get to the last chapter.  Zirin attempts to write about racism in sports, but it comes off as if he’s grasping at straws.  I’m not saying there is no racism in sports, but Zirin doesn’t do a good job of putting together a compelling narrative.  He also strays way off topic going into the Trayvon Martin shooting (racism but not sports) and Tim Tebow’s faith (sports but not racism).  Other than that one chapter, I’d highly recommend the book.

Game Over is a short read and fodder for a good number of long night’s thinking.  The toughest part for me now that I’m done reading it is who to lend it to first.


Wendy said...

Maybe you shouldn't have lent it to me first because it is going to be sitting on my pile of books to read for a while before I can get to it.

goldenrail said...

You could always move it to the top of your pile ;)
It's a quick read, good for lunch time.