7.15.2005

muhammad ali et al

Here's a man after my own heart. Dave Zirin has written a book called What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States. If you think it's an odd subject, you're not alone.
Then in 1996, a basketball player named Mahmoud Abdul Rauf refused to stand for the National Anthem. Rauf believed the flag to be "a symbol of oppression and tyranny," and was willing to suffer the consequences. His courage was stunning, but even more shocking was the howling cries for his head. When Rauf was suspended, some news reports resembled lynch mobs. But others likened him to Muhammad Ali, whose title was stripped for being a draft resistor during the Viet Nam war. This was a history I barely knew. As Rauf began to buckle under the tremendous pressure of right wing bombast, it became clear that our side needed a history of the resistance in US pro sports. To aid this effort, I started writing a column called Edge of Sports, and just completed my first book "What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States."

When some friends back home heard what I was writing, a Friar's Club Roast seemed to spontaneously generate. These guys seemed to magically morph into a gaggle of Henny Youngmans in baggy jeans. "Pro Sports and radical politics?" one budding Borscht Belter smirked. "That will make a helluva pamphlet!" Or "What's your next book, Dick Cheney's Diet Tips? John Ashcroft's Favorite Black History Moments?"

Everyone had a jibe. But my buddies are like Shaquille O'Neal's free throws: simply way off. The history of how social struggles have exploded onto the playing field is vibrant, thrilling and very real.
This stuff is worthy of my man Howard Zinn, and not only because their names sound alike. Zinn seeks to teach us the hidden history of people's movements that have challenged the system. Hidden, because those who usually write our history have a stake in preserving that system. Anyone who illuminates the acts of subversion, however obscure, that are always rising up, is doing good work.

Zirin wrote an essay about the book for Common Dreams. The book is here.

11 comments:

James said...

This reminds me of George Carlin's little bit about Muhammad Ali (from memory, may be a bit inaccurate):

Muhammad Ali has a strange job: he beats people up. The US government wanted him to change jobs, wanted him to kill people. He said, "No... that's where I draw the line. I'll beat 'em up, but I won't kill 'em." So the government said, "Well, if you won't kill 'em, we won't let you beat 'em up!"

L-girl said...

I remember that, too! That goes back a ways. You must be as old as me. :)

American Girl said...

I feel that Muhammed Ali is a man to be admired for many reasons. Standing up for what you believe is very important. I may or may not agree with his choice, but he has the right to decide what is best for him.

James said...

"That goes back a ways. You must be as old as me. :)"

Glad to hear you remember it. I've been having real trouble with people not getting jokes lately due to time-sensitive cultural references. I quoted "George Bush firing Karl Rove would be like Charlie McCarthy firing Edgar Bergen" to a co-worker and got a blank stare. "Who's Charlie McCarthy?"

Worse still, I showed someone this cartoon and got "I don't get the second panel. What's 'Pepperland'?": http://www.idrewthis.org/2005/ambassador.html

L-girl said...

I quoted "George Bush firing Karl Rove would be like Charlie McCarthy firing Edgar Bergen"

Very good! :)

to a co-worker and got a blank stare. "Who's Charlie McCarthy?"

Hmm, well, yes. There's a definitely a generational/cultural divide there. I try to bridge that as much as possible, but I inevitably fall down on the pop culture stuff. It moves too quickly and is too damn boring to keep track of.

I admit it took me a minute to get the Pepperland reference, but not because of age. Had the reference been to Rock N Roll Circus, I'd have understood.

Welcome to wmtc, James. What brings you to these parts?

James said...

"Hmm, well, yes. There's a definitely a generational / cultural divide there."

It can't be *that* much... Bergen's show went off the air 11 years before I was born, and I was only 1 year old when Yellow Submarine came out... And it's not like I have a strong pop-culture background -- I grew up listening to opera, not The Beatles.

"Welcome to wmtc, James. What brings you to these parts?"

Curiousity about what was bringing you to *these* parts. I'm a Torontonian, so I'm always interested in seeing what our southern neighbours think of our little country, when they think of it at all.

I saw a comment somewhere (don't remember where, maybe Idealistic Pragmatist or City in the Trees) about this blog about someone moving to Toronto from the US, so I was curious.

L-girl said...

Ah, must be our friend LonePrimate at City in the Trees.

Well, this is one southern neighbor who thinks about your country all the time. Right now my brain revolves around it. I'm sure you can understand why, what with the countdown less than 50.

James said...

Well, if you need any advice on where to get good sushi or anything, let me know and I'll drop you a line privately. :)

L-girl said...

Do you know, just last night - I swear - we had sushi, and I joked, If there isn't good sushi in Toronto, the move is off. :-)

I always hear that there's great food in T.O., and when there are people from all over the world in a city, that is usually true. I am very spoiled here in NY when it comes to food.

I will definitely need all kinds of tips. All I have is Time Out Toronto and Chowhound.com.

James said...

There is *excellent* sushi in Toronto, and lots of it. Even the cheapie sushi bars are pretty good, and the fancy places are excellent.

I've had friends from San Francisco tell me that Toronto sushi is better than SF sushi.

L-girl said...

Yay.