Float, sting, voting

“If, in 1900, a forward thinking person had predicted that sports would some day stand as one of the great pillars of American industry,” Dave Zirin writes, “that person would have been proclaimed mad and then subjected to some combination of leeching and lobotomy.” But, sure enough, America’s professional recreation business now accounts for $220 billion of its annual revenue. It’s our 10th-largest industry—and, as such, it’s inevitably, complexly political. Zirin, a longime sportswriter and himself a forward-thinking person, describes his new book, What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States, as an effort to illuminate the underwritten history of radical politics in American sports and to explain how far we’ve come, for better and worse, in a century’s time.

Whether you cite the astronomical salaries, the Janet Jackson halftime show or all the clucking cant that spills out of us in response to such topics, our modern sports world arguably contains some of the most obscene and oppressive pageantry in American history. Yet, as Zirin writes, “The story of the women’s movement is incomplete without mention of Billie Jean King’s match against Bobby Riggs. The struggle for gay rights has to include a chapter on Martina Navratilova. When we think about the Black freedom struggle, we picture Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali along with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.”

Zirin hopes his book, from which he reads on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (for free at Citrus Heights’ Barnes & Noble, 6111 Sunrise Boulevard), will appeal to sports fans who hate politics, to activists who hate sports and even to atheletes. That qualifies as a hat trick. Call (916) 853-1511 for more information.