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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Subtexts — The score: Dave Zirin on what afflicts professional sports

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Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014 5:00 am | Updated: 9:04 pm, Thu Apr 3, 2014.

It’s easy to think of today’s obsession with sports, both professional and collegiate, as the circus in Juvenal’s “bread and circuses” definition of political distraction (the “bread” now being nachos and buffalo wings). Go ahead, start wars, defund public education, and intercept our phone calls — we’ve got a game to watch. Yet sports, with all its drive for profits, corporate endorsements (including at the college level), concussions, and censorship of athletes, is more political than ever. That’s the theme of sportswriter Dave Zirin’s latest book, Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down (published by The New Press). The author discusses his work with Alternative Radio’s David Barsamian at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2, at the Lensic Performing Arts Center (211 W. San Francisco St.) as part of the Lannan Foundation’s In Pursuit of Cultural Freedom series. Tickets, $6, with discounts available, may be purchased by calling 505-988-1234 or visiting www.ticketssantafe.org.

Zirin, whose previous books include Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love and Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports, has made a career of pulling back the curtain on the cultural spectacle of athletics. He begins Game Over by quoting Howard Cosell’s first rule of “the jockocracy”: “sports and politics just don’t mix.” You might think that Cosell, an integral part of ABC’s coverage of the bloody 1972 Munich Olympics, would have known better. Witness the homophobia of the host country at the recent Sochi Olympics, the ongoing demands of billionaire professional team owners for subsidies and tax breaks at the public’s expense, and the petition to the National Labor Relations Board recently filed by college athletes seeking to unionize against what they call the dictatorship of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Zirin details the indentured nature of college sports in a chapter title “The NCAA’s ‘Whiff of the Plantation.’ ” He explores racism, sexism, and immigration issues while examining the outrages committed in the name of the Olympics and World Cup soccer. Necessary reading, and not just for sports fans, Game Over reveals what goes on beyond the circus’ center ring.

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