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More than a game

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Game Over' shows connection between sports and politics

In today's cultural landscape, sports are much more than what takes place on the field. 

With 'Game Over,' author Dave Zirin has laid out his case for a perhaps-unexpected truth: sports and politics are irrevocably intertwined. The political theater and the athletic arena share an undeniable overlap, and the sporting world can and does have a real effect on the realm of the political.

Ever wanted a closer look at the machinations behind mounting the Olympics or a World Cup? You can get that here, as well as a thoughtful take on whether hosting this sort of international to-do is actually worth it to the host. The chapter titled 'Los Suns' illustrates the juxtaposition between two Arizona pro sports franchises (MLB's Diamondbacks and the NBA's Suns) with regards to their attitude toward SB 1070, Arizona's controversial sweeping immigration bill.

There's an exploration of sexism in sports, touching on topics such as the feminization of female athletes, gender's lines of demarcation and the taboo of homosexuality in professional sports. The question of racism and its impact on sports at all levels is also raised on more than one occasion. And the financial impact of a pro sports team on its community both when it arrives and when it decides to leave is laid out succinctly in the appropriately-titled chapter 'Zombie Teams and Zombie Owners.'

Perhaps the most impactful of all the explorations laid out in 'Game Over' is the chapter illustrating the almost-shockingly significant role that 'Ultras' (soccer fan clubs) played role in the recent Arab Spring uprisings. Surprisingly, the idea of devotion to sport being translated to devotion to freedom doesn't seem that far-fetched - which in some ways is the point.

Whether he's looking at the connection between pro athletes and the Occupy movement or the ramifications of the Penn State scandal that go beyond football, the voice of insight and reason is a constant. Much of what Zirin shows us seems obvious but only in hindsight. So many of these complex relationships between institutions are right there in front of us, but Zirin is the one who looks longest.

It's easy to minimize the true importance of sports. It's a bunch of men or women getting paid to play what are essentially children's games. But there's no disputing the monolithic truth of sporting economics. These leagues are billion-dollar industries; whether you like it or not, their finances can and do affect our everyday lives. And on the flip side, there are few larger, more fervently loyal communities than the world of sports fandom. 'Game Over' puts those two truths big money and bigger devotion together in a way that is both engaging and smart.

At his core, Dave Zirin is a true sports fan. He respects and loves his subject. What makes 'Game Over' so fascinating is his ability to view the object of his affection through a different lens. By shifting his perspective, he sees sport as it exists within the larger scope of the culture, rather than as a self-contained system. 

Any fan interested in a look beyond the box score would do well to read 'Game Over.' Dave Zirin has gone above and beyond in showing us that sports have become more than just a game.

Last modified on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 10:37

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