welcome to the terrordome

My cousin Scott has this uncanny ability to pick out books that touch my life in a special way. During my last year at Tyndale, he sent me a copy of the graphic novel Blankets, a book that I find hard to express how it impacted my life, a sentiment that I am sure can be shared among those it was passed around to on the 4th floor. Last week, I received a token newspaper wrapped package containing the book Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports, and already I have sensed a profound change in the way that I will look at the wide world of sports in the future.

When my SLAM arrives in the mail, the first thing I do is turn to Dave Zirin’s column. Dubbed ‘the best young sportswriter in America’, Zirin has the ability to go beyond the boxscores and newswires to dig down to the roots of the issue. The Terrordome is a reference to the New Orleans Superdome, home of the Saints but also infamously known as the refuge for thousands of displaced citizens in the aftermath following Hurrican Katrina. The irony of a monstrous stadium paid for using the tax dollars of the citizens of New Orleans who couldn’t afford a ticket to a game and who were now forced to sleep on the football field largely ignored by the powers that be was too much for Zirin. This book, in his words, is dedicated to those who defy the box, who hold the hope for the future of sports and, by extension, society at large.

Zirin raises many questions in this book to which answers are hard to come by. He writes about racism in sports, an issue seemingly progressing through heroes like Jackie Robinson but clearly still an issue today as exemplified in the treatment of Latin American prospects, particularily those in the Dominican Republic. And so I ask if that is something that I am willing to accept, and what I as a fan of baseball can do about it? He writes about the Olympics, whose governing body has traditionally been run by shady [ie. fascist] men with political agendas and whose host cities have been guilty of imprisoning the least of these during the festivities in order to project to the world that this is the place to be. And so I ask if this is something that will happen in Vancouver in a couple of years, and what I can do to help maintain a level of respect and love for all people. He writes about the NBA’s relationship with hip hop, a movement the league piggy backed to prominence in the 80s and is now trying to distance itself from in an attempt to appease the white suits at courtside and show them that the NBA is not full of gangsters and thugs. And so I question how I look at those around me and whether or not I too display this covert prejudice in my own life. He writes about steroids in baseball, and whether or not Barry Bonds would have a target on him if he were white. More than that, he argues that the owners wanted the home run surge to occur, and encouraged it through smaller, publically funded stadiums, a shrinking strike zone, home run friendly bats and balls and yes, knowingly placing steroids in the locker room. And so I ask if many of the problems in sports [and society in general] are not just products of the people running the show, and what we at the fan / grass roots level can do to combat the forces of greed and racism.

The truth is that I love sports. I believe they can inspire and bring people together in a way that nothing else can. At the same time, this book is challenging me to look past the boxscores and trade rumors and think about the ways in which sports serves to pull people apart and push faulty political agendas. I still have a couple of chapters to read, but already I would highly recommend this book to any sports fan out there, and especially to those who have been turned off by the state of modern sports and who are looking for someone to show them that beyond all the crap, sports can still inspire and inject a sense of hope into our world.

  1. March 10th, 2009

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