Not Just a Game
Power, Politics & American Sports
In this exhilarating tour of the good, the bad, and the ugly of American sports culture, iconoclastic cultural historian and Nation
magazine writer Dave Zirin argues that American sports are about a lot more than just fun and games. Exploding the myth that the world of sports somehow stands outside the world of politics and ideology, Zirin shows how American sports culture has long been a haven for the most reactionary attitudes and ideas, promoting everything from nationalism and militarism to sexism, racism, and homophobia. At the same time, he identifies an equally strong countercurrent, a history of rebel athletes whose high-profile resistance to jingoistic patriotism, heterosexist masculine authority, white male privilege, and other forms of bullying have reverberated beyond the field of play. Inspired as much by Zirin's passion for politics as by his passion for sports, this is cultural studies and media education at their best -- a powerful classroom resource that shows how even the most benign pop cultural forms have the power to shape young people's attitudes and ideas.
Sections: Introduction | In the Arena | Like a Girl | Breaking the Color Barrier | The Courage of Athletes
Dave Zirin is the bestselling author of five books, the sports editor of The Nation
magazine, and the host of Sirius XM Satellite's popular weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio
. His blog The Edge of Sports
is read each week by thousands of people across the country. He is also a columnist for SLAM Magazine
, The Progressive
, and Sports Illustrated
online, and his writing has appeared in numerous other publications, including the Los Angeles Times
, the Washington Post
, the New York Daily News
, and the San Francisco Chronicle
. Zirin has also brought his blend of sports and politics to multiple television programs, including ESPN's Outside the Lines
, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann
, MSNBC's Morning Joe
, MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show
, and Democracy Now
with Amy Goodman. His latest book, Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love
- which Naomi Klein described as an "original and scathing look at how America works" - has just been released from Scribner.
Directed by Jeremy Earp
Written by Dave Zirin, Jeremy Earp & Chris Boulton
Produced by Chris Boulton, Jeremy Earp, Scott Morris & Jason Young
Editor: Jason Young
Story Editor: Scott Morris
Executive Producer: Sut Jhally
Director of Photography: Tom Robertson
Associate Producers: Loretta Alper, Andrew Killoy & Diane Williams
The Nation cruise
| December 11-18, 20112640 Space
| Baltimore, MD | March 29, 2011
Maysles Cinema | New York, NY | January 25, 2011
Busboys & Poets | Teaching for Change's 20th Anniversary Fundraiser | Washington DC | December 13, 2010
Amherst Cinema | Amherst, MA | December 12, 2011
A Mirror of Our Culture: Sport and Society in America
| De Pere, WI | May 22-24, 2012
North American Society for the Sociology of Sport conference
| Minneapolis, MN | November 2-5, 2011
American Sociological Association meeting
| Las Vegas | August 20-23, 2011International Society for the History of Physical Education and Sport Conference
| Frankfurt, Germany | August 8-12, 2011
International Socioloy of Sport Association conference
| Havana, Cuba | July 14, 2011
North American Society for Sport History conference
| Austin, TX | May 28, 2011History of Education in Society postgraduate conference
| London, UK | March 19, 2011
All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival
| Los Angeles | November 12, 2011ReelWorld Film Festival
| Toronto | April 8, 2011
Read Dave Zirin's work at "Edge of Sports"
Sports Fan Coalition
Interview with Jeremy Earp, director & producer of Not Just a Game
Gender in Televised Sports: News and Highlights Shows,
A 1953 New York Times article by Arthur Daley on how sports should be "For Men Only"
Reactions to Kathy Switzer's run in the 1967 Boston Marathon
Praise for Not Just a Game and Dave Zirin
From Journalists & Authors:
"An incredible, powerful film. If you have a kid of any age who's interested in athletics or is an athlete herself or himself, this is the film for them. It opens up this huge lens on an otherwise masked field: the intersection of sports and politics."
- Matthew Rothschild | Senior Editor, The Progressive
"If there were an award for 'Most Valuable Sportswriter,' I would vote for Dave Zirin."
- Howard Zinn | Author of A People's History of the United States
"Not since Hunter S. Thompson has a sports writer shown the right snarl for the job."
- Naomi Klein | The Nation
and The Guardian
reporter | Author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
"Be sure to watch this thrillingly provocative film before you see your next game if you finally want to know what sports is all about. Not Just a Game
is a powerful teaching tool."
- Robert Lipsyte | Former New York Times
sports writer | Author of An Accidental Sportswriter
"Dave Zirin's film is both brilliant and, even better than that, honest. The sports world is a far more interesting place when viewed through the lens of Not Just a Game
- Tom Farrey | ESPN reporter | Author of Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children
"By turns moving, maddening, touching, enlightening, hilarious, and sad. I can not think of a better way to teach my students about such a wide array of issues than having them watch this film."
- Ellen R. Hansen, Ph.D. | Chair, Department of Social Sciences | Emporia State University
"It's got everything: gender, race, class, and sex. An anti-bullying message that's as effective as it is inspiring. Priceless footage, action, and a high-energy history of courageous progressive activism that will keep young people watching. It's SportsCenter on social-justice steroids. I can't recommend it highly enough."
- Jackson Katz, Ph.D. | Creator of Tough Guise
"Not Just A Game
doesn't argue whether sports should or should not be political as much as establishes a strong claim that sports and politics are -- and will continue to be -- inextricably linked."
- Andrew Billings | Clemson University | Author of Communicating about Sports Media: Cultures Collide
"Not Just a Game
is sure to enlighten and enliven any classroom discussion of nationalism, gender, race, and class as they intersect with sport."
- Michael L. Butterworth | Bowling Green State University | Author of Baseball and Rhetorics of Purity: The National Pastime and American Identity During the War on Terror
"Zirin, who has emerged as the most important progressive voice in American sport, challenges teachers, students, athletes and sports fans not to deny the existence of politics in sport, but instead, in the tradition of Tommie Smith and Billie Jean King, to take personal risks to ensure that sport becomes a realm for the promotion of egalitarian and peaceful human values and relations."
- Michael A. Messner | University of Southern California | Author of It's All for the Kids: Gender, Families and Youth Sports
"With a profound commitment to social justice and human rights, Dave Zirin provocatively challenges us to rethink the cultural politics of sport and its impact on everyday life."
- Michael D. Giardina | Florida State University | Author of Youth Cultures & Sport: Identity, Power, and Politics
"Dave Zirin is one of our best critics of sport culture and his excellent documentary provides illuminating images of sports and politics, including both how sports is complicit with U.S. nationalism and militarism, and how sports is a terrain of struggle over issues such as race, gender, and sexuality."
- Douglas Kellner | University of California - Los Angeles | Author of Media Spectacle
"Not Just a Game
exhibits the rare ability to reduce complex issues to their social and political cores, thereby providing audiences -- more readily attuned to the banal superficialities of the sport media -- with an informed critical lens with which to more progressively engage and experience American sport culture."
- David Andrews | University of Maryland School of Public Health | Author of Sport, Culture and Advertising
"Four Stars! Not Just a Game
is a movie that matters. It will prove to be a boon for classroom discussions about the links between homophobia, hypernationalism, racism, sexism, and class exploitation."
- Clay Steinman | Macalester College | Co-Author of Consuming Environments: Television and Commercial Culture
From Athletes & Activists:
"It's a long time coming for a documentary like this to be made. Watching it was an absolutely fantastic experience."
- Dr. John Carlos | 1968 Olympic medalist
"Not Just a Game
connected big-time with my students -- especially with those who don't always sit up their straightest in history class. If you're looking for new ways to talk about sexism, racism, homophobia or bullying in your classroom without turning your students off, this is the film for you."
- Jesse Hagopian | History teacher at Garfield High School in Seattle | Founding member of the Social Equality Educators (SEE)
"Dave Zirin makes visible what has been erased from the history
books and contemporary imagination. This is one film that can and
should be used to raise awareness and discussion in every junior and
senior high school classroom in the country."
- Deborah Menkart | Executive Director of Teaching for Change
From the Press:
"This thought-provoking documentary is sure to jog memories and spark debate."
"Recommended for libraries for its unusual viewpoint and use of historic film clips."
- Library Journal
Read the complete reviews
Review of Not Just a Game
Anthropology Review Database
| Thomas Stevenson | April 22, 2011
David Zirin Has a Large Head, and Other Matters He Shouldn' t Apologize For
The Score | The Austin Chronicle | Timothy Braun | June 2, 2011
Review: Not Just a Game *Reelworld Screening*
Next Projection | Vakeesh Velummylum | April 17, 2011
Not Just a Game
Educational Media Reviews Online | Patricia McGee | April 4, 2011
Dave Zirin Presents 'Not Just a Game' at 2640 Space March 29
Balitmore City Paper | Bret McCabe | March 24, 2011
Not Just a Game Review
The Ultimate Sports Blog | Dan Lajoie | March 20, 2011Dave Zirin on Progressive Radio with Matthew Rothschild
| March 14, 2011
Putting the Politics Back into Sport
Dissident Voice | Sean Dinces | February 23, 2011
Dave Zirin on Alan Colmes' Liberaland
| February 7, 2011
The Super Bowl and Two Souls in Sports
GRITtv | February 5, 2011
All Sports Is Political: The Dave Zirin interviewHuffington Post
| Christian Avard | February 5, 2011
Not Just a Game: Power, Politics & American Sports
| Cynthia Fuchs | January 27, 2011
Dave Zirin's New Film on the Intersection of Sports & Politics
| Kevin Gosztola | January 6, 2011
Q&A: Politics and sports with Dave Zirin
| Scoop Jackson | January 4, 2011
Time For A Little Festive Season Education
| Duane Watson | December 9, 2010
Playing Games: A Parallel History in Sports
The Valley Advocate
| Jack Brown | December 9, 2010
Documentary at Amherst Cinema will Explore Cultural Relevance of Sports
| Kelsey Cummings | December 9, 2010
Interview with Dave Zirin
| The David Pakman Show | December 6, 2010
Praise for the Film