David Zirin Has a Large Head, and Other Matters He Shouldn’ t Apologize For
In town to screen new doc
By Timothy Braun, 1:57PM, Thu. Jun. 2, 2011
After the screening of his new documentary, Not Just a Game: Power, Politics & American Sports (Sun., May 29, at the AT&T Conference Center), David Zirin quickly apologized for the size of his head. This act of contrition was in no way connected to his ego, but rather the large flesh and bone based sphere attached to his shoulders.
Large slabs of his 62-minute documentary focuses on a tight shot of Zirin s face as he discusses the influence and reflection that sports has on the world as we know it. Although his request for cranial forgiveness got a laugh, it was hardly his first apology of the night.
Zirin’ s most motivating apology came quickly after the head comment. He apologized for how brief and simple the film is. His documentary is essentially the Sparks Notes of his book A People’s History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play (the sprawling crossroads of sports and culture in these United States) in motion. Yet, that is the advantage and the brilliance as to what the Media Education Foundation is attempting to achieve with this film. The documentary covers nothing of the Cold War or other influential political matters that sports had such a massive part of, but rather provides a taste, a hint, an appetizer of what Zirin’ s research is all about. The film touched on matters such as race and gender and the militarization of popular sports, while leaving the door open for further exploration by audience members.
The discussion after the film quickly turned into a good-spirited debate. Games have been used as a catalyst for matters such as civil rights in the past, but what of today? Which athletes are stepping forward, and for what reason? For a moment the discussion swished toward the current NFL labor dispute, a conflict that the Steelers Troy Polamalu describes as “people fighting against big business. The big business argument is ‘I got the money and I got the power therefore I can tell you what to do.’ That’s life everywhere. I think this is a time when the football players are standing up and saying, ‘No, no, no, the people have the power.’” An interesting sentiment in a time dominated by Wall Street shenanigans. I learned little new from the documentary, but it wasn’t made for me. I brought my fiancée to the screening and she took notes on her iPhone. We debated on the merits of poverty and sports as we drove home. She got interested and said, “I think I need to read more (by Zirin)," which is exactly the point of the film, and there is no need to apologize for that. Even if you have a large head.