'Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports'
Sportswriter Zirin delves into the darker side of sports
By Timothy Braun, 10:31AM, Wed. Jul. 28, 2010
While sports entertain many, behind the scenes the games are a mess akin to making sausage where you have a carefully packaged and attractive product constructed in an ugly and battered fashion. David Zirin leaves no stone unturned in his book Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports.
Zirin wisely has Chuck D, the well-read conscious of legendary rap group Public Enemy write the forward to his book which is loaded with politics and stories of manipulation. Of course, Zirin did snag the book's title from the fabled PE song of the same name.
In his introduction Chuck D writes of racism on sports radio. He claims sports start with promise and are seemingly equal and fair, but entering Zirin’s focus you will need a helmet and a strong stomach to withstand the truth. His first chapter is dedicated to the Louisiana Superdome, which housed 25,000 of New Orleans’ poorest citizens during Hurricane Katrina. And, of course, the tragedy of the storm became farce when many of these refugees where moved not to housing, but another sports arena (the Houston Astrodome), which became an incubator for sickness, hardship, and crime.
From there Zirin dives into the hypocrisy and racial issues of World Cup soccer, Major League Baseball, the duality between the NBA and hip-hop, and the gregarious behavior of the Olympic games. Yet, his most compelling chapter is called “The Use Of Sports: How People Exploit the Games." The blistering chapter puts the exploited death of Arizona Cardinal/Army Ranger Pat Tillman under a microscope. Zirin received hate mail and death threats when criticizing politicians who came out to capitalize on Tillman as an ideological puppet. It should be said Tillman was critical of George W. Bush, was an avid reader of Noam Chomsky, and joined the Army in the name of justice for people and places that have little.
Toward the end Zirin brings his book full circle by sharing letters from USA Today directed toward federal funding of the Superdome, yet little federal dollars have been used to benefit the Ninth Ward. The poor were herded to the Superdome when the storm hit, but they likely would not be welcome the Monday night the Saints came marching back in to play the Atlanta Falcons. U2 played that night. So did Green Day. In this, Zirin reminds us that the world of sports is a business, and profit must be made, and the poor aren’t good at providing profit. In the Terrordome, there is nothing fair about sports.