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September 28, 2010

Sports debate between Zirin ("The socializing of debt and the privatizing of profit") and Leitch ("I know I am willfully putting on blinders")

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder relates an interesting debate between two sportswriters at the recent Brooklyn Book Festival.

"It makes no sense to be a sports fan," says Will Leitch, founder of the influential sports blog Deadspin and now a contributing editor to New York magazine. "It's kind of dumb that we do it, but we do it, because it's awesome."

Leitch said that at the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 12, and his take on sports--savvy and clever, but willfully divorced from any overarching politics--deserves notice, because it's far more prevalent than that of fellow panelists Dave Zirin, who writes about the politics of sports for The Nation and his syndicated Edge of Sports column.

And Leitch and Zirin got into a forceful but friendly disagreement about that overarching frame.
...

"The problem is that Bruce Ratner is following a template which unfortunately we know the answer to," Zirin continued. "There used to be a time ten years ago when you would debate this question of public stadium funding... and there would be dueling opinions, one side saying they bring a benefit
. This cannot be seen as a debate anymore
."

(The subsidies for the New York arena and stadium deals are more subtle than in other states, but still substantial.)

Zirin said sports facilities serve "like neoliberal Trojan horses," gaining subsidies even as local leaders neglect infrastructure.

"We're talking about very real choices," he said. "
Ralph Nader says you better turn on politics or politics turns on you
. I feel, as a sports fan, we better turn on sports, or sports are going to turn on us with an absolute vengeance
."
...

Leitch acknowledged that fandom is illogical and said he agreed with most of the "vast majority" of Zirin's take.

But not all.

"There are so few things in the world that are black and white," he said. "If you win you're happy; if you lose you’re sad. Everything else is gray. Sports is the one thing that I have. I know that everything that goes into it is gray, but for three hours, if they win, I'm happy, if they lose I'm sad. That's something I want to protect."

"I know I am willfully putting on blinders," Leitch said. "I'm fully aware of that... but, sorry, life's hard enough, give me sports."

"Because I love sports," Zirin responded, "I don't want to be affected by a lot of the racism, sexism, homophobia, hyper-corporatism... we have an obligation to fight for sports." He suggested that, despite the offensiveness of the team name Washington 
Redskins, "you let it go because it's sports."

He also suggested that the economy of sports has changed drastically. However hated Dodger owner Walter O'Malley was, Zirin noted, he made money from fans buying tickets (and, I'd say, television).

Now, said Zirin, "we're scenery. Now it's public funding of stadiums, personalized seat licenses, sweetheart cable deals, corporate sponsorships."

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NoLandGrab: And don't forget eminent domain abuse.

Posted by eric at September 28, 2010 11:33 AM