Two weeks ago, independent journalist Dave Zirin visited Ithaca College to speak on the intersection of sports and politics. He’s known for a few things—most prominently, he’s the first sports editor for The Nation, an independent magazine known for investigative coverage of political issues at the national level.
Zirin made the case for his job to be created, and for him to fill it. After his speech, and from the Q&A session preceding it, Ithaca College students and faculty understood why the successful independent magazine made room for Zirin. To his work, he brings a wealth of knowledge of both politics and sports, a well-defined voice, and unique, critical opinions about the impact of sports on society.
In his speech, which was much more structured than the Q&A session, Zirin began by detailing how sports has always impacted politics and culture. An obvious example is Muhammad Ali’s career as both an athlete and a civil rights activist.
Zirin’s event was perfectly timed, as he noted in his Q&A, with it following the pushback from NFL fans and football players against Donald Trump’s comments on standing for the national anthem. Zirin discussed this moment in history from a political and a sports angle—and he did so while providing unique historical context.
One interesting point from Zirin’s Q&A before the event was that people are becoming more and more resentful of the people—the athletes—that they cheer for. He gave two main reasons for this: The percentage of white players is decreasing while the percentage of white viewers is growing; and viewers are identifying closer with management than they are with the players, due to things like fantasy football.
Personally, I walked away with a greater understanding of why sports are important. I have always struggled to find an interest in sports, but the two events with Zirin taught me how closely sports affects society, and how intricately sports is woven into people’s lives from an early age.