Dave Zirin

Dave Zirin recently came to the University of Oregon to promote his new book, Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love. In his talk and in the question-and-answer period, he covered a wide range of topics: from the greed of team owners to the problem of head injuries in football. Among other things, he pointed out the absurdity of private ownership of sports teams. He cited the example of Clayton Bennett, who bought the Seattle SuperSonics. When the city refused to give him half a billion dollars for a new arena, he moved the team to Oklahoma City, thus depriving Seattle of a team that had been a part of the local culture for forty years. Zirin argues that the only way to prevent this sort of robbery is to have public ownership of teams.

Since he was at the UO, Zirin had to take some potshots at the new Jaqua Center for Student Athletes. This gaudy and ostentatious building is supposed to house resources to help athletes with their academic studies. (Non-athlete students are not allowed in the upper floors.) Zirin ridiculed the amount of money that was spent on this monstrosity, and he argued it would be better to simply encourage athletes to go to the library, rather than isolating them from other students. The Jaqua Center was paid for by Phil Knight, at a time when the university has had to make its staff take pay cuts. Zirin pointed out that Knight could easily pay the state of Oregon’s budget shortfall ($3.5 billion) and remain a billionaire. Zirin then launched into a criticism of college sports in general. He pointed out that in most states college football coaches are the highest paid public employees, while three quarters of college football programs lose money. He cited the example of UC Berkeley, which raised tuition in order to pay for the refurbishment of its football stadium. Zirin feels that this state of affairs can’t continue indefinitely. He also expressed pessimism about the future of football as a sport, arguing that the high rate of serious injuries is causing the popularity of the game to decline, just as the popularity of boxing has declined.

Dave is the most perceptive sportswriter at work today. His talks are worth seeing by anyone who cares about sports.

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