Dave Zirin’s ethics dazzled as he introduced his new book on FIFA’s corruption of soccer, Brazil’s Dance with the Devil, two weeks ago:
“I want to dedicate tonight to the Palestinian National Soccer team, which [applause]…which is going to play in a major international tournament…for the first time in its 86-year history (7:50).
In honoring Palestine, Zirin dramatizes the justice of his subtitle, The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy, comparing “the ways… our love of soccer is used to grind us into a fine powder” with the Palestinian experience of the game:
I just want us to remember the people of Palestine and remember that soccer can also be a tremendous source of struggle, inspiration, and sustenance.
Zirin invites all viewers to join the cheer:
So, particularly because this is going to be televised, just: Utter Solidarity! to the people of Gaza, to the people of the West Bank, and to people standing strong in very difficult circumstances.
Zirin does even more than glow with admiration for Palestine’s resilience. He dares to pair Palestine with a paean to the high school students who, “standing up for justice,” led a counter-demonstration to the Westboro Baptist Church–commendable “particularly on Pride Week.” Zirin’s linking of Palestine with Gay Pride flouts the Zionist “pink-washing” mantra that these two liberal causes oppose each other.
Zirin asks. “Why is all this protest happening in Brazil?” After all, there “soccer is a religion,” but protests of the World Cup have cited “waste, corruption, graft, overspending” “the displacements” of at least “250,000 people,” as well as
The militarization of public space, the surveillance, the fact that…there’re gonna be drone planes flying overhead…more troops on the ground in Brazil than the United States had in Iraq and Afghanistan at the height of the wars… all of this new hardware to…beat [the favelas, or ‘slums’] down (19:15)
He caps this list with the epitome of turning powerless civilians into an enemy:
By the way–the technology–this is true: [troops]’re actually being trained by the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, about how to go in the favelas (19:35).
And: “You go to– who knows?– when you have to do these kinds of things.”
I’d call Zirin “brave,” except that highlighting a hero’s guts paradoxically scares the rest of us into censoring our own most obvious insights. So I want to file this under: simply stepping past taboos as if they were the sham walls they actually are. Dave Zirin teaches us to treat his courage casually, off-handedly describing his props to Palestine and gay rights as “a couple pieces of housekeeping.” (7:00)
Hosting Zirin was Deborah Menkart, executive director of Teaching for Change, who appealed to viewers, “We need your help to continue operations” at her organization’s bookstore, which is located inside Busboys and Poets, the venue for Zirin’s talk. She asked viewers to buy Zirin’s book from its “webstore.”
The whole event’s a pleasure, with gems like “Dan Snyder’s such a major tool” (17:55)–two weeks before the courts finally declared the “Redskins” to be unprotected by copyright. And:
“55 percent of Brazil wants the team to lose” (17:45)