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"God Save the Fan"

This article is more than 15 years old.

God Save The Fan- How Preening Sportscasters, Athletes Who Speak in the Third Person, and the Occasional Convicted Quarterback Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports (and How We Can Get It Back).

I don't usually reproduce long subtitles when I write about books for the website, but God Save the Fan is the exception, because the subtitle is almost as misleading as it is long. Will Leitch certainly tells his readers what he thinks is wrong with sports, but he doesn't really suggest anything anybody can do about how commercialized our games have become, or about what self-important blowhards many of the commentators are.

At his best, Leitch is funny. At less than his best, he's given to generalizations that are silly. For example, he writes that "athletes are not connected to the world around them because they don't have to be." This may be true for some of the tiny number of elite athletes who are wealthy enough to insulate themselves from much of the world. Michael Jordan comes to mind. I'm told that at the height of his fame, when he wanted to go shopping, he'd call a mall and ask them to stay open an extra hour after all the normal customers had been sent away. But most athletes are connected to the world. They not only have to do many of the things the rest of us have to do, they have to appear before congress and answer questions about their buttocks, which most of us will probably never have to do.

At one point toward the middle of his book, Leitch asserts that when management imposes a lockout or the players strike, "the real power brokers...are the fans." This is preposterous. In order to exercise power, the fans would have to unite. They won't, because they have so little in common. College professors are fans. So are drug addicts. So are billionaires. So are truck drivers. So are ax murderers. The fat guy who's passed out in the bleachers with his face painted blue is a fan. So are some of the scientists who'll come up with the vaccine that will prevent AIDS.

At the end of God Save the Fan, Leitch suggests that all of the above are probably on the right track if they just "continue to watch the games and enjoy them for what they are: a welcome respite from the scary clawed things that we face in life every day. Because if you can't let yourself go and enjoy sports, you can't enjoy much of anything."

Fair enough, but what happened to that war cry in the subtitle of the book?

This program aired on February 22, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.


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