“Left Hook” is a project that seeks to bridge the sphere of progressive social/political analysis to the world of amateur and professional sport.
Inspired by people like David Zirin who have begun to insist upon bringing a critical and progressive lens to sports writing, “Left Hook” will seek to collect and connect those of us who are active participants or spectators of sport and who also seek to create a better world.
A useful starting point, perhaps, can be found in this piece written during the 2010 Olympics. The point in that piece is at the heart of this project and it is one that is shared by many of its contributors. We insist, as people committed to radical and progressive change, that there is much to be salvaged in the world of sport, despite the mess of troubling politics often attached to it. Whether it is hypermasculinity and violence, corporate saturation and celebration, spectacle-as-distraction, exploitation of marginalized communities for athletes, sports and militarism; there is so much that can and should be called into question. At the same time, something draws us to sports, whether it’s the thrill of physicality, the genuine bonds fostered by playing as a team, the nostalgia of recalling the games we played as kids, the joy we feel in cheering for the team or player that represents us, or our values, or our home. For those of us who consider ourselves progressive or critical, then, sports presents a very tricky contradition.
It is our hope that “Left Hook” can be as therapeutic as it will be enlightening. As sports fans, our enjoyment of the games we love often feel tinged with discomfort at the politics we are ostensibly supporting. This journal will be a space to celebrate the aspects of sport that we enjoy or appreciate while dutifully critiquing that which must be changed to make the sporting world more equitable, less racist, more humane, less sexist, more healthy, less homophobic and, ultimately, more revolutionary.
The sporting world has provided innumerable examples of politics we can be proud of, from Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics to Muhammad Ali’s participation in protests against the Vietnam War the year before. And yet, the spectacle around professional sports constantly tells us that sports and politics do not mix, and that athletes should ‘stick to what they know.’ The implication is that athletes should cease to be members of society, and simply become robots programmed to play their sport and represent their team, sponsor, or country however they are asked.
Thankfully, this ideological project does not always work; people remain people and sports remains a crucially important terrain of social contestation. “Left Hook” will contribute to that contestation, offering a much-needed avenue of social and political commentary about the games we play and the world around them.
“Left Hook” is edited and published by Tyler Shipley, of the department of Political Science at York University in Toronto. Articles are written by a wide range of contributors and unsolicited submissions are welcome and should follow the guidelines outlined here.