A lot of books about star athletes suffer from a built-in limitation: They focus almost exclusively on a short span of years and intensely on what happens on the playing field and in the locker room. Dave Zirin’s book about Jim Brown is much more than a fleeting snapshot of arguably the best player in NFL history. Brown spent only nine years in the league, often dragging along would-be tacklers on his bruising runs, but he has spent the decades since then as a Hollywood actor and an activist deeply committed to the black freedom struggle. And yet his views are not always predictable, as evident in his opposition to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem. There’s truly a rich vein of biographical material to examine about Brown’s 82 years and Zirin is determined to tap into it, illustrating both the high and low points.
Here’s excerpt from Jim Brown:
“The black newspaper Atlanta Daily World listed Brown at number two on its ‘top personalities’ of 1963, right behind Jomo Kenyatta, the newly elected prime minister of Kenya, and ahead of labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph and Dr. Benjamin Mays, and even Dr. King himself. And it wasn’t just because of the way Brown carried himself on the field. It was the sharp, perfectly tailored suits he insisted on wearing when talking to the press after emerging from the locker room. It was his soft but commanding voice and steely stare projected through his rugged movie-star face. He was starting to use his cultural cachet to speak out, initially on the social responsibility of black athletes.”