Keeping Score: Sports and Politics

Keeping Score: Sports and Politics event page image

How does one capture kinetic, lightning-speed movement—and everything it evokes in its audiences—in the enduring and expansive, yet also limited, realm of written language? How are these games, seemingly contained worlds with their own sets of rules, actually informed by—and how do they inform—politics and social climate? Natalie Diaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Mojave American poet who formerly played professional basketball, has said, “I think language is a lot like basketball because I think language is an energy, it’s a happening, a kind of movement.” In his PEN Award-winning The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey, poet and sports writer Rowan Ricardo Phillips directly states, “this book, in its essence, is about the things we can never quite describe but should try because they’re fleeting.” Acclaimed writer Dave Zirin writes on the politics of sports for The Nation, and recently penned The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World—a crucial work emphasizing, as so much of his writing does, the potential power and reach of athletes’ political stands. In this conversation moderated by acclaimed poet Camonghne Felix, Diaz, Phillips, and Zirin explore how writing can help us grasp sports’ impact on society; how giving words to the feats of bodies can provoke deeper conversations about the intersections of sports, physical, and mental health; and how playing sports can even impact a writer’s approach to and understanding of language.

Rowan Phillips headshot
Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Camonghne Felix headshot
Camonghne Felix
Natalie Diaz headshot
Natalie Diaz
Dave Zirin headshot
Dave Zirin