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Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game

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A fundamental reevaluation of how to be a sports fan by an acclaimed baseball writer. Sports fandom isn’t what it used to be. Owners and executives increasingly count on the blind loyalty of their fans and too often act against the team’s best interest. Intentionally tanking a season to get a high draft pick, scamming local governments to build cushy new stadiums, and activ A fundamental reevaluation of how to be a sports fan by an acclaimed baseball writer. Sports fandom isn’t what it used to be. Owners and executives increasingly count on the blind loyalty of their fans and too often act against the team’s best interest. Intentionally tanking a season to get a high draft pick, scamming local governments to build cushy new stadiums, and actively subverting the players have become business as usual in professional sports. In Rethinking Fandom, sportswriter (and lifelong sports fan) Craig Calcaterra argues that fans have more power than they realize to change how their teams behave. With his characteristic wit and piercing commentary, Calcaterra calls for a radical reexamination of what it means to be a fan in the twenty-first century.


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A fundamental reevaluation of how to be a sports fan by an acclaimed baseball writer. Sports fandom isn’t what it used to be. Owners and executives increasingly count on the blind loyalty of their fans and too often act against the team’s best interest. Intentionally tanking a season to get a high draft pick, scamming local governments to build cushy new stadiums, and activ A fundamental reevaluation of how to be a sports fan by an acclaimed baseball writer. Sports fandom isn’t what it used to be. Owners and executives increasingly count on the blind loyalty of their fans and too often act against the team’s best interest. Intentionally tanking a season to get a high draft pick, scamming local governments to build cushy new stadiums, and actively subverting the players have become business as usual in professional sports. In Rethinking Fandom, sportswriter (and lifelong sports fan) Craig Calcaterra argues that fans have more power than they realize to change how their teams behave. With his characteristic wit and piercing commentary, Calcaterra calls for a radical reexamination of what it means to be a fan in the twenty-first century.

30 review for Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Shuherk

    Asks a lot of important questions to sports fans and gives very precise and empathic evaluations for how fandom should (needs to) change. Really enjoyed this quick read a lot. Would absolutely recommend to any type of sports fan, especially those that have felt different about sports - like somehow things are changing (spoiler: they are) in the past few years.4. Thanks Belt for this review copy. Tiktok review coming soon.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Beauregard

    The first half of the book is a brief history of the shady shit that happens in baseball, with occasional focus on NFL and NBA history. I'm a pretty casual baseball fan so it was interesting to me to have a general overview of business-side baseball stuff I didn't know about. The second half is a personal manifesto of the author defecting from his sports teams throughout his life for various reasons and urging the reader to reconsider their fandom and do what makes them happy. I became a sports f The first half of the book is a brief history of the shady shit that happens in baseball, with occasional focus on NFL and NBA history. I'm a pretty casual baseball fan so it was interesting to me to have a general overview of business-side baseball stuff I didn't know about. The second half is a personal manifesto of the author defecting from his sports teams throughout his life for various reasons and urging the reader to reconsider their fandom and do what makes them happy. I became a sports fan later in my life (my folks are only casual NFL watchers), so this section didn't really hit for me but I was happy that the author seems to be finding more joy in sports now. I definitely agree with his points that you can just root for individual players, be a casual fan, and drop your teams if the management or people are shit. My main grief with this book is the lack of citations. The author is apparently a professional sports writer, and I was pretty frustrated that there was no bibliography of any kind. The book starts out with like "A 2018 study" this and "A recent study" that, to the extent that I was pretty surprised that there was no references either at the end of chapters or in the back. Feels pretty short-sighted, at least for the beginning history section, to not have anything.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    I've been reading Craig for more than a decade, so much of his views here are known to me. It was a treat, however, to read this nominal blogger at book length, fleshing out the ideas he's taken from Shysterball to NBC to his email newsletter. I'm left with the thought that the fans who most need to read this book won't do so, I'm afraid. I've been reading Craig for more than a decade, so much of his views here are known to me. It was a treat, however, to read this nominal blogger at book length, fleshing out the ideas he's taken from Shysterball to NBC to his email newsletter. I'm left with the thought that the fans who most need to read this book won't do so, I'm afraid.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lucia

    absolutely loved reading this! definitely thought the first half of the book (which outlines the problematic nature of being a sports fan rn, and gives specific examples of the sports-industrial complex at play) was stronger and more fleshed out than the second half of the book (which provides recommendations for how to be thoughtful about being a sports fan). it seems like the author doesn't think that there's much one can do to challenge the sports-industrial complex besides rethinking one's o absolutely loved reading this! definitely thought the first half of the book (which outlines the problematic nature of being a sports fan rn, and gives specific examples of the sports-industrial complex at play) was stronger and more fleshed out than the second half of the book (which provides recommendations for how to be thoughtful about being a sports fan). it seems like the author doesn't think that there's much one can do to challenge the sports-industrial complex besides rethinking one's own fandom on the individual level (he doesn't really propose any kind of collective fan actions). that said, though, i really enjoyed his suggestion that fans should embrace what he calls "metafandom"—finding parts about sports to enjoy that go beyond watching the actual game itself (e.g. what fans are talking about, player transactions, the lore surrounding the game). this book caused me to examine my relationship to the team i currently follow the most closely (the yankees) and ask myself if they're taking up the amount and kind of space i want them to be taking up in my life. overall, this book was such a joy to read because of the author's witty, conversational writing style. he shares lots of personal anecdotes, makes lots of entertaining comparisons, and is very open about how he feels politically. this book doesn't go super deep, but it feels like a really good jumping off point to explore ideas about the intersections of sports + activism, sports + labor, sports + social justice, sports + the military, etc. so grateful that it exists!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Almodovar

    I’ve been a fan of Calcaterra’s writing for years. I had a mind-numbing call center job right out of college, and after telling a coworker I was a baseball fan (barely true at the time) was showed a complicated way to navigate the company’s internet blocker which allowed access for some reason to NBC Sports, and HardballTalk. Funny enough, this led to the kind of meta fandom discussed in the book - my interest grew mostly a fan of writing and also as a way to pass time at work. The sports indust I’ve been a fan of Calcaterra’s writing for years. I had a mind-numbing call center job right out of college, and after telling a coworker I was a baseball fan (barely true at the time) was showed a complicated way to navigate the company’s internet blocker which allowed access for some reason to NBC Sports, and HardballTalk. Funny enough, this led to the kind of meta fandom discussed in the book - my interest grew mostly a fan of writing and also as a way to pass time at work. The sports industrial complex (take a shot after every time that is read) still seems unbeatable, but this book shows a way of making things somewhat more bearable.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David H.

    A fantastic book on how fandom is taken advantage of and how to reset your relationship with sports. Despite the book's heavy focus on sports, I think some of the lessons in the second part could easily apply to other areas of fandom (movies, books, etc.). Even if you're not familiar with most sports (as I am not outside of baseball), Calcaterra gives you more than enough background for the issues he discusses. I would say that only thing I would've also appreciated is citations for some of his A fantastic book on how fandom is taken advantage of and how to reset your relationship with sports. Despite the book's heavy focus on sports, I think some of the lessons in the second part could easily apply to other areas of fandom (movies, books, etc.). Even if you're not familiar with most sports (as I am not outside of baseball), Calcaterra gives you more than enough background for the issues he discusses. I would say that only thing I would've also appreciated is citations for some of his references (various studies, etc.) as there's no works cited page.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve Guinan

    Even the most die hard fans know it. Sure, we feel genuine exhilaration and heartbreak obsessing over our beloved teams. But there's another part of the fan experience that lingers under the surface. We endure another chintzy commercial corroding the flow of the game, and the soul of the sport. We stifle the echo of emptiness from the manufactured hype. We file out of stadiums like lemmings wondering if it was really worth the price of admission, and then some. Are we are dupes of the "sports in Even the most die hard fans know it. Sure, we feel genuine exhilaration and heartbreak obsessing over our beloved teams. But there's another part of the fan experience that lingers under the surface. We endure another chintzy commercial corroding the flow of the game, and the soul of the sport. We stifle the echo of emptiness from the manufactured hype. We file out of stadiums like lemmings wondering if it was really worth the price of admission, and then some. Are we are dupes of the "sports industrial complex" as Craig Calcaterra calls it? Calcaterra, in his frank, disarming style lays out the case for how to approach fandom when the congolmerate that is our beloved team leaves us behind. His examples of how the interests of team ownership and its fans often diverge span those watershed cases like that of Marvin Miller who took a lesser salary to play baseball, to the sad but telling case of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the losingest team whose value has skyrocketed. But make no mistake, Calcaterra is a true sports fan, whose prose exudes both a love of sports as well as a clear-eyed and convincing understanding of that haunting doubt harbored by even the most loyal fans. Indeed Calcaterra' argument is not a repudiation of sports but hard look at sports fandom's sustainability, both economic and psychological. Reading the book I felt like I was at the bar deep diving into what true fans really think, over a pint. Ultimately, Calcaterra points out, fans hold the power. Rethinking Fandom, a must read for any sports fan, proves it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nana

    Short, punchy manifesto of sorts that delves into the myriad of ways professional sports have subordinated their original goals (win games, make fans happy) in favor of profits at all costs and at the expense of fans, cities, players, and common decency. The second part goes into the way we as fans can resist such tactics and more generally, how we can change our views of fandom to stand up to some of these things and to bolster our own enjoyment. I enjoy the author’s newsletter and his unapolog Short, punchy manifesto of sorts that delves into the myriad of ways professional sports have subordinated their original goals (win games, make fans happy) in favor of profits at all costs and at the expense of fans, cities, players, and common decency. The second part goes into the way we as fans can resist such tactics and more generally, how we can change our views of fandom to stand up to some of these things and to bolster our own enjoyment. I enjoy the author’s newsletter and his unapologetically critical eye on sports, and this book put a lot of what i’ve been thinking about into words for a long time, so I enjoyed it. Could have been longer/had more details or interviews and the parts where the author goes on about himself could have had a been a little tighter, but overall, a good read for the critical sports fan such as myself.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I was born Catholic and a Chicago White Sox fan. I left the Catholic church without regret; while I get mad at the Sox or baseball in general, I would never give up being a fan. Sportswriter Craig Calcaterra explains where the attitude I have cones from, but more importantly, how it is propping up the worst habits of sports-franchise owners. I agree with everything Calcaterra says here, but I never had too many examples to back up my beliefs. Calcaterra offers examples of why: taxpayer-funded stad I was born Catholic and a Chicago White Sox fan. I left the Catholic church without regret; while I get mad at the Sox or baseball in general, I would never give up being a fan. Sportswriter Craig Calcaterra explains where the attitude I have cones from, but more importantly, how it is propping up the worst habits of sports-franchise owners. I agree with everything Calcaterra says here, but I never had too many examples to back up my beliefs. Calcaterra offers examples of why: taxpayer-funded stadiums are a bad deal, players' unions are essential, and sports seems to have been used to ram patriotism and militarism down our throats (which is what complainers said Kapernick was doing with his beliefs). This chapter alone is worth buying the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul Joudrey

    Stumbled upon Craig Calcaterra’s NBC Hardball Talk columns years ago and that became must read for me every day. When that went away and his daily newsletter Cup of Coffee came out I initially was only reading the free Thursday editions. Eventually made the decision to subscribe and so his views expressed in Rethinking Fandom were not completely new but there was a lot more detail. More reasons to be okay with being a casual fan, stadium scams not just in MLB and the business of losing. This boo Stumbled upon Craig Calcaterra’s NBC Hardball Talk columns years ago and that became must read for me every day. When that went away and his daily newsletter Cup of Coffee came out I initially was only reading the free Thursday editions. Eventually made the decision to subscribe and so his views expressed in Rethinking Fandom were not completely new but there was a lot more detail. More reasons to be okay with being a casual fan, stadium scams not just in MLB and the business of losing. This book should open your eyes on the sports industrial complex.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Nelson

    Half indictment of the current sports business landscape, half therapy session for those of us damaged by toxic ideas of what being a "true fan" is. A great gift for someone like me struggling to let go of Washington "Commanders" fandom. Craig gives readers the permission they may need to treat sports as a source of joy rather than obligation. Personally, I'm planning to root for Max Scherzer all 2022 and not worry about the fact that I'm not "supposed" to like the Mets. Half indictment of the current sports business landscape, half therapy session for those of us damaged by toxic ideas of what being a "true fan" is. A great gift for someone like me struggling to let go of Washington "Commanders" fandom. Craig gives readers the permission they may need to treat sports as a source of joy rather than obligation. Personally, I'm planning to root for Max Scherzer all 2022 and not worry about the fact that I'm not "supposed" to like the Mets.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Keith Good

    Calcaterra dispels the myth that sports teams are civic institutions and shows how team owners really only care about fans insofar as they can turn loyalty into political clout and money. The solution to this exploitation is so simple as to seem self-evident: be discerning in fandom and don’t engage if sport doesn’t actively make you happier. A quick, engaging and illuminating read for sports fans.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura Solar

    𝘞𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘪𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘮 𝘰𝘸𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘥𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘺, 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘥𝘰 𝘸𝘦 𝘢𝘴 𝘧𝘢𝘯𝘴 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘸𝘢𝘵𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘴 𝘸𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘴𝘰 𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘵 𝘰𝘧𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦? 𝘈𝘤𝘤𝘭𝘢𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘣𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘊𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘨 𝘊𝘢𝘭𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘳𝘢 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦. 𝗠𝘆 𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀: This is an absolute must read for all sports fans, but especially for baseball fans. With the recent owner lockout that caused the season to start late, this felt especially timely. As a die hard baseball fan, I’ve struggled a lot over the past 5 or 6 year 𝘞𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘪𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘮 𝘰𝘸𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘥𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘺, 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘥𝘰 𝘸𝘦 𝘢𝘴 𝘧𝘢𝘯𝘴 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘸𝘢𝘵𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘴 𝘸𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘴𝘰 𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘵 𝘰𝘧𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦? 𝘈𝘤𝘤𝘭𝘢𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘣𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘊𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘨 𝘊𝘢𝘭𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘳𝘢 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦. 𝗠𝘆 𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀: This is an absolute must read for all sports fans, but especially for baseball fans. With the recent owner lockout that caused the season to start late, this felt especially timely. As a die hard baseball fan, I’ve struggled a lot over the past 5 or 6 years with my love for the game making me turn a blind eye to certain things going on within MLB that I just can’t support, such as service time manipulation and the pitiful salaries of minor league players. This book is a fantastic and well written resource on how to reconcile our fandom and nostalgia with our beliefs and values. Calcaterra’s arguments against the sports industrial complex will make you rage, but ultimately, the message of this book is that fans hold the true power. Written with heart, humor, and cold, hard facts, if you only read one sports book this year, it needs to be this one!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chris Roberts

    This bookmarks a number of interesting questions that will have you wondering just why you live and die with your sports teams of choice. It also offers up a number of examples that really underscore just how manipulated and undervalued today's sports fanatic truly is. I love Calcaterra’s writing and the way he approaches topics. I highly recommend this book and also his daily newsletter. This bookmarks a number of interesting questions that will have you wondering just why you live and die with your sports teams of choice. It also offers up a number of examples that really underscore just how manipulated and undervalued today's sports fanatic truly is. I love Calcaterra’s writing and the way he approaches topics. I highly recommend this book and also his daily newsletter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    Calcaterra nails it throughout this book and does in an entertaining way. He will challenge you to think about why it is you watch sports. You will laugh. You might cry. You will not watch sports the same way again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gabriela Garcia

    Excellent book. Really concise and really approachable, I recommend to any sports fandom. My only con is that I knew possibly too much about this topic so most of the anecdotes I already knew about. Still, great book!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    was hoping for more….. First half was really good as a collection of the “what’s wrong” in sports. Second half didn’t offer much in terms of what to do and out it. Coping mechanisms. But not much in terms of “beating” the complex. 🤷‍♂️

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rj Lesch

    This is the book for any sports fan who is thinking, “why the hell am I still a sports fan?” Calcaterra doesn’t answer the question for you, but provides some interesting ways for you to find the answer for yourself.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeramey

    An easy read, and relatively short, but it felt more like a long article than it did a book. A good introductory piece and incredibly current.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Larry

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kc Dunstan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Justin

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Vens

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Hershberger

  26. 5 out of 5

    Derek Zack

  27. 4 out of 5

    John W Bennett

  28. 5 out of 5

    Duncan McKay

  29. 5 out of 5

    Matt Busche

  30. 4 out of 5

    Josh Lucas

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