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May. 24 2010 - 2:20 pm | 193 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Introducing ‘The Renegade Sportsman’: Inside The DIY Sports Nation

First Kangaroo rugby league team, England, 1908-09

Image by State Library of New South Wales collection via Flickr

On June 1, Riverhead Books publishes The Renegade Sportsman, my first book. Astute readers of this blog will recognize the title as a component of my highly sophisticated personal branding strategy. To that end, here’s an introduction, sales pitch, summary or precis, if you will, to this work of non-fiction reportage from the outermost reaches of American sports culture.

About three years ago, I decided that I needed to renegotiate my relationship with sports. I was a huge fan, but as a soccer-loving, field hockey-playing, cricket-and-rugby-curious, soft-handed, frail and artistic member of the cultural elite, I didn’t quite know where I belonged in the American sporting galaxy. The mainstream talk-radio, cable and sports-page chatter didn’t do it for me, and I found our country’s descent into mass obesity and Wii addiction frankly disturbing. I suspected that others might feel the same—that there just might be an underground sports uprising in the works, out there, somewhere—and that I should set out in search of a different, brighter future for American athletics.

The result is The Renegade Sportsman, an expedition into a world of sports that lies beyond the borders of our major leagues. I had my head crushed between rugby players’ thighs; I dodged cyclocross racers soaked in both beer and mud during that most excellent sport’s zany World Single Speed Championship. I found a new way to run—half-drunk and wearing red lingerie—with the Hash House Harriers. In deepest, darkest Iowa, I tracked the inspiring and insane Trans-Iowa endurance race, a 300+-mile amateur exorcism of cycling’s Lance Armstrong-ish demons. In DC and Chicago, I hung out with the Screaming Eagles and Section 8, two grassroots fan confederations who may not like one another’s soccer teams very much, but share a determination to reinvent the American grandstand.

At the 2007 Women’s Flat-Track Derby Association national championship in Austin, Texas, I discovered that roller derby—revived and reinvented for the post-modern age—is quietly becoming a national, player-owned juggernaut. I learned that alley cat racing, bike polo, urban golf, backyard croquet leagues and wildcat skateparks are secretly reinventing the sporting ideal, proving that a vigorous, creatively disorganized alternative to the major leagues can survive and thrive.

I was frightened and awed by falconry and thoroughly baffled in my own attempt to learn how to fence.

Along the way, I refined my hazy original idea. My book wasn’t about rejecting sports or destroying sports. I wasn’t writing the thing because there’s something wrong with sports; rather, because there’s something right with sports. I wasn’t so much documenting weird, “extreme” or avant-garde pastimes as tracking down people who were determined to forge their own destinies in sports and life. The book became a portrait of a DIY sports nation.

Anyone interested can reach a few choice excerpts here. The book is, of course, available from a wide variety of renowned merchants who would be happy to help all curious parties. Through June, the reading public may avail itself of a number of exciting opportunities to See the Author:

June 1 : Powell’s Books : Portland, Oregon : 7:30 pm

June 9 : Barnes & Noble : Emeryville, California : 7 pm

June 10 : Green Apple Books : San Francisco, California : 7 pm

June 12 : Elliott Bay Books : Seattle, Washington : 7 pm

June 15 : Shakespeare & Company Books : Missoula, Montana : 7 pm

There will also be all kinds of bloggy business in the coming days, probably best followed via the riveting twitter.com/zachdundas.

The Renegade Sportsman represents my humble attempt to reveal a different, unknown side of American sports, and hopefully inspire at least someone to take up recreational swordfighting, start wearing distinctive hats while exercising or form a punk-r0ck darts team. Allez!


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    Followers: 38
    Contributor Since: May 2009
    Location:Portland, Oregon USA