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Loving Sports When They Don't Love You Back

Loving Sports When They Don't Love You Back
Dilemmas of the Modern Fan

Acclaimed sports writers Jessica Luther and Kavitha A. Davidson explore what it means to be a fan, even as moral and ethical dilemmas—from doping to domestic violence—complicate the games we love.

September 2020
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336 pages | 5.5 x 8.5 |

Triumphant wins, gut-wrenching losses, last-second shots, underdogs, competition, and loyalty—it’s fun to be a fan. But when a football player takes a hit to the head after yet another study has warned of the dangers of CTE, or when a team whose mascot was born in an era of racism and bigotry takes the field, or when a relief pitcher accused of domestic violence saves the game, how is one to cheer? Welcome to the club for sports fans who care too much.

In Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back, acclaimed sports writers Jessica Luther and Kavitha A. Davidson tackle the most pressing issues in sports, why they matter, and how we can do better. For the authors, “sticking to sports” is not an option—not when our taxes are paying for the stadiums, and college athletes aren’t getting paid at all. But simply quitting a favorite team won’t change corrupt and deplorable practices, and the root causes of many of these problems are endemic in our wider society. An essential read for modern fans, Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back challenges the status quo and explores how we might begin to reconcile our conscience with our fandom.

  • Introduction
  • 1. Watching Football When We Know (Even a Little) about Brain Trauma
  • 2. Forgiving the Doper You Love
  • 3. Cheering for a Team with a Racist Mascot
  • 4. Embracing Tennis despite Its Inequities
  • 5. Coping When the Sports You Love Are Anti-LGBTQ+
  • 6. Watching Women’s Basketball When People Tell You You’re the Only One
  • 7. Consuming Sports Media . . . Even If You Don’t Look Like the People on TV
  • 8. Rooting for Your Team When the Star Is Accused of Domestic Violence
  • 9. Loving Your Team When You Hate the Owner
  • 10. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Baseball’s Free Market
  • 11. Doubling Down on Your March Madness Bracket Even If the Athletes Don’t Make a Dime
  • 12. Living with the New Stadium You Didn’t Want to Pay For
  • 13. Enjoying the Olympics Despite the Harm to Your Community
  • 14. Embracing That Athletes—and Sports—Are Political
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index

Jessica Luther is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, Texas Monthly, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Vice Sports, among others. She is the author of Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape and has written extensively on the intersection of sports and violence off the field.

Kavitha A. Davidson is a sportswriter and host of The Lead, an in-depth daily sports news podcast produced by The Athletic. She is on the board of directors at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center. She was a writer with ESPNW and ESPN The Magazine and a sports columnist at Bloomberg covering the intersections of sports and society, culture, politics, race, gender, and business. Her work has also appeared in NBC THINK, the Guardian, and Rolling Stone.


“An incisive, damning indictment of the world's most popular pastimes.”
Kirkus, Starred Review

“This book is just so good. It stands on its own two feet as something that I think is really going to mark this time in which we live…people are going to say '2020 sports' and they're going to look at this book.”
Dave Zirin, Edge of Sports

“This book [is] a powerhouse for any number of us that have addressed a lot of these topics in our work, or have come across them as a's so great.”
Sarah Spain, That's What She Said

“With cleverly titled chapters, Luther and Davidson immediately draw readers into thoughtful confrontations of many of the hypocrisies of sports fanhood...Luther and Davidson keenly raise issues that many fans may not have considered while cheering for their favorite teams.”
New York Times

“A wide-ranging look at the moral quandaries inherent in fandom.”
Publishers Weekly

“A well-researched, engaging collection of essays on all the messiness that surrounds the world of sports.”

“Never pejorative or self-righteous, the authors have thoroughly researched each topic and acknowledge the complexity of the subject matter.”
Austin Monthly

“[Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back] engages without hesitation the multi-layered and evermore urgent puzzle that is sports fan ethics.”
Sport in American History

Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back doesn't offer easy answers, it encourages introspection…[Loving Sports offers] fans who have long felt a dissonance between their principles and the reality of sports a way to live with this reality in ways that may lead to change...As [Luther and Davidson] state near the end of the book, 'Sports are worth saving and changing.' Their book shows both why and how that is the case.”

“A fascinating take on the myriad ethical issues facing sports fans today...Meticulously researched, this is enlightening reading for the 21st-century sports fan.”
Publishers Weekly

Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back goes far beyond addressing sexism in sports. It’s a wide-ranging and incisive look at systemic injustice across the industry: homophobia, domestic violence, doping, racist mascots, brain injuries, corruption, and the controversy over whether to pay student athletes.”
Texas Monthly

“This is the book that sports fans didn't know they needed. Highly recommended for any reader who has felt conflicted about being a sports fan.”
Library Journal

“[Loving Sports When They Don't Love You Back] aided my understanding of what’s been exploding around me...In a year where athletes challenged the injustice that exists in the real world, Luther and Davidson remind us that sports can be not just a reflection of our society but a force that can help make our world a better place.”
The Progressive, "Favorite Books of 2020"

“[Luther and Davidson] take on all sorts of topics that can make being a sports fan frustrating — not because you’re in love with a losing team, but more ethical, existential concerns.”
The Undefeated, "25 Can't-Miss Books of 2020"

“A very timely read right now.”
Yahoo Sports Canada

“If you love sports, but are finding it harder and harder to cheer for your favorite teams because you hate rooting for the owners and organizations that run them, this is your book...This book feels particularly relevant as we watch sports in 2021 through the lens of leagues and teams putting profit over players (and fans) in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Business Insider

“Though [Luther and Davidson] offer a persuasive case that sports, despite all their problems, are worth fighting for, they also hold out the option of fans giving them up and moving on to other things in life. An incisive and engaging read.”
Public Books

“I am thankful for this text as a reminder, among a great many other things, that affection can come with a responsibility. Luther and Davidson thoughtfully reckon with sports and their long history of inequity, seeking accountability without dimming the impact that sports have had on their lives, and many lives beyond theirs. This is a generous book, one that I will sit with for years to come.”
Hanif Abdurraqib

“For some of us, this has been a long-standing question: How to reconcile our love of sports with the undeniable ethical issues and conflicts of conscience that often surround them? On these pages Kavitha Davidson and Jessica Luther make an honest and interesting attempt to answer that question.”
Bob Costas


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