it’s strange how often my heroes end up being of a particular type: sports journalists with a strong social conscience, but, of course, to call CLR james that would be a horrible disservice to the man’s life as an intellectual, an activist, a scholar and a connoisseur—and more importantly lover—of sport.
to read beyond a boundary was to really discover exactly who i was and who i wanted to be for me: it was exhilarating to see someone who was desperately in love with a sport the way he was, who breathed it and felt it in his bones and understood why it captured the heart of the masses and understood it as art and culture and love and something that could unite people, but not in a wishy-washy, weak, liberal universalism sense: in an actual sense of raw community and unity. it’s not an unproblematic idea (and in james’s work, a very masculinist one, too), but it’s such a powerful one. at the same time, james was also very committed to his anti-colonialism, his marxism, his fight for the people. to see him struggling to bring these two passions together, his initial skepticism (on the cricket field, he claimed, one had to “divest oneself of their skins”) to his eventual use of sport as a tool for anti-colonial protest is such an enlightening journey for me, and something i wish to embark on myself: dissect the sports i see and love and figure out not only how politics works in it but how sports can be appropriated as a political and subversive tool.
beyond a boundary is widely acknowledged as one of the best books about sport ever written, precisely because of how triumphantly it transcends sport (goes beyond it, if you will), while still being most intimately tied to it. it is thrilling that it helped me discover one of my lasting ambitions in life: to embark on a similar personal journey to clr james, and to produce works that attempts to mirror his seamless marriage of sports, activism and politics.