Most helpful positive review
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Generally excellent, occasionally uneven
on January 10, 2013
A slightly uneven but generally appealing anthology of American sports writing from 2012. These published chapters are generally extended (15-25 pages) profiles or investigative pieces; a couple of pieces run to 40+ pages.
Many of these essays explore the often tragic personal costs of sports, particularly those sports, like football and hockey, where repeated blows to the head are an almost unavoidable feature of the game. Of the three or four essays that dealt with the effects of concussions, "Punched Out, the extended profile of hockey's Derek Boogaard, is the best.
Other pieces point out how sports act as a positive influence, serving as an escape from poverty and abuse. The profiles of Frank Shorter, the famous marathoner who was abused as a child, and of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania's high school football program are both excellent.
My single favorite piece was Taylor Branch's devastating attack on the NCAA, "The Shame of College Sports." It underscores just how cynically the ideal of "amateurism" has been manipulated in college sports, and how the organization that is supposed to represent and protect "student-athletes"--in a bit of Newspeak-like censorship, the NCAA requires that journalists use this label rather than "players"--often does just the opposite, extracting wealth.
If I had a complaint about the principle of selection, it is that these essays almost exclusively survey the human or business side of sports. There ought to be a place here for a few pieces that represent the best technical analysis of gameplay, player technique, coaching, or strategy.