27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
A classic chronicle for all (not just American) sports fans,
This review is from: The Best American Sports Writing of the Century (Hardcover)
My girlfriend first brought the Best American Sports Writing series to my attention in 1992 by giving me that year's edition as a Chrismas present. I showed my gratitude by burying my head in its covers and ignoring the outside world (her included) until I had finished.
Since that time I have been a keen follower of the series. Because I live in Australia I have little prior background to many of the stories, but this perhaps gives me an objectivity which enhances my enjoyment.
The "Best American Sports Writing of the Century" is a seriously thick compilation of some fantastic pieces. Although falling short of the editors' lofty aims of being a portrait of American life over the past 100 years, it nevertheless manages to identify many of the people and defining moments that have become integral to (admittedly, my perception) of modern American history.
My favourite story - perhaps George Plimpton's `Medora Goes to the Game', a wonderfully uplifting tale of a father's sneaky attempts to convince his 9 year old daughter to aspire to his alma mater, set against the backdrop of the 1980 Harvard-Yale game. Second place to `Into Thin Air', Jon Krakauer's harrowing personal tale of tragedy on Everest. There are many other classics, too numerous to mention here - one that particularly fascinated me was Paul Solotaroff's shocking portrayal of steroid abuse in the body building world.
Brickbats to Murray Kempton's play-by-play account of a baseball game, which failed to inspire me (to be fair, possibly because I am not familiar with the game's intricacies). Also, thumbs down to the editors for selecting no fewer than 6 pieces on Muhummad Ali (a trap which the UK-based Picador sports writing anthology also falls into) Davis Miller's excellent piece notwithstanding.
But perhaps the most fascinating insight the book gave me was the fragile mental state of some of America's most famous boys of summer - Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Joe Di Maggio. All three appeared to me to have, as we say in Australian vernacular, `a `roo loose in the top paddock', surely begging the question - does an athlete need to be ill at ease with the world to achieve greatness, or does America's adoration and constant media attention lead to a wariness and deluded view of self-importance that cannot be extinguished ?