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Beyond the Game: The Collected Sportswriting of Gary Smith Paperback – September 2, 2001

4.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There's a reason that Sports Illustrated's Gary Smith was named by a national poll of sports editors as the writer they'd most like to hire. He sees the game, but as the title of this marvelous collection of his work from the magazine implies, he also sees beyond. "Sports comes to us in boxes," Smith explains in his preface, "the perimeters of our TV screens or the boundary lines of fields and courts. As much as I enjoy what goes on inside the boxes, I've always had the urge to bust out of them." Does he ever. What's so remarkable about the 15 pieces that comprise Beyond the Game is how much human drama--and humanity--he reveals without resorting to fanfares and violins to enhance his soundtrack.

Final scores are less important to Smith than personal journeys. He doesn't write game stories; he writes stories about compelling people who happen to play our games, some famous--like Ali, Magic Johnson, Mike Tyson, Jim Valvano, and a series of world-record holders in the mile--some hardly footnotes, like John Malangone, the "Damned Yankee" in the title of the volume's leadoff piece. Malangone's saga is unforgettable. Once a sure-fire bet to replace Yogi Berra behind home plate, he carried enormous expectations, which seemed to crush him. But it wasn't the expectations that derailed him; it was a childhood memory he couldn't shake, "the whip," writes Smith, "he has used to flog himself for 60 years." With great understanding, Smith explores the horror encased in the memory, how carrying it corroded Malangone's potential, and how, ultimately, Malangone confronted his psychological baggage and, in his 60s, rediscovered his passion for the game he once walked away from. It is a tour de force of writing and reporting, set within the game but expanding well beyond it. But then every piece in this exceptional collection manages to do the same. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"I've always had the feeling that the most compelling and significant story was the one occurring beyond the game before it, after it, above it, or under it, deep in the furnace of the psyche." It is precisely this instinct to go beyond to find the humanity and grace, will power and fear within the story that makes Smith's writing so clear, vivid and passionate. Smith, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, isn't the kind of sportswriter who fires off questions and records the answers there's nothing pro forma about the way he works or how he is able to capture and reveal the small, unexpected details "that make or unmake a life." Neither does he just focus on the big names in professional and college sports, although Muhammad Ali, Mark McGwire, Mike Tyson and Pat Summitt appear in this volume of exceptional journalism. Smith finds the same zeal at the high-school level, as in the tale of Jonathan Takes Enemy, a one-time high-school basketball star nearly destroyed by drink and yet determined to make it as a college player. Some of Smith's stories aren't about winners at all but about those others who are lured in by their love of the game. For example, "Someone to Lean On" describes Radio, the lovable, mentally disabled man who learned to speak while managing numerous sports teams at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S.C. Indeed, these 15 pieces set a new standard for sportswriting. Whether the reader is a die-hard fan or a lover of gifted storytelling, he or she will find Smith's book impossible to put down. (Oct.) in a poll of Associated Press editors as the sportswriter they'd most like to hire.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Special and ed. edition (September 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802138497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802138491
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Gary Smith is a great writer who happens to write about sports. My only complaint: I wish the collection was twice as long as it is. Whether or not you're a sports fan, you should read this book to get a feel for what a master prose stylist can accomplish. Terrific reading.
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Format: Paperback
I recently received this book as a gift, after having raved for years about the quality of Mr. Smiths writing. Sports happens to be the world in which these stories are set, but he writes about what it is to be human. His compassion and understanding of his subject is so complete that I feel as if I know these people better than most of my friends. His ability to indicate the unspoken thoughts and feelings of his subjects leads the reader to a deeper understanding of humanity, triumphs and failures both.
My only disapointment, as pointed out by an earlier reviewer, is that the collection is not long enough.
I recently re-read a story he wrote for Sports Illustrated back in march of 2001, about a black man who became the basketball coach for a high school in a small Amish community and how he affected the entire town.
I challenge anyone to read this article without feeling uplifted.
A must read for anyone who enjoys great writing.
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Format: Hardcover
i'm thrilled to see gary smith's work in a nice collection like this one. in an age of writing catered to us as if we have attention deficit disorder, it's refreshing to have such illuminating work readily available. in college a few years back i was working on a very touchy feature about an athlete, so i called sports illustrated just hoping to consult with mr. smith to get a better understanding of entering intimate and personal boundaries. amazingly enough, he called me back the following day and we talked for about a half an hour. and for a young writer to speak with one of the greatest, i was deeply inspired. needless to say, the story ended up winning a feature award and i am very grateful to him. i hope he not only gets his writing out to more people now, but that he makes a nice buck off it too! the book is worth every cent!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Radio with Cuba Gooding was the first movie I watched the full credits for to find out the source of the movie/screenplay. Discovering that Gary Smith had written the inspirational story, I had to see more of his writings and was near knocked off my feet. Example: how many people find the boxer Mike Tyson a sympathetic character? After some of his ring antics, how could I? Gary Smith, a senior editor of Sports Illustrated, spent time with him and I began to walk a mile in his shoes. When a writer can do that, make me pause and put on another's shoes, I consider him great. I found the book engaging and mesmerizing. I am not a big sports person, but Smith made me appreciate that world and its people. I have since recommended the book to my high school sports people and got back very good reviews from them. I used it in readalouds. Likewise, good reviews.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I originally bought the book because I heard that the movie Radio was based off of a true story. i thought the movie was cute and when I did research, this book came up and I love to read. It was a very awesome and inspirational story.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gary Smith is a wonderful long form sports writers, perhaps the best at S.I. since the days of Dan Jenkins and Bud Shrake. I enjoyed revisiting this collection which appeared first in S.I., but I must admit that after a while the stories started to sound alike. Smith always goes for the emotional reversal, the unexpected turn. That's okay when you are reading him four times a year, but back to back to back in a volume on a nightly basis takes a little of the luster off. Even in writing that, I feel a little picky and too hard on such a talent. These are first-rate and are light years ahead of much of the current sports writing.
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Format: Hardcover
Read the first paragraph of any article in any sports magazine or newspaper and you'll know if Gary Smith wrote it or not. His work is brilliant and unique. Fans of his Sports Illustrated writing who have been waiting for years for a compilation will not be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gary Smith has always set the standard for great sports writing.This book exemplifies his genius.Doesn't matter which sport he covers,he manages to make the story about the person not the sport.No one turns a word better than Smith.By the time you are finished with the narrative,you will know all there is to know about the subject at hand.It reads like fiction but it's all real life.Wish the book had been longer because I can't get enough of his craft.Superb !!!
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