This is a glorious celebration of Sports Illustrated's 50 years coverage of the minor and the major in sport. At first, the magazine devoted a disproportionate number of articles to "gentlemenly" pursuits such as troutfishing and yachting. However, the once timid magazine eventually hit its stride, with the help of television, with the talents of new editors and writers, and, arguably, by the visuals of television.
The book, with an informative but slightly cloying introduction by Frank Deford (he keeps on mentioning the swimsuit issue--about as relevant to the major sports scene as yachting was 50 years ago), organizes the magazine's stories and pictures by the decade. A current sportswriter gives an overview, there arearticles from the magazines, sidebar-like features such as quotes, historic cultural and historical events, and, most importantly, the photographs.
SI photography is the best of its kind, setting a standard that will defy any attempt to cater to some notion of the "new" SI reader. It is as dependable and as beautiful as a museum. The full page and two-page spreads here are magnificent records of sports history, character studies, stories of emotion, action, the literal and the figurative. A low angle shot of the then-named Lew ALcindor beating Houston in 1968. an underwater shot of Michael Phelps winning gold at the Australia Olympics, a black and white of Duke Snider climbng the outer field wall at Ebbets Field, an extreme overhead of Ali knocking out Cleveland Williams in 1966, mini-reproductions of cover of every issue, and yes, that includes the swimsuit issues--it's here at an overwhelmingly fan-friendly price.
In a way, then, the book is a direct descendant of the unique magazine of which one British man complained in 1954: "For 25 cents there is too much value." Although the book was produced bt SI and--as expected--celebrates SI, it also teases itself as well, noting that in 1954, "it published only six articles on basketball but 14 on bowling. It published 17 articles on clothing (but oddly, none on bowling clothing)." My only complaints: There's not quite enough of the original text (more of the writing is included in a companion book) and there is no index. A superb gift with more substance and memories than the usual oversized book.
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