Actually, it's the same old pedantry. Guttman's stated purpose in the 13 donnish essays here is to provide a selective history that construes what competitive sports reveal about US culture. The author (English and American Studies/Amherst) also seeks ""to bridge the gap between those who care about sports and those who care about them in a disciplined, reflective way."" But few fans will have the stamina to wade through Guttman's swampy prose. Also hard to take is the author's penchant for grandstanding his own erudition. He cites authorities ranging from Marxist dialecticians through social scientists, and complains constantly about discontinuities in source material, e.g, noting that ""research into turn-of-the-century children's play has barely emerged from the taxonomic stage."" Those who stay Guttman's tortuous course can expect precious little reward, either. He traverses mainly familiar ground, including much he covered himself in From Ritual to Record, a 1978 inquiry into the nature of modern sport. Even casual observers, for instance, need no reminder that the census of athletes who use and abuse drugs is on the rise--or that blacks still encounter racial prejudice in professional as well as intercollegiate sports. Nor does it come as news that Little League baseball suffers from a surfeit of adult intervention. The final score: a relentlessly recondite probe of the obvious that misses most of the fun in games. The tedious text includes illustrations (not seen).