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Horses, Boxers, Rivers, and a Russian Ballclub

by Bill Barich

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55821-935-8
Publisher: Lyons Press

A slim volume collecting the acclaimed New Yorker essayist’s profiles of figures and phenomena from the sporting world. Normally a writer for publications with effete appeal, Barich in these previously published essays, dating back to 1985, explores unique facets of games with the manliest appeal—horses, boxing, fishing, and baseball. In the short essay that precedes the entries—the only new writing that appears in the book—the author reveals his connections to the events he covers. As it turns out, Barich rarely follows the obvious angles. In “Chasers,” for example, he profiles the opening of England’s jumping, or horse steeplechase, season by recounting his time spent at Ascot in the company of his friend, Andrew, a charming, eccentric jack of all trades. In “Going to the Moon,” Barich heads out on the road with a barnstorming baseball team, the Moscow Red Devils, a Soviet squad who are crisscrossing America spreading good will, picking up valuable pointers on their beloved adopted game, and selling Russian souvenirs to make ends meet along the way. In “Feather River Country,” Barich revisits a subject that often finds its way into his work, either literally or metaphorically: fly fishing. And in “In Prime Time,” a 1988 New Yorker piece on the Mike Tyson—Michael Spinks prizefight in which the former won a heavyweight crown, readers get an insider’s view of the circus-like atmosphere of a big-time prizefight and the curious demimonde of Atlantic City casino life. This time, Barich casts a somewhat jaundiced eye on the influence that pay cable television, crooked promoters, and uninterested competitors exert over the fight game. As ever, Barich’s prose is stunning: even-keeled, observant, honest, though seldom trenchant. Since the entries in this book all appeared earlier in large circulation periodicals, there is nothing new here—but for those who missed them the first time around, they—re new to you.