A retired Chicago Tribune sports writer recalls great moments and great athletes with column reprints and contemporary musings.
Markus’ career spanned three and a half decades, work that included interviewing some of the greatest athletes of the time and witnessing some of the greatest moments in sports. This book is a hand-picked collection of the writer’s best columns, many complete with extended quotes from the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Walter Payton, Wayne Gretzky and others. Interspersed in the nostalgia is the author’s contemporary perspective of not only the events, but also of the events’ coverage, with much of the emotion removed from the original era; regarding the U.S. basketball team’s 1972 Olympic loss to the Soviets, Markus asserts that a lousy tempo, not a lousy call, should have lost the game for the Americans anyway. The collection hints at the author’s and media’s influence on sporting events and people (Markus claims he coined Gretzky’s nickname, “The Great One”); however, those moments pale in comparison to the focus of the collection: enjoyable events and personalities recollected by the nostalgic fan. Markus adds to the fun, recounting various methods of technologies he used to deliver stories to the Tribune (Western Union, fax, dictation and e-mail) and discussing the mock court trial that creatively recounted the controversial Elrod Hendricks-Bernie Carbo home plate call from the 1970 World Series. The book’s tag line of “writing in a golden age of sports” might be debatable as golden ages shift with each passing generation or the aging of the individual observer. The book makes changes in sports writing apparent; Markus says that even simple technologies like the tape recorder changed his writing approach, often for the worse, and his post-retirement column-blogs (included here), complete with the obligatory cute similes, read more like the commentaries of a blow-dried ESPN personality than those of a hardboiled reporter. The blogs also lack hands-on athlete/reporter interviews or actual presence at the game—more relics of a bygone era. Today’s blogger, one that writes from home and often parrots mainline stories, might do well to find instruction, if not inspiration, in this journalism of a bygone era. The glaring shortcoming is the absence of an index or table of contents, as either guide would make quick reference markedly easier. Accompanying dates for the columns would also be useful.
A simple, but resourceful trip down memory lane that’s fun and instructional.