SPORTSWRITER by Charles Fountain

SPORTSWRITER

The Life and Times of Grantland Rice
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 As Fountain (Journalism/Northeastern) admits in this fine biography, Grantland Rice's ``florid style'' and ``saccharin rhyme...would doom him to deserved obscurity'' today. But in the 1920's and 30's, Rice was the most important and widely read sportswriter in America. Following the 1924 Army-Notre Dame game at the Polo Grounds, Rice penned what Fountain calls ``the most famous lead in sports journalism history''--``Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again''--and immortalized the Irish backfield of Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley, and Layden. Rice's knack for the golden phrase went back to his early days in Nashville: ``The One Great Scorer...marks/not that you won or lost/but how you played the Game.'' Verse headed almost every column and story from Rice's first job at his hometown Nashville Daily News, where he made $5 a week, to his heyday with the New York Tribune, where, in 1925, he earned an unheard-of $1,000 a week. With his syndicated column, his association with Collier's magazine, his Sportlight Films productions, and his radio work, the ``dean'' of sports journalism became as much a celebrity as the men he immortalized. Finding ``nobility and gentility'' in his subject, Fountain notes that Rice embodied the ``gee whiz'' school of sportswriting as opposed to the ``aw nuts'' school of Damon Runyon and Ring Lardner. Fountain owns up to Rice's ``glib insensitivity and ignorance'' on matters of race, however, admitting that Rice was as derogatory of Jess Willard and Joe Louis as any other sportswriter, and that he only grudgingly gave Jesse Owens his due. But Rice's 67 million words of ``purple prose'' over a 53-year career played no small part, he emphasizes, in casting the aura of legend around the likes of Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Bobby Jones, and Red Grange. A solid effort that uses ample quotes and examples from Rice's work, providing insight into the man and his times. (Eighteen halftones--not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-506176-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993