The fifth annual offering in this series edited by Stout features stories selected by Jenkins (You Gotta Play Hurt, 1991, etc.), this year's editor, and as usual, the results are mostly impressive. Looking back with the talented writers whose work festoons this volume, one quickly is reminded that 1994 was a dismal year for sports: the major-league baseball strike, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, Jennifer Capriati's brush with the law and drug rehab, O.J. Simpson's arrest. Not surprisingly, the generally ugly tone of the year in sports is reflected in a volume dominated by these unpleasant topics. Jenkins mercifully only includes one piece on the O.J. trial, a brutal concoction by James Ellroy that is as savage and bleak in tone as any of that estimable neo-noir author's novels. It was a bad year for humor, judging from the contents of this collection, which is bookended by two excruciatingly unfunny pieces by Bob Verdi (on the baseball strike) and Ian Thomsen (on TonyaGate). The highs and lows of the collection are amply demonstrated in the book's foreword and introduction, respectively, a heartfelt tribute to a little-known black writer by Stout and a sour, mean-spirited diatribe against intellectuals who write on sports by Jenkins. Once you are past Jenkins, however, there is a multiplicity of rewards here. Particularly worthy are Dave Kindred's visit with Ted Williams, shortly after the great hitter's stroke; Gary Smith's superb reporting on a gathering of most of the world's living record-holders in the mile; and Gary Cartwright's recollection of a vanished high school football legend from his hometown. This book proves once again that although sports may be falling apart under the relentless pressure of corporate meddling, greed, drugs, racism, and the rest of the real world, sportswriters are still reporting that downfall with keen intelligence and art.