THE BEST AMERICAN SPORTS WRITING 1991
A uneven but generally engaging collection featuring two dozen examples of American sportswriting, which the publisher projects as the first in an annual series. In screening hundreds of possible entries, guest editor Halberstam (The Next Century, etc.) and series editor Glenn Stout attempted to emphasize good writing rather than mere reportage of significant or championship events. But despite their best efforts, a fair amount of chaff wound up amidst the wheat: a would-be burlesque from The New Yorker ("Bo Knows Fiction") falls embarrassingly flat--though an antic meditation from The Washington Post ("Personal Best") captures the spurious nature of trivial statistical data. Equally deficient in redeeming value are articles on baseball's Perez brothers (from Sports Illustrated) and the diamond game as played by natives of the Ukraine. On balance, however, the standards set by the best inclusions are high, if not on a par with the workaday prose of such bygone giants as Jimmy Cannon, Ring Lardner, A.J. Liebling, and Red Smith. There are, to illustrate, an affecting requiem from The National Sports Daily for a top rodeo cowboy named Lan Frost who was fatally gored by a bull he had successfully ridden, and an appropriately ambiguous profile of Ted Hendricks, a hard-drinking Hall-of-Fame linebacker who has yet to make a life for himself outside football. Anthologized as well are evocative articles by Roger Angell (a literate wrap-up of the 1990 baseball season), Frank Conroy (pool), Jeff Coplon (an unsparing retrospective on Earl Strom's five-decade career as an NBA ref), and the late Shelby Strother (the sad fate of an illiterate black basketball wizard whose stardom did not last beyond high school). The scouting report: a promising prospect whose progress bears watching now that the defunct National is no longer available as a source of contributions. In the meantime, modest pleasures aplenty for fans of all seasons.