Culled from almost 400 periodicals by series editor Stout and guest editor Deford (former editor of The National Sports Daily whose new novel, Love and Infamy, is reviewed above): a championship cup of essays on sports and sports figures on and off the field. First, problems: Most of the names are familiar if not famous, making the ``best'' title suspect; ``well-known'' would be just as accurate. Only two women appear among the 26 authors (are there really that few good women sportswriters?). Too many of the stories--the lead piece, for example, on Tommy Lasorda's son, who died of AIDS, or one on the tangled private life of figure skater Tonya Harding--aren't really sports stories and skirt the borders of tabloid journalism in subject if not style. Much too often, Deford's taste runs to sensationalism rather than sports--but there are still gems aplenty. The two best take risks: Marathon-runner Amby Burfoot breaks a taboo by discussing the apparent genetic advantage of blacks for footracing, and Mark Kram writes a scary, lyrical exposÇ of football violence. Ben Javorsky logs in with a hundred-page (!) diary of a year in the life of an inner-city high-school basketball team; Ray Blount, Jr., gets lost racing on an oval track; Ron Fimrite remembers a football coach of the 1940's; Pat Jordan profiles baseball manager Whitey Herzog; Roger Angell grows wistful once again about the summer game; Dave Barry scouts out the Florida Marlins' minor-league franchise; and Donna Tartt writes amusingly about high-school cheerleading. David Roberts, Rick Reilly, Charles P. Pierce, William Nack, Rich Reilly, and Scott Raab also offer standout performances. Good work, boys; but next time, let's have more women, more unknowns, more sports, and less sleaze.