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edited by Frank Deford & Glenn Stout

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-63324-9
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

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.