OPEN NET by George Plimpton
Kirkus Star


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Another chronicle of Plimpton's amateurish ventures into the worlds of professional athletics--this one recounting his experience in the training camp of the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League. Plimpton has lived out the boyish fantasies of millions of American men and lived to tell about them in such books as Paper Lion (pro football), Out of My League (major league baseball), The Bogey Man (pro golf), and Shadow Box (pro boxing). But the story he tells in Open Net has to be by far his most dangerous experience, for not only did he deign to play with the bruisers of pro hockey, but he did so in the position of goaltender--a position which longtime goalie Jacques Plante once described as being shot at for a living. Plimpton uses his experiences as a means of writing with uncommon acumen into the inside goings-on of each sport and of the human aspects of its players. He is a polished essayist and brings a touch of class to the writing of sports, and with his ""comparison shopping,"" he has gleaned a wealth of insight into each sport in relation to the others. Plimpton, for instance, writes that ""few sports seemed to be enjoyed as much by its players as hockey."" He compares the drudgery with which pro footballers face the practice field with the sheer delight that accompanies hockey practices. The author's trial-by-fire comes during an exhibition game between the Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers, when a special 5-minute game is played with Plimpton in goal. Having learned that his teammates would consider his giving up five goals to be a respectable performance, he amazes himself--and everybody else--by giving up only one--even managing to block a penalty shot, the ""gimme,"" dunk shot, and left-hook of hockey. Plimpton is that rare combination--a man of literature not so snobby as to turn his nose up at the sweaty rough-and-tumble of the sporting life. Consequently, we all can profit from his rarefied view of worlds unknown to most of the literati. The only problem is that Plimpton is fast running out of sports. Tennis anyone'?

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1985
Publisher: Norton