TUMULTUOUS MERRIMENT by Heywood Hale Broun

TUMULTUOUS MERRIMENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The greatest triumph of Broun's career doing sports-cum-human-interest spots for CBS news, was getting ""two appearances on the same Walter Cronkite show."" As relief from war and famine these reports may have been welcome, but when such bonbons are massed in a book, they make one almost wish for a nice grim report on the economy. The mercilessly charming glimpses into out-of-the-way sports (like curling or kayaking), the always warm insights into an athlete's character (Jack Nicklaus weeping as he watched Secretariat win the Belmont), the predictable ironies, and the unending stream of local color, quickly sate even the most voracious appetite. Broun's theme is the familiar observation that sports are no longer play--the ""tumultuous merriment"" that Dr. Johnson celebrated--but rather an exercise in economics, morality, and ideology. Broun tries to portray himself as a free spirit who has combed the country for examples to undermine the pomposity of the sports establishment, but he is very much a part of that establishment. How Broun became a TV personality, the story of his outrageous wardrobe, and his teapot controversies are all part of the same image-manufacturing process. He criticizes Americans for looking to athletes as moral examples--for crying ""say it ain't so Joe,"" when Joe Jackson was caught in the Black Sox scandal. Then Broun tells us that he doesn't want to know whether Joe DiMaggio uses the products he endorses: ""I need Joe DiMaggio. My pantheon. . . has too many empty niches."" Broun is also critical of the ""verbal amphetamines"" of sportswriters, but his own prose runs to the ultra-violet: ""flowing in a blood red tide like wine on Bastille Day."" His comments on the major sports add little to what every fan already knows, while his comments on personality and philosophy are better forgotten.

Pub Date: June 18th, 1979
Publisher: Richard Marek--dist. by Putnam