A genial, leisurely, occasionally choppy memoir from the veteran New York Times sports columnist.
Accompanying Berkow’s how-I-became-what-I-am narrative, which begins in boyhood and ends with a touching account of his father’s death in 2002, are anecdotes about characters as diverse as Judge Sirica, Groucho Marx, Muhammad Ali, P.G. Wodehouse, Marianne Moore, Mike Tyson, Tonya Harding and reporter Jayson Blair, whose egregious fabrications at the Times also affected Berkow. (He contends that the paper’s heightened concern about accuracy led to a nine-paragraph Editors’ Note that unfairly targeted minor omissions of attribution in one of his columns.) The author writes with great affection about his remarkable parents, especially his father, who appears throughout as the touchstone Berkow uses to assess his life. It’s been mostly successful, once he began to work hard in college. He began his climb to the pinnacle of his profession in Minnesota, where he covered high-school sports and car races, then moved to Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicate (until he became too expensive for them) and finally to the Times and a Pulitzer. Berkow chronicles the dissolution of two marriages with an odd absence of affect, perhaps because relations remain amiable with both former wives. He displays much more emotion in describing his relationship with the legendary Red Smith, whom Berkow first contacted when he was an undergraduate. Berkow also takes a few shots: at Michael Jordan, for lacking moral courage, and at Indiana University’s “iron-fisted and iron-minded” coach Bobby Knight, for lying.
Though not terribly propulsive, the text does remind us that the author witnessed some remarkable moments in sport, including Ali-Frazier I and the 1989 World Series earthquake.