A lifetime of British and international sports journalism provokes a riot of observations and anecdotes in this amusing if unruly memoir.
Philips, a sports producer for the BBC, ITV and other media, looks back on his decades covering local Scottish soccer matches, World Cup extravaganzas, Formula One races, golf tournaments and everything else you can think of. He’s seen momentous action, but knows that the trick to successful sports reportage is to have lots of color commentary on hand to fill gaps in that action. Thus, a firsthand account of the 1972 Munich Olympics switches back and forth over 21 pages between the massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists, his interview with 1936 Berlin Olympics hero Jesse Owens (and the videotape glitch that almost ruined it), strong reflections on the vileness of Adolph Hitler, even stronger appreciations of England’s late Cardinal Basil Hume, catty deprecations of Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut and an encounter with actor Christopher Lee in a pro shop. The whole book is a similar free-association tour through his memory, one that visits ancient Scottish battles, the Cuban missile crisis, unknown colleagues and well-known celebrities, bawdy couplets and Kenny Rogers songs, goofy riffs on athletes’ body parts and twee prognostications of space travel to the planet Kepler-22b. Shoehorned into the miscellany are canny insights into the business of staging athletic spectacles and rapturous meditations on the sports themselves. (“Cricket is a fabulous game to play and watch….fast and sublime, cunning and creative, technical and subtle, positively dangerous at times.”) The author, a very droll Scotsman, relates all this in a freewheeling, laddishly irreverent prose slathered with profanity, obscure allusions and slang (Yanks, keep your dictionaries of British English handy). Although cheerfully contemptuous of thematic development and large-scale narrative structure, Philips is a born raconteur with an inexhaustible supply of entertaining stories and witty one-liners; readers will have a great time getting lost in the maze of his play-by-play.
A funny, sharp-eyed insiders’ montage of the sports scene.