Roberts, himself a sportswriter, would be the first to admit that he doesn't comprehend the ""why"" but he has ample evidence on how the sports madness afflicts and torments us. Whether the fan's allegiance is to a college football squad, a Superbowl contender, a local baseball club, or a bunch of skyscraper basketballers, a key game or a championship series brings on a kind of dementia. In Washington, Redskin tickets are among the best political bribes; Hank Aaron's 715th H.R. ball became an instant ""holy relic""; the Philadelphia Flyers' Stanley Cup trophy redeemed that city's long-standing ""loser"" image. Perhaps the ultimate in sports frenzy came in 1969 when El Salvador invaded Honduras in the first Soccer War in history. The urge to explore the figurative depths and spiritual significance of athletic events has drawn some of our best writers, and the intellectualizing and inflating of jocks and their games goes on in the nation's most dignified newspapers. Roberts' blasphemous aim is to deflate the games and the hired ""mercenaries"" who play pro sports. A nimble and jaunty writer, he picks out the ultimately lachrymose, crassly commercial, and unsportsmanly moments on and off the playing field. It's a wholly entertaining put-down that won't inhibit jock worship but may make a few renegades reflect on the congenital impairment of the fan's psyche.