An acclaimed sportswriter presents a litany of gripes.
The subtitle of this collection of previously published essays by veteran sportswriter Reilly (Sports from Hell: My Search for the World's Dumbest Competition, 2010, etc.) tells readers what to expect: brash, rude opinions for which the writer does not apologize. The author, an ESPN.com columnist and 11-time national sportswriter of the year, occasionally writes uplifting stories about "People With Big Hearts" or "Tales of Strength" (two chapters in this book), but his stock in trade is quick-paced, topical humor columns for ESPN The Magazine, where his essays are a brief stop en route to something more substantial or entertaining. In large doses, his irreverent humor becomes mean-spirited and derisive. (Reilly's take on Caltech's men's basketball team’s breaking its 310-game losing streak is not a feel-good story.) The author’s complaint about the ponderous pace of major league baseball games showcases his typical hack work: He calls a three-hour-and-fourteen-minute Reds-Giants game in 2012 "can-somebody-please-stick-two-forks-in-my-eyes snore-a-palooza" and grouses, "I'd rather have watched eyebrows grow." In his column about Jason Collins coming out as a gay NBA player, Reilly describes players' fears of having a gay teammate as "paranoia in high tops." However, the author’s irritation is valid when he rebuts the tributes dozens of writers and news outlets heaped upon Al Davis, the controversial owner of the Oakland Raiders, following his death in 2011. Reilly's listing of the man's misdeeds and many examples of his disagreeable nature ("Yes, Al Davis believed in 'A Commitment to Excellence.' Yet he didn't demand it in himself") are honest and a relief from the hagiography about Davis in the press—not to mention from the author’s endless punning and tepid wordplay.
In book form, Reilly's columns are an avalanche of small stones, hitting readers with trite observations and stale one-liners.