Not tips but performance--by the New York Times sportswriter whose Contender bespoke four years covering the likes of Muhammed Ali. Not that there's anybody like Ali: in fast-clip impressions from pre-Liston to post-title he's ""the onliest boxes in history people asked questions like a senator."" The line-up is seasonal, with a little personal journal-ese by Lipsyte introducing each, from the Mets' first spring training (also Lipsyte's first big assignment, a bigger than usual first) to, well, ""Winter Thoughts of a Bush-League Ballplayer"" who's ahead of the long-lost game except when ""the air is faintly touched with the smell of the outfield grass."" Spring brings crew racing too, and the Kentucky Derby, and in summer ""Arnold Palmer Tees Off,"" in winter ""Jake the Snake Is Hot On Ice""--but some of Lipsyte's best pieces are illimitable, like the tale of Bozo Miller, the world's champion eater, and the 'no-sob-story' ""Athletes in Wheelchairs Compete for the Paralympic Team."" ""I found in sports a very rich field for writing,"" observes once-great Russian weight-lifter Vlasov, and so has Lipsyte; countering the 'fun and games' aspersion, he notes that ""politics, race, religion, money, the law--all play roles in sports."" He's tackled all of them, and here he takes on ""The 1968 Olympics: The Reds and the Blacks and the Gold"" in a sequence of vivid vignettes. Stanley Woodward's Sportswriter tells more about the metier, and so, indirectly, does John Tunis' autobiography; but this is the best of the field--for example.