SportsWorld is a ""grotesque distortion of sports"" as viewed by a columnist whose cynicism might be expected after a fourteen-year stint on the New York Times sports desk. You can't possibly be misled by Lipsyte's disclaimer that he's ""no hater of athletes"" and that his book is ""not antisports."" True, the author does seem enamored of Mohammed Ali's spunk (and shuffle), and sympathetic to the exploited victims of the sports jungle like Connie Hawkins and Dick Tiger. Still, this doesn't alter the fact that American football is considered an ""elaborate hoax"". . . or that the Lombardi legacy is ""dangerous"" because it ""becomes the subordination of self to group, of group to authority, of authority to goal. All to win a football game"" (better to lose, or just not to play?). There's little fan appreciation here--the word fan is egregiously out of place--for New York's finest: Mantle, Berra and Namath (the latter's lifestyle represents ""a kind of Drugstore Cowboy Cool clothed as Sixties Singlestud Chic""). Apart from an occasional penetrating profile (Ali, Alcindor, Zaharias), this remains ponderously negative and thoroughly one-dimensional. An author who likes to hit a tennis ball, yet can't stand to watch the Super Bowl, cannot be excused for failing to distinguish between athletics and sports entertainment (nor for assuming that all spectators wish to participate). Provocative dart-throwing--but take me out to the ball game instead.