THE MAN IN THE CROWD: Confessions of a Sports Addict by Stanley Cohen

THE MAN IN THE CROWD: Confessions of a Sports Addict

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Despite the wry subtitle, this is an oddly bland and earnest memoir, with little humor or color--as Cohen (The Game They Played) recalls the ebbs and flows of his interest in baseball, basketball, football, and prizefighting. ""Why, I wondered, did almost everything I know and care about seem to be filtered through the prism of the playing field? What was the nature of a fascination that was so totally immune to the incursions of time?"" To answer these queries, Cohen reminisces about Bronx boyhood in the 1940s: his Yankee-worship (DiMaggio above all); his first night game; the return of the superstars after the war. He recalls his first awareness of corruption in sports--the Hapes-Filchock case and the 1951 college basketball scandals (subject of The Game They Played). He reflects on his eye-opening reaction to Jackie Robinson's arrival: ""Perhaps, then, it is only a minor presumption to suppose that a substantial portion of first-generation, middle-class America got its first lessons in race relations through the good offices of baseball and the singular example of Jackie Robinson."" He documents his football-fanship with the Giants: attending a game two days after JFK's assassination (""I was grateful that the game had been played and that I had been there. Not very often does one have the chance to experience a sense of deep communion with strangers . . .""); saluting Johnny Unitas; reliving the 1958 Giant-Colts game moment by moment. Also: the 1950s ""Subway Series,"" a flirtation with the Mets, the victory season of '69-'70 (with N.Y. teams sweeping everything), the Ali/Frazier fight, and a very mild dip into sports-gambling. But though Cohen clearly knows his stuff--and clearly was there for most of the big games of the past few decades--these musings never become vividly personal (even when Cohen is passing on his devotions to son Steve). And the flatly delivered socio-cultural commentaries--on the Sixties, on today's sports commercialism--are for the most part familiar stuff. So: literate and modestly likable recollections, with some decent play-by-play for fellow fans, but with none of the dash, style, or comedy one has come to expect from savvy N.Y. sports enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1981
Publisher: Random House