An award-winning sportswriter looks back, mostly fondly, at a childhood in the 1970s in a Minnesota suburb.
As the anxious middle child in a Catholic family with four boys and one girl, overseen by a housewife mother and a father who traveled around the world selling eight-track tape for 3M, Sports Illustrated writer Rushin (The 34-Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball as Told Through Bobbleheads, Cracker Jacks, Jockstraps, Eye Black, and 375 Other Strange and Unforgettable Objects, 2013, etc.) may not have been able to compete with his athletic older brothers for glory on the playing field, but he pleased his parents with a talent for puns and other wordplay and himself with a collection of baseball cards. For a future sportswriter, he had the good fortune to grow up in Bloomington when the city was home to all the major Minnesota sports teams: the Vikings, the Twins, and the North Stars. While Rushin still appears to bear a bit of resentment toward his oldest brother, the administrator of the “Indian Burn” and the “Dutch Rub,” he clearly respects and admires his lovingly involved father and particularly his mother, with her concern that her children should avoid the awful fate of being perceived as “hillbillies.” The author devotes much of the narrative to the pop culture of the 1970s: the titular bicycle, the candy cigarettes the boys brandished, the near worship of Farrah Fawcett, and the fear-inspiring experiences of seeing The Poseidon Adventure and Jaws on the big screen. Although frequent sidetracks into generic comments on life in middle America (the absence of seat belt use and the frequency of smoking) and asides about the history of Midwest-created objects such as the Nerf ball and the Weber grill sometimes detract from the author’s personal story, the nostalgic sweetness of his memories carries the book along comfortably.
Rushin provides convincing evidence that life in the ’70s wasn’t as chaotic as it’s often made out to be.