Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Only Game in Town: Sportswriting from The New Yorker

The Only Game in Town: Sportswriting from The New Yorker Review

Some amazing writers from various disciplines have contributed to the pages of The New Yorker in the magazine's 80-plus-year history. More than 30 of them are included in this wonderful anthology of the best from the world of sports, in itself a competition of sorts.

One would not find these pieces in the back pages of a local newspaper. These are thoughtful, long pieces that go beyond the box score and records, or the simple accomplishments on the various fields of play. Some --- like "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," John Updike's chronicle of Ted Williams's final game --- have become part of the larger time capsule of sports' legendary figures, both subject and author (a 50th anniversary edition of "Hub Fans" was published earlier this year by the Library of America). Others --- such as Lillian Ross's "El Unico Matador," perhaps the only profile ever written about a gay Jewish-American bullfighter --- offer people, places and events they otherwise would never discover.

It is fitting that New Yorker staple Roger Angell "leads off" the collection with his famous report of a classic 1-0 extra-inning 1981 college contest between Frank Viola of St. John's and Ron Darling of Yale. (And if you want to know the details, in the words of the eminent baseball philosopher Casey Stengel, "you could look it up.") Adding to the enjoyment of Angell's tale: the presence and commentary of "Smoky Joe" Wood, a standout of the early 1900s and later a college coach himself. Other notable writers include John Cheever on fathers, sons and baseball; Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on Michael Jordan; A. J. Liebling on the 1955 Marciano-Moore fight; and John McPhee on Princeton basketball star (and later U.S. senator) Bill Bradley.

But is good writing on its own enough of a draw? While there are five essays on baseball, it seems editor David Remnick tries perhaps a bit too hard to be democratic as he includes so many sports/games/activities. Maybe that's the point. In what other mainstream publication would you find so much thoughtful prose on such diverse topics as surfing (William Finnegan), snowmobiling (Calvin Trillin), dog sledding (Susan Orlean), ping-pong (Nancy Franklin), and parkour (Alec Wilkinson; parkour is a jumping "sport" that seems more applicable to cinematic stunt work than athletics). Oddity for oddity's sake? Or is it perhaps a "snob factor" the historic magazine is after?

Regardless, sports fans who hold The New Yorker in the same regard as The Sporting News or Sports Illustrated will no doubt welcome this edition into their library.

--- Reviewed by Ron Kaplan

The Only Game in Town: Sportswriting from The New Yorker Feature

  • ISBN13: 9781400068029
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

The Only Game in Town: Sportswriting from The New Yorker Overview

For more than eighty years, The New Yorker has been home to some of the toughest, wisest, funniest, and most moving sportswriting around. Featuring brilliant reportage and analysis, profound profiles of pros, and tributes to the amateur in all of us, The Only Game in Town is a classic collection from a magazine with a deep bench.

Including such authors as Roger Angell and John Updike, both of them synonymous with New Yorker sportswriting, The Only Game in Town also features greats like John McPhee and Don DeLillo. Hall of Famer Ring Lardner is here, bemoaning the lowering of standards for baseball achievement—in 1930. A. J. Liebling inimitably portrays the 1955 Rocky Marciano–Archie Moore bout as “Ahab and Nemesis . . . man against history,” and John Cheever pens a story about a boy’s troubled relationship with his father and “The National Pastime.”

From Tiger Woods to bullfighter Sidney Franklin, from the Chinese Olympics to the U.S. Open, the greatest plays and players, past and present, are all covered in The Only Game in Town. At The New Yorker, it’s not whether you win or lose—it’s how you write about the game.

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