Sports Biblio

A Blog About Sports Books, History And Culture

Month: January 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Introducing: The debut episode of the Sports Biblio Podcast

After several delays, I’m very proud to launch the Sports Biblio Podcast!

SB Pod Debut ScreenThe inaugural episode is an introduction to the site, newsletter and the idea for what I’m doing here, as explained in my about page.

For those of you who have been reading, this will cover some familiar material; for those of you who are new to Sports Biblio, welcome!

A new podcast will be posted on the 2nd and 4th Friday of each month; new sports book reviews are still posted on the 1st and 3rd Friday. Continue reading

The underappreciated sportswriting of John Lardner

The eldest son of Ring Lardner Sr. was just as wide-ranging a writer as his father.

John Lardner ReaderJohn Lardner started writing a sports column in 1933, then interrupted that work to serve as a newspaper correspondent during World War II.

After the war, he returned to sports, and although that wasn’t his exclusive subject, his “Sport Week” column in Newsweek and other sports magazine pieces in the 1950s were among his greatest career touchstones.

Like his father and two brothers, John Lardner died young. He was only 48 in early 1960 when he succumbed to tuberculosis. Continue reading

The legacy of Ring Lardner Sr., in sports and other writing

In 2013 the Library of America released its long-awaited “Ring Lardner: Stories & Other Writings,” with the aspiration of producing a revival about a writer who’s been dead for more than 80 years.

Ring Lardner StoriesThis book — edited by Ian Frazier, writer, humorist and contributor to The New Yorker — comes in at a whopping 974 pages, and there’s enough Lardner here to suit anyone’s taste, his sportswriting and beyond.

The collection draws on some of Lardner’s best-known work: “You Know Me Al,” “The Real Dope,” “The Young Immigrunts,” “The Big Town,” plus many humor pieces, lyrics and playlets and letters.

Allen Barra, writing for The Daily Beast, calls this “the best Lardner collection ever assembled:” Continue reading

‘Man versus Ball’ celebrates a commoner’s Plimpton exploits

At the beginning of “Man Versus Ball,” New York writer Jon Hart identifies the inspiration for his 2013 book at the heading of the first chapter only.

hart_man_vs_ball.final.inddGeorge Plimpton pitched against National League baseball players, sparred with Sugar Ray Robinson, ran plays in a preseason scrimmage with the Detroit Lions and worked out as a goalie with the Boston Bruins.

Hart was knocked unconscious playing with a semipro football team, flirted with soccer and basketball on skates and washed out of a low-level professional wrestling training school.

But the essence of Hart’s escapades on the margins of the American sporting world are truly on the margins, detailing activities that few fans know or seemingly care much about: U.S. Open ball boy, PGA caddie and, most of all, a Major League ballpark vendor.  Continue reading

The lone female adventure survivalist, taken to extremes

I’ve always thought I’ve been a bit extreme in preferring my own company. For those who write for a living, solitude is a necessity. although if we’re honest it really feeds a preference above all else.

Wild By NatureThen I read a 2014 story in The New York Times about traveler extraordinaire Sarah Marquis, who had completed an epic 10,000-mile solo journey through Asia and Australia over the course of three years, enduring intense hunger, pain and exhaustion in what was aptly described as a “sufferfest.”

In 2012, British adventurer Felicity Aston became the first human to manually ski across AntarcticaThe same year, a young American woman, Cheryl Strayed, published a memoir, “Wild,” about her trek across the Pacific Crest Trail. Continue reading

The fatal attraction of death-defying extreme sports

We live in paradoxical sporting times.

One BreathAs the violent nature of American football continues to attract greater media scrutiny, calls for prohibition and Hollywood treatment, athletes in other combat sports are celebrated without much hand-wringing.

Even after her shocking loss to Holly Holm, Mixed Martial Arts star Ronda Rousey expertly milked the occasion to build on her ever-growing popularity.

She’s criticized for her views on transgender fighters while participating in a sport in which inflicting physical damage upon another human being is the objective, not a by-product. Continue reading

Sports Biblio’s preview guide to winter 2016 sports books

Blood Brothers

Biographies of a soccer legend and NASCAR’s first family, polemics against the Washington Redskins and the NCAA and the selling of Babe Ruth highlight an eclectic mix of sports books published in United States in the first three months of 2016.

Other notable new books include the story of the friendship between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, a memoir by Bill Walton and tales of high-risk (and sometimes deadly) adventures in freediving, wilderness hiking and extreme sports. Continue reading

Australian Rules doping saga leads to major sports book award

The inaugural presentation of a major sports book award in Australia came in the wake of one of that nation’s most notorious doping investigations.

The Straight DopeChip Le Grand, a reporter for The Australian, was named the recipient of the William Hill Award in December 2015 for his book about that saga, “The Straight Dope.”

The book chronicles the allegations that dozens of players for Essendon FC, a storied club in the Australian Football League, took banned supplements during the 2012 season. Continue reading

The confounding electoral math of the Baseball Hall of Fame

I’ve never had a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame and never will, but that hasn’t stopped me from joining a contentious chorus (on a previous blog, here and here) wondering why the process for selecting the game’s finest players for enshrinement remains so maddening.

Cooperstown ConfidentialSince so-called “steroids era” players became eligible, some journalists given a ballot by the Baseball Writers Association of America have refused to vote for those suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs.

To make an even more dramatic point, a few have turned in empty ballots and publicly disclosed their protests. Another national sports columnist, Dan LeBatard, was banished from having a vote for life by the BBWAA because he sold his ballot to Deadspin. Continue reading

Revealing the financial follies of college football’s arms race

In sifting through the revenues and expenses of major college football programs, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Gilbert M. Gaul admits early on in his book “Billion-Dollar Ball” that “there are no standard accounting practices.”

Billion Dollar BallNot even for the nine-figure particulars at the University of Texas at Austin, the richest college athletics program in America, and not even after DeLoss Dodds, the now-retired Texas director of athletics, meets him in person to explain the “business” of college sports, such as it is.

Gaul, formerly with The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer, has subtitled his book “A Journey Through the Big-Money Culture of College Football,” and it comes as the sport is reaping bigger financial windfalls than ever, and enriching its leading figures in unprecedented fashion. Continue reading

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