This week’s edition of the Sports Biblio Digest notes the distinguished collection of sports books honored this week in Britain, but with a sobering aside.
Oliver Kay’s “Forever Young” was named the Cross Sports Book Award book of the year. The book by Kay, football correspondent for The Times, was cited at the same time one of Britain’s leading sports book editors was shown the door by his employer.
According to The Bookseller, a British trade publication, Transworld has decided to pull back on the sports book genre “in the face of what its publisher calls “a rapidly declining market.”
News, Views and Reviews About Sports Books, History and Culture
Also In This Issue: “Smart Baseball;” John Saunders’ Posthumous Memoir; Vin Scully At the Hollywood Bowl; Howie Morenz; Nile Kinnick; The Passing Art of Magic Johnson; Jarmila Kratochvilova
Giles Elliott, editorial director at Transworld, editor of biographies of Premier League stars Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville as well as Jimmy Connors and other top sporting figures, is among those being made “redundant.”
That’s enough to make a sports-book lover’s heart stop. Compared to other categories, sports books are often overlooked in the industry as well as the critical community that reviews them. Much like newspaper sports staffs have been dubbed “the toy department,” sports books have to fight an uphill battle against many factors, most of all the loss of readers.
The Bookseller story doesn’t further detail the travails of the sports book market, or mention if other publishers are curtailing their output as well. Transworld is part of the larger Penguin Random House UK conglomerate and job-cutting and consolidations have been going on for several years and will likely continue.
The British sports book market features a rich variety that I, as an American reader, would like to spend more time exploring. I’ve long admired the multiple sports book awards programs there, something that has only caught on recently in the States. These are tremendous guides to examining the world of sports beyond the surface immediacy of the news media, especially the fleeting impatience of sports television.
One of the many noteworthy books Giles Elliott guided to publication at Transworld’s Corgi imprint is “The Secret Race,” cyclist Tyler Hamilton’s 2013 award-winning memoir of doping and the Tour de France in the wake of the Lance Armstrong saga.
Much has been written about that sordid episode, including a number of lauded books, and Hamilton’s story could have found a publisher just about anywhere.
What I worry about, if the sports book market is contracting in a significant way, are books about less obscure sports, events or people having a chance to find a wider audience.
Judging by the many books that are still published, and the inquiries I get from publicists and authors for review copies, there’s more than I could possibly hope to read, or write about, for the rest of my days.
There’s constant joy in this, and one publisher’s decision to reduce its publication of sports books doesn’t necessarily signal a catastrophe. But it does prompt one to take pause, appreciate what’s available, and champion the work of those who are forging ahead with getting their books to market, however ample that may actually be.
Sports Book News
- Oliver Kay’s Forever Young is voted the 2017 Cross Sports Book of the Year—Jon Culley, The Sports Bookshelf;
- Knowing the Score by David Papineau—sport meets philosophy—review by William Skidelsky, The Guardian;
- In posthumous memoir, John Saunders details depression struggles, suicidial thoughts—Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated;
- The Game You Know Is Gone—review of Keith Law’s “Smart Baseball” by George Will, The Wall Street Journal;
- 9 Books About Women In Baseball (And Softball) That Show A Different Side Of America’s Pastime—Kerri Jarema, Bustle.
A Few Good Reads
- Christian Pulisic’s success could change how athletes are developed in the U.S.—Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports;
- Why the U.S. Open Cup is awesome—Dan Santaromita, CSN Chicago;
- The Mind Matters in Warriors Success—Adam Grossman, Block Six Analytics;
- The Magic behind Magic’s passing skills—Shawn Fury, author, “Rise and Fire;”
- The Exit Interview: Bob McGinn—Peter King, MMQB.
Sports History Files
- Track’s Most Resilient (and suspect) Record Is In Danger—Jeré Longman, The New York Times;
- Nile Kinnick was the greatest student-athlete in college football history—Scott Dochterman, Land of 10;
- Golf’s History, in Scotland and Beyond—Evan Gershkovitz, The New York Times;
- The effort to honor a 94-year-old Negro leagues umpire with a bronze statue—Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports;
- Still chasing the Stratford Streak, 80 Years After He Left the Ice—Stephen Smith, The New York Times.
Collectibles and Memorabilia
- Most decorated Olympic basketball player sells gold medal—Nick Zaccardi, NBC Sports.
Sports and the Arts
- ‘Pride of the Yankees set the template for the sports biopic—Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News;
- ‘Best of Enemies’ puts Celtics-Lakers in spotlight—Chad Finn, The Boston Globe;
- Vin Scully to perform ‘Lincoln Portrait’ at Hollywood Bowl—Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times.
Sports and Politics
- Congressional baseball game takes on greater meaning after shooting—Ledyard King, USA Today;
- If the Warriors want to take a stand, go to the White House and shake President Trump’s hand—Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post;
- Seattle Storm to support Planned Parenthood with event and fundraiser—Katie Barnes, espnW.
The Sports Biblio Digest is an e-mail newsletter delivered each Sunday. It contains commentary and links about sports books and history. You can subscribe here and search the archives. This is Digest issue No. 86, published June 18, 2017. The Digest is a companion to the Sports Biblio website.
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