Friday, January 10, 2003

Top 100 Sports Books

Sports Illustrated compiled a list of the top 100 sports books of all time. Quite an ambitious list, and one that I devoured eagerly. I have only read 12 of these books, but four of the ones that I have read are in the top ten.

The Boys of Summer, the number two book, has the best passage on the sheer terror of stepping up to the plate, and waiting for a pitch from a professional baseball pitcher. Roger Kahn's voyage with these Brooklyn Dodgers was graceful, marked with a sympathetic ear. During my baseball fever in the early 90s, this was one of my favorites.

I finished A Season on the Brink, the number six book, just last year. The author, John Feinstein, has written many other books, and on a radio show, he admitted that this controversial book about then-Indiana coach Bobby Knight wasn't his best book, but it was the book that put him on the map. An "all-access", "behind closed doors" book, I gained an appreciation for the college basketball sporting life, and the insane dedication required by the coaches, exemplified by Knight himself.

The Game, the number nine book, was recommended to me by Greg Berge, and I've been recommending it ever since to anyone who asks "What is the best book about ice hockey?" Ken Dryden, the author, was the dominant goalie of the 1970s. He played for the Montreal Canadiens. His writing focused not just on the ice, but the role of ice hockey within the Canadian society. The book also has the best passage on "playing" that I have ever read.

Fever Pitch, the number ten book, is the best book about being a fan of sport, as told by a devoted fan of the English soccer team Liverpool. Nick Hornby loves soccer. But this book is more about "love" than "soccer". How do you "love" your team? If you claim to be any sort of sports fan, then this book will speak to the very core of this devotion. It's superb.

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