Some “Best American Sports Writing” introductions imbue their volumes with early energy. Others are fine, if forgettable.
The Best American Sports Writing 2000 is one of those unfortunate volumes with a detrimental introduction. Dick Schaap spends more than half of it mostly talking about how many famous friends he has and how cool that makes him, then gives a perfunctory final thought about how sports stories should always be entertaining, and when possible funny.
The problem is, none of the BASW 2000 stories are funny. What’s worse, too many of them fall flat.
James Hibberd’s “Poker Face” is about professional poker player Johnny Chan, but the essay doesn’t seem to have much to say beyond that he plays a lot of poker, and you kind of walk away from the story thinking, “so what?” Jeanne Marie Laskas’ “America is a Bull” is about a neither famous nor innovative bullrider, and his struggles aren’t enough to carry the central metaphor of the title.
And Jonathan Miles’ “Ay Caramba!…” is one of the worst fishing stories to appear in a BASW volume. Its lack of a point is matched only by a dense, meandering writing style that renders scenes all but indecipherable.
But by far the flattest of them all is Stephen Rodrick’s “Blown Away,” about a machine gun show and the militia communities surrounding Knob Creek in Kentucky.
Plenty of great books don’t have particularly memorable opening lines. But there are some opening lines so awesome on their own that they create an energy that carries through to the final line several hundred pages later.
The best such example might be William Gibson’s Neuromancer: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
But the second best, at least for me, is from Christopher McDougall’s introduction to The Best American Sports Writing 2014: “Death-row cells have better natural light than the Rite Aid in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where you can only glimpse sky through the sad slit of a window above the checkout counter.”
Seriously, how awesome is that? If that doesn’t get you immediately pumped to read the rest, you should stop reading this blog, because I’m not sure the written word is really your thing.
The essay is about McDougall first experience watching the three-dimensional running style known as parkour. McDougall writes of the jolt of energy he felt watching these parkour runners, and how an especially well-written sports story can carry the same kind of electricity. Continue reading Book Review: “The Best American Sports Writing 2014″