Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

I’m getting the feeling not too many people read these roundups, nor do these roundups lead to a lot of increased traffic to the McAlester News-Capital sports section. Between all that and a still-unfinished transition to the new ownership group for Sportsblognet.com, I’ve decided to drop down to a monthly roundup.

I’ll still post Best American Sports Writing volume reviews as I complete them (expect BASW 2001 and 2002 next, though perhaps not in that order). Here’s everything written since Dec. 10.

Midweek Update: Snow postpones multiple games

Buffs Replay: McAlester vs. MacArthur

Buffs’ Cannon ‘lives for battle’

Know Your Foe: Buffs go for championship Saturday

Falcons end Miners’ postseason

Box score: Millwood 24, Hartshorne 9

Bluejays overrun Buffs

Box score: Guthrie 51, McAlester 21

Kiowa boy at home on the ice

Midweek Update: Hartshorne Tournament resumes

Buffs’ Pratt reflects on season

Buffs Replay: McAlester vs. Guthrie

Aggressive Tigers beat Buffs wrestling

Lady Buffs finish fourth at State

Lady Tigers overcome Lady Miners

Medicine Bear leads Miners past Tigers

Tigers come back, beat Buffs

Lady Tigers slam Lady Buffs

Buffs’ Pratt leads All-District list

Baylee Dawkins combines sports with family

Midweek Update: Hartshorne tournament wraps up

Eli Boyle always in the gym

Cougars, Warriors drop to 8-man

Miners’ Herring selected to Oil Bowl

Photo gallery: Haileyville basketball practice

Roller derby coming to McAlester

Lady Buff cheerleader to march in London

Herring, Ward lead All-District Miners

Photo gallery: Stuart basketball practice

Midweek Update: Warriors sweep Panama Holiday Festival

So far, Big 12 holding its own

Cowgirls host 3-team scrimmage

De’Angelo Rhone works his way up

Second half carries Buffs past Warriors

Lady Buffs can’t come back against Lady Warriors

Book Review: “The Best American Sports Writing 1995”

"The Best American Sports Writing 1995," edited by Dan Jenkins
“The Best American Sports Writing 1995,” edited by Dan Jenkins

So it’s been about eight months since I last reviewed a volume from Glenn Stout’s Best American Sports Writing series. Blame it on a new Neil Gaiman book, though that maybe took me three days to read. Or blame it on Guns, Germs and Steel, which took me about three months.

But really, just blame it on The Best American Sports Writing 1995 itself. As volumes go, this one just didn’t grab me.

Weirdest… intro… ever…

I read Dan Jenkins’ introduction to BASW 95, but I use the word “read” loosely. I definitely recognized letters, and my brain definitely ordered the letters into recognizable words. But reading usually implies a measure of understanding, and eight months later I still don’t know what I read.

The essay has something to do with sports books, but it’s really unclear if Jenkins was discussing real books I’d never heard of because I was 11 in 1994, or if he made up the titles to make some kind of point. If Jenkins was trying to criticize the sports media world of the mid-1990s, he didn’t. If he was trying to be funny, he wasn’t.

Whatever he was going for, these six pages of chaos never achieved it. If you ever opt to read this volume, I’d say skip the intro entirely. It says nothing about sports writing in general, nor the specific 28 articles that follow.

A “quaint” problem

Even before I started reading BASW 95, I’d feared that 20 years later, the subjects written about in 1994 would seem “quaint.” And to a large extent, I was right. James Ellroy’s “Sex, Glitz and Greed: The Seduction of O. J. Simpson” harkens back to a time when the most violent thing we cared about was whether a pro athlete murdered two people, and 20 years later Simpson has taken a back seat to things like terrorism and school shootings.

The volume also contains three separate stories on the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan clubbing incident leading into the 1994 Olympics. Just two years later, an Olympics would get bombed, while another would see an athlete die during competition. Again, what mattered back then now seems pretty inconsequential, though Joan Ryan’s “The Cold Wars: Inside the Secret World of Figure Skating” depicts judging as corrupt enough to make the 2002 Olympic scandal seem not at all outlandish.

There are also two stories on the 1994 baseball strike, but after subsequent work-stoppages in the NHL, NBA and NFL — and in light of all the revelations about steroid use in the 1990s — it’s hard to look back at a strike in 1994 and care at all. But at least Bob Verdi makes the strike entertaining, turning the fiasco into a play on Abbott and Costello’s iconic “Who’s on First?” routine in “Baseball’s Troubles Could Play Out to Be No Routine Comedy.”

I didn’t like sports very much in 1994. Brett Favre hadn’t done much with the Packers yet, Boston was still a decade away from becoming the best sports town in America, and the Olympics didn’t start captivating me until the Atlanta Games. So while I as a journalist enjoyed reading this volume dispassionately, as a reader I wanted to connect to these stories and most of the time I just couldn’t.

Not everything’s irrelevant

While many stories read as “quaint,” not every story fell under that category. Skip Hollandsworth’s “Whatever Happened to Ronnie Littleton?” depicts an ex-football player as an alcoholic drug-addict what seems like 15 years before revelations about concussions made it clear how many players turn out that way. And Furman Bisher’s “This Ex-Voter Has Had Enough Heisman Hype” takes a shot at the NCAA football system, similarly taking up arms two decades before anyone else would challenge it.

Steve Rushin’s “1954-1994: How We Got Here” looks at the people and phenomena that led to the sports/marketing/media world of the mid-90s, and it’s not hard to extend the themes Rushin discusses and arrive at that scene as it is today. And anyone curious how New York Jets moron coach Rex Ryan turned into such a dingbat can just read Mark Kram’s “Bully Ball” to discover he probably got it from his dad, Buddy.

Jay Searcy’s “Worth More Dead Than Alive” discusses horse-owners paying to have their own horses killed for insurance money. Considering how often horses are shot after races — HBO had to cancel a series on horse-racing because too many featured horses got hurt and were killed — it seems quite likely this phenomenon continues to this day.

“Quaint” also isn’t a bad thing for every story. Gary Smith’s “An Exclusive Club” proposes the quaint notion that distance-runners will always be more popular than sprinters. That’s quaint because Smith had no idea people like Usain Bolt would eventually steal the spotlight,  but the idea of bringing together all the still-living people who’ve broken the 1-mile record is so damn cool, their ideas about distance-running so intelligent and insightful, that it hardly matters.

Modern readers might not connect to BASW 95 the way they might with a volume from the last 10 years. But if you can wade through the stories that just don’t matter anymore, there are a couple of really good ones that serve as absolute signs of things to come.