The Best American Sports Writing 2001 is the only volume I’ve reviewed so far where the introduction doesn’t actually introduce anything. Volume editor Bud Collins discusses the volatile, even occasionally violent relationship between athletes and the sporting press, but never once does he mention any of the 28 stories that follow.
Instead, Collins puts a one-section reaction at the top of each story. It’s a unique approach, but the lack of any discussion in the introduction sets an odd tone for the ensuing 357 pages.
And therein lies the theme of this review: tone. An appropriate emotional tone can make a great story even greater, but the wrong tone can just as easily tank an otherwise well-written story.
The best and worst stories in BASW 2001 earn that status because of their tone. “Everest at the Bottom of the Sea,” by Bucky McMahon, captures all the adventure and excitement and danger one would expect in a story about diving for treasure in a sunken luxury cruiser.
Series editor Glenn Stout has said repeatedly that sports writing isn’t the same as writing about sports. One might not think of treasure-diving as a sport, but this story is so cool it absolutely belongs in this collection.