Book Review: “The Best American Sports Writing 2011”

"The Best American Sports Writing 2011," edited by Jane Leavy

Four months have passed since I last reviewed a volume of Glenn Stout’s “Best American Sports Writing” series. We’re long past due for another, so here’s the 2011 collection.

Jane Leavy’s Not-So-Hidden Agenda

Introductions by BASW volume editors are usually just thematic essays (“sports rule” and “sports writing rules” being the two most common). The editors use those themes to loosely connect the stories that follow, so the introductions normally read as if they had been written after all the stories had been chosen.

But Washington Post writer Jane Leavy uses her introduction to lay out specific goals for the 2011 volume. Leavy begins with the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and from there makes it abundantly clear that she began the process wanting to show sport’s recent shift towards the extreme.

This results in a collection of 29 stories that, despite varying greatly in both content and style, maintain a subtle, almost intangible connection to each other. It’s a bold strategy, and it both bolsters and sabotages BASW ’11.

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