Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Peter Gammons and "The Best American Sports Writing of 2010"

When I saw that Peter Gammons was the guest editor for "The Best American Sports Writing - 2010," I knew I had to read this compilation of the best of the best. I have long been a fan of Gammons. His writing is always intriguing, and the personal conversations I have had with him over the years have always yielded nuggets of gold and insight. So, I knew his editorial eye would pick only those sports writing pieces worth reading.

As I made my way around the base paths of this 400 page compendium, it also became clear that Gammons had an agenda in selecting the pieces for this year's collection; several of the articles tackle the topic of the NFL's intransigence in addressing the issue of post-concussion syndrome. Malcolm Gladwell's piece, "Offensive Play," addresses the issue, Skip Hollansworth's article "(Still) Life" deals with a devastating football injury. In addition, we have Jeanne Marie Laskas writing "This Is Your Brain on Football," and Robert Sanchez offering "This Is Ted Johnson's Brain." Finally, Dan Le Betard gives us "Life Throws Bernie Kosar for a Loss," another tale of a failed ex-NFL player.

The collection is not all doom and gloom. There is a fascinating story about Dick Fosbury, the Olympic champion for the Mexico City Olympics who introduced the world to the "Fosbury Flop." The article is entitled "The Revolutionary," by Richard Hoffer.

Having grown up watching Bobby Orr's magic show on ice, I was intrigued with the two ways that Orr's presence is felt in this book. There is S.L. Price's article, "The Ever Elusive, Always Inscrutable, and Still Incomparable Booby Orr." In his Introduction, Peter Gammons offers this poignant vignette from his own personal encounter with Orr. Gammons was rehabilitating from a stroke that he suffered a few years ago.

"We sometimes lose sight of the fact that the men and women who perform these feats are really like us. They are human. How many millions of copies of the picture of Bobby Orr flying through the air have been sold? That is the seen performing genius of an artist. Yet when I was transferred from Brigham and Women's Hospital to a room in the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Cape and Islands as I recovered from a severe aneurysm, I found Bobby Orr, being who he is, lying on my bed . . . S.L. Price gets Bobby Orr right: the greatest player who ever put on skates, the man who was sitting on a sick man's hospital bed, ready to greet him and help jump-start his rehab with his smile; the man who sits in the stands at Cape Cod League baseball games and thanks every kid who asks him for his autograph. Every one." (Page xxvi, xxiii)

This holiday season, treat yourself or another sports fan to the gift of this wonderful collection.



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