The Best American Sports Writing 2005
This was a gift from my soon to be in-laws over the holidays, and after Abby and I moved in, I picked it up and raced through it. The series collects sports writing from North America over the prior year, and a guest editor (in this case Mike Lupica) helps select the articles and writes a foreword. I often find Lupica a touch annoying, but his piece here is quite nice as are most of the stories.
One thing a reader can't help but notice is that the vast majority seem to be of the same variety: tragedy. Whether it's telling the story of a failed athlete who can't get past his or her demons, illness befalling an athlete in her prime, drugs, etc...most of them all follow the same theme. They are good, but as I started reaching the end of the book, I was yearning for a straight sports story - one about a team that won a championship, and how the games played out. Which is why the second to last story, Tom Verducci's Sportsmen of the Year about the 2004 champion Red Sox, was so particularly great. Seriously, it's one of the better things I've read about the Sox, and like any sports fan, I've read quite a bit about that team.
I was disappointed to see that Lupica felt it necessary to tarnish this by including as the last story, a short article by Bill Reynolds from the Providence Journal about how some of these same Red Sox were soon at card shows, charging high prices for autographs and memorabilia. The article itself is quite good, and the point valid, but it definitely did not serve as a capstone to the collection, as the prior article had. The fact that the choice of articles, and their order, has to ultimately fall on Lupica, only confirms my earlier suspicion that he's an ass. So, that was a disappointment. However, the book (and, in turn, the series) is well worth it. Not only does one get a chance to read articles they'd otherwise miss, but it's always nice to read about sports. Seriously. Always. I'll keep an eye out next year for the next version, and that's probably as good an indication as any that it's a good book.