Good sports

Baseball seasonMy life these days revolves around two things: work and baseball.  You guys know all about the work part but I bet you had no idea that when I’m not in the office baseball consumes every other aspect of my waking day.  That’s because I have an eight-year-old who’s obsessed with America’s pastime and who is currently playing for a little league and a travel team.  That’s a lot of sitting on bleachers during an unusually cold, damp spring watching little boys drop routine fly balls, have meltdowns on the pitcher’s mound, and swagger like miniature Reggie Jacksons when they finally get a hit.

So, of course, this baseball immersion has me thinking about sports books.  I can reel off a dozen great baseball titles off the top of my head, from Roger Kahn’s classic The Boys of Summer to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wistful Wait Till Next Year to Chad Harbach’s acclaimed The Art of Fielding, but I have a harder time with other sports.  Sure, every once in a while there’s a great book about football (Friday Night Lights) or soccer (Fever Pitch) or basketball (Hoop Dreams) or mountain climbing (Into Thin Air), but the conventional wisdom among publishing people is that baseball is the sport that sells books.

Is this a case of publishers not knowing how to reach other sports fans and making the backward assumption that those fans just don’t read, or is it that fans of other sports aren’t as interested in reading about their favorite sport?  Is it that baseball sparks writers’ imagination to a greater degree than, say, tennis (the pace of baseball, soporific as it can be, does allows for a lot of contemplation and rumination)?  Is it that women buy more books than men and there are more female baseball fans (given how many women friends I have who are rabid about football and basketball, I doubt this)?

We like sports books around here and we’d like to do more of them.  But, help us out.  What sports do you like to read about and why?  What are your favorite titles and what do you wish there was more of in this category?

4 Responses to Good sports

  1. Katie Newingham says:

    Truly my baseball obsession ended in sixth grade when I brought my Daryl Strawberry Hologram card in for show and tell and it got stolen. All I have left is a collection of silver leafs and my treasured big heads.

    I do have a theory about why baseball books sell. Besides the nostalgia, games take so long to watch and have so many commercial breaks, dedicated fans need something else to do. That, and, those with the attention span to watch a game from start to finish certainly have the resolve to finish a book.

    As far as other ideas, have you considered sport fishing? People around here live their lives by the tide and when they’re home they watch “fish porn.” Ask me and I’ll tell you – you won’t believe it.

  2. Lynn says:

    Sorry, Miriam, I’m of no help to you. I like sports, but this is one time when I prefer to watch something rather than read about it.

  3. Joelle says:

    What sports books do I like? Ummm…baseball. Yep. That’s pretty much it. I think there might be something in that if you have the attention span for baseball, you have the attention span for books.

    In my thirties I worked for Minor League Baseball and sold souvenirs in the stands. My then boyfriend (now husband) came to a game and read a book the whole time as he thought baseball was too boring for words. I’ve trained him up now though and he’s a proper Cubs fan…i.e. expects them to come through every time and is disappointed when they lose!

    By the way, the new Bill Bryson book is not my favourite of his (One Summer, 1927) but there’s a fair amount of baseball in it if you haven’t checked it out yet.

  4. D. C. DaCosta says:

    I’m a big fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and have probably read everything he ever wrote…twice.

    One of his early books is called “Mike” about a boy who flunks out of his fancy boarding school and is sent unwillingly to a lesser school with a lousy cricket team. I never knew — or cared — about cricket. But, by golly, at the end of that book, I was a fan!

    Skillful writing can make the darnedest things interesting.

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