Beyond the Game: The Collected Sportswriting of Gary Smith

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9780802138491: Beyond the Game: The Collected Sportswriting of Gary Smith

Gary Smith is one of the most accomplished sports journalists working today, a three-time National Magazine Award winner who has been selected in a poll of Associated Press editors as the sportswriter they'd most like to hire. In Beyond the Game, Gary Smith has brought together his greatest stories, from the inspiring account of basketball coach Jim Valvano's courageous battle against cancer, to an unforgettable tale of a remote valley in Bolivia that plays host to an unusual annual ritual in which the men of rival villages engage in a riotous all-day fistfight. Beyond the Game is not only a collection of great sportswriting; it is a collection of great writing, period. Each of Smith's stories -- of dreams and fears, failure and triumph, self-destruction and salvation -- will profoundly touch you and remain with you long after you have closed the pages of the book.

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Review:

There's a reason that Sports Illustrated's Gary Smith was named by a national poll of sports editors as the writer they'd most like to hire. He sees the game, but as the title of this marvelous collection of his work from the magazine implies, he also sees beyond. "Sports comes to us in boxes," Smith explains in his preface, "the perimeters of our TV screens or the boundary lines of fields and courts. As much as I enjoy what goes on inside the boxes, I've always had the urge to bust out of them." Does he ever. What's so remarkable about the 15 pieces that comprise Beyond the Game is how much human drama--and humanity--he reveals without resorting to fanfares and violins to enhance his soundtrack.

Final scores are less important to Smith than personal journeys. He doesn't write game stories; he writes stories about compelling people who happen to play our games, some famous--like Ali, Magic Johnson, Mike Tyson, Jim Valvano, and a series of world-record holders in the mile--some hardly footnotes, like John Malangone, the "Damned Yankee" in the title of the volume's leadoff piece. Malangone's saga is unforgettable. Once a sure-fire bet to replace Yogi Berra behind home plate, he carried enormous expectations, which seemed to crush him. But it wasn't the expectations that derailed him; it was a childhood memory he couldn't shake, "the whip," writes Smith, "he has used to flog himself for 60 years." With great understanding, Smith explores the horror encased in the memory, how carrying it corroded Malangone's potential, and how, ultimately, Malangone confronted his psychological baggage and, in his 60s, rediscovered his passion for the game he once walked away from. It is a tour de force of writing and reporting, set within the game but expanding well beyond it. But then every piece in this exceptional collection manages to do the same. --Jeff Silverman

From Publishers Weekly:

"I've always had the feeling that the most compelling and significant story was the one occurring beyond the game before it, after it, above it, or under it, deep in the furnace of the psyche." It is precisely this instinct to go beyond to find the humanity and grace, will power and fear within the story that makes Smith's writing so clear, vivid and passionate. Smith, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, isn't the kind of sportswriter who fires off questions and records the answers there's nothing pro forma about the way he works or how he is able to capture and reveal the small, unexpected details "that make or unmake a life." Neither does he just focus on the big names in professional and college sports, although Muhammad Ali, Mark McGwire, Mike Tyson and Pat Summitt appear in this volume of exceptional journalism. Smith finds the same zeal at the high-school level, as in the tale of Jonathan Takes Enemy, a one-time high-school basketball star nearly destroyed by drink and yet determined to make it as a college player. Some of Smith's stories aren't about winners at all but about those others who are lured in by their love of the game. For example, "Someone to Lean On" describes Radio, the lovable, mentally disabled man who learned to speak while managing numerous sports teams at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S.C. Indeed, these 15 pieces set a new standard for sportswriting. Whether the reader is a die-hard fan or a lover of gifted storytelling, he or she will find Smith's book impossible to put down. (Oct.) in a poll of Associated Press editors as the sportswriter they'd most like to hire.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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