Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Read: Weinreb's "Bigger Than the Game"

Day 2 of the annual Summer Reading Series, featuring the best books of the summer for your vacation/beach/commuter/seasonal reading interests...

Today: "Bigger Than The Game" by Michael Weinreb

There are a handful of books that I have always wanted to write. One of them had to do with my longstanding theory that the mid-1980s are the fulcrum in the modern history of sports. In fact, I even had a specific year in mind: 1986.

It isn't a coincidence that I feel this way, given that the mid-80s were the critical, pivotal moment of my life as a sports fan -- ages 10-15, when you hit the sports fan equivalent of puberty, truly discovering a complex personal relationship with sports and finding your identity as a fan. In 1986, I turned 13 -- becoming a man, according to Hebrew tradition and according to the life-cycle of sports-fan development.

Michael Weinreb (who previously wrote the terrific "The Kings of New York") and I are just about the same age -- and so we came of age as fans at the same time. We both experienced the mid-1980s -- 1986 -- in roughly the same way, at least as far as being wide-eyed sports consumers of transcendent (and alliteravely brilliant) sports storylines like the '85 Bears, Bo Jackson, Brian Bosworth, Len Bias.

That is why his new book "Bigger Than The Game," precisely about that incredible moment in sports in the middle of the 1980s, is particularly meaningful to me -- a book I have always wanted to see written, put together brilliantly by not just an amazing writer and reporter but by someone who I would call not just a contemporary, but a more talented stand-in for... well, me.

*I grew up a HUGE Chicago Bears fan: Particularly for a kid growing up in Redskins-mad DC, the '85 season was triumphalism at its finest. (Did I have a William Perry replica jersey? Yes.)

*I grew up a HUGE Len Bias fan: He was my favorite basketball player; his death remains one of the most vivid sports-related memories of my youth.

*As for Bo and Boz, they were larger-than-life characters -- myths-come-to-life, really -- dominating the national sports landscape. Weinreb's reporting illuminates them.

That isn't to say that if you aren't in your mid- to late-30s, you won't appreciate this book. If you are in your 40s (or older), you may have an even more vivid recollection of the era; Weinreb's reporting will take you back to your college years (or beyond). If you are in your 20s or teens, you may not directly recall the time, but if you have any interest in sports history, this is the defining book of that transformative decade.

It is a wonderful book -- a classic Book I Wish I Had Written. I am extremely glad it was Weinreb who wrote it.

Coming tomorrow: Tim Layden's "Blood, Sweat and Chalk."

-- D.S.

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