Good Reading : August 2005
Head and shoulders above So when looking at the plethora of books on sports and sportspeople, how can you tell a winner? ‘The outstanding sports books for me give me new insights on a sports- person who I thought I knew all about, or provide new information on a game,’ says Mick O’Regan, presenter of the ABC Radio National’s weekly program ‘The Sports Factor’. One such book for Mr O’Regan is Moneyball by Michael Lewis, which looks at the baseball busi- ness. ‘Moneyball was a facinating medita- tion on how statistics and numbers are used in sport. While he points out that there are many books that celebrate events or personalities, the really great books take you into an aspect of sport or tell you about people you thought you knew, but that you didn’t. For the dad who likes a variety of sports, then you can’t go past The Best Australian SportsWriting 2004. As the title suggests this annual publication, edited by the redoubt- able Garrie Hutchinson, contains some outstanding examples of sports journalism and in this edition travels from Ian Thorpe’s stumble, to sex, drugs and football. If dad likes sporting images, then the newly released SNAP: Extraordinary pictures by award-wining sports photogra- phers is the go.This lush and beautifully illustrated publication contains images from the Age and Sydney Morning Herald which will seduce and inspire the most unsporting couch potato. ‘An outstanding sports book is not an autobiography with an endless reci- tation of great tries, wickets taken or scores,’ says Peter FitzSimons, a for mer Wallaby and respected sports jour nal- ist for the Sydney Mor ning Herald, and author of several bestselling sport- ing titles. Mr FitzSimons who wrote a bestselling biography of John Eales is blunt about what makes one book stand head and shoulders above the pack. ‘I aim to concentrate on the ath- lete rather than the statistics and take the reader away from the familiar and o the life of the athlete d what for med that spor ting greatness, such as their semi- nal influences: family, fears and what motivated them to achieve,’ he says. Mr FitzSimons says that he is interested in how the subject views themselves and how they are perceived by others, even if it’s negative. ‘In my biographies I always like to have things my subjects don’t like,’ he adds. Access all codes For the serious AFL fan, Australian Football is essential reading. This new quarterly journal is published in book for mat, contains a wonderful variety of articles and is the New Yorker of football writing. Matthew Hardy’s perennial Saturday Afternoon Fever is also a goodie. ‘Another great book is Brotherboys, about two extraordinary Australian Rules players: Jim and Phillip Krakouer.’ says Mr O’Regan. ‘It’s really marvellous.’ What sports people read Nick Carroll, author of six surfing titles prefers collections containing excerpts from different authors and reckons that biographies of older sports people are the go. ‘I mean Greg Hunter’s book on Ian Thorpe was terrific but Thorpe is only a kid,’ he says. ‘While it showed some good insights to Thorpe’s mental process in swimming and winning, I’d much rather read a biography of Shane Gould now, than one written in 1973 when she was at her peak,’ he says. Andrew Gaze father of four and NBL and Olympic basketballer reckons that sports biographies are extremely subjective and what appeals to one person will leave another cold. ‘You identify with a person’s experience or else you have an interest in the specific strategies of how the person achieved success or overcame obstacles,’ says Andrew.‘I really enjoyed Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike, because first and foremost it is a remarkable story about him overcoming illness and delves into his personal life with his father and family situation.’ Illustration from the front cover of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, published by Penguin.