A great book is a great
book, no matter the subject. So why do sports books often get
such a bad name? Sports editor Hayden Meikle - who answers
his own question by acknowledging the sports book market has
more dross than most - names the 12 sports books you simply
THE MIRACLE OF CASTEL DI SANGRO
Sample: ''In that moment, Rezza's eyes fell upon me.
Actually, the old man's eyes do not so much `fall' upon one
as jump at the object of his attention. He was smoking a
cigar that was at least nine inches long. He himself could
not have been more than five foot six and was slightly
stooped and had a large round belly. But no images of Santa
Claus formed in my mind. Rezza's bristly gray hair was
cropped short as that of a prison guard, his face was more
square than round, and his lips formed a line as thin and
steely as a garrote.''
The setting: The tiny Italian town of Castel di Sangro
in the summer of 1996.
The protagonists: The players and management of Castel
Di Sangro, a professional football team climbing from
obscurity to Serie B (second division), and American writer
Why it is brilliant: Think of every stereotype you
have about Italian football - passionate, violent, eccentric
and occasionally corrupt - and you will find it in here.
McGinniss writes well but his greatest gift (or stroke of
luck) was identifying this specific club as one worthy of
monitoring for a season. Unforgettable characters appear and
all sorts of bizarre things happen. The result is a
fascinating glimpse into ''calcio'' and how things work at
the grassroots in that country.
Don't just take my word for it: ''An engaging tale
well worth telling, rich in comic incidents, delightful
characters and dramatic surprises.'' - New York Times.
The aftermath: Castel di Sangro was quickly - and
predictably - relegated from Serie B, then relegated from C1,
then became defunct. A replacement club with a similar name
was formed. McGinniss caused a massive stir when he
researched and wrote The Rogue: Searching for the Real
Sarah Palin, a controversial book on the former