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 must read.
Sample: ''There is always a shock in seeing him again.
Not live as in television but standing before you, looking
his best. Then the World's Greatest Athlete is in danger of
being our most beautiful man and the vocabulary of Camp is
doomed to appear. Women draw an audible breath. Men look
down. They are reminded again of their lack of worth. If Ali
never opened his mouth to quiver the jellies of public
opinion, he would still inspire love and hate. For he is the
Prince of Heaven - so says the silence around his body when
he is luminous.''
The setting: Kinshasa, Zaire.
The protagonists: Norman Mailer. Oh, and those two
blokes who had a scrap in 1974. Ali, was it? Foreman?Why it
is brilliant: ALI, BOMA YE. ALI, BOMA YE. Still gives me
chills. And, for every word that reminds you of the size of
Mailer's ego, he offers 10 that are pure poetry. Just read
that sample passage again and tell me you don't want to read
this book straight away.
Don't just take my word for it: "'If ever a fighter
had been able to demonstrate that boxing was a 20th-century
art, it must be Ali,' says Norm, and his achievement in this
masterly book is of a similar order, demonstrating that
writing about sport can also be a 20th-century art.''
- Geoff Dyer (New Statesman).
The aftermath: Mailer returned to writing novels and
hoeing into political causes. He died in 2007. Ali has
reached the age of 70 despite Parkinson's. Foreman came out
of retirement in 1994 and, aged 45, regained the world
heavyweight championship. He then made a LOT of money selling