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Sports Writing at its Best

By Michael 'Zechs' Radford
Nov 26, 2008 15:28

Need help with christmas presents or just looking for a good read to shorten the long winter nights? Look no further.
Here is a brief list of some of the best sports books I have read. Maybe you'll pick some up, hopefully you'll add your own to the list, but mainly I just want to make people aware of some excellent pieces of work that have inspired me over the course of my esports writing "career."

Before I start, I should point out that most of these are about football. There are a couple of exceptions but not many. They are also in English, although not many of them are about english football. Perhaps some of them are available in translation, I don't know, but I assume some of them must be.

So, without further ado...

Brilliant Orange
This list is in no particular order, but I have chosen to start off with probably my favourite sports book of all time. Subtitled 'The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football' this is an in-depth look at the country and culture that blessed the world with Total Football. Football is the driving force behind the book, but David Winner goes so much deeper than simple football. Explaining the anti-semitic chants thrown at Ajax fans is just one example in this fine book.


King of The World
I'm not a big fan of boxing, but it apparently attracts much of the best sports writing there is. This biography of Muhhamad Ali was on the reading list when I was at Huddersfield University and I thought I'd expand my horizons. There's really not much else to say here. It would be very difficult to write a bad book about the most enigmatic character ever known to boxing, and David Remnick doesn't disappoint. Encompassing racial prejudice, religious tension and boxing's dirty underbelly, this is a great read, whether you like boxing or not.


Football Against The Enemy
A sort of travel-writing-meets-political-thriller-meets-football, this is a fascinating read. Simon Kuper visits locations as varied as Glasgow and Cameroon on his travels around some of the most bitter rivalries in world football. If you only read the chapter about the Brazilian style of play, you'll have your money's worth out of this gem.


In Black and White
Jesse Owens, for many reasons, is still the most famous athlete to have ever won an Olympic medal. But this is the tragic story of his treatment at the hands of the country he and his friend, Joe Louis, represented. Racing against horses to make a living while his friend feared for his life, Owens faced an appalling life, brilliantly portrayed by Donald McRae. A great read for boxing fans, athletic fans, or anyone interested the history of racism in America and 1930's Germany.


Those Feet
Those victorians had a lot to answer for didn't they? The second entry from David Winner is slightly closer to my heart, being an insightful and well-researched history of English football. Why do we still cling on to 1966, over 40 years later? Why have we failed so spectacularly ever since? Winner's answers are as thought-provoking as they are varied. This is right up there with Brilliant Orange, and the depth of its insight into the English psyche should not be under-estimated.


Another culture-meets-football book, but this time about the Spaniards. Our sun-drenched cousins have one of the most vibrant football scenes in the entire world and Phill Ball does a pretty good job of translating it to the outsider. From autonomous states and Basque-only teams to Franko's beloved Real, this is about as political as domestic football gets. Even the word 'morbo' is complicated, but if Ball's translation is correct, it seems to desrcibe Spanish football perfectly. (Note: this was written before Euro 2008)


So there you are, some of the best sports books ever written. I hope some of you pick them up for a read, and I particularly hope you will add some of your own in the comments. Next up for me is 'Tor: the Story of German Football' and 'Inverting The Pyramid'. Keep reading, folks!

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