Welcome to the first edition of a new, irregular feature I’ll be doing at The Tattered Pennant—the Sports Books Digest. I’ll briefly describe some top sports books out there that I think should interest you. If I had more time in my schedule, these are the ones I would want to read myself. If you’re like me and already thinking about Christmas shopping, some of these might be good early gifts for the sports fan in your life. (Don’t worry--I’ll be back with another edition of this column right around the big day for procrastinators.) Here’s this edition’s top picks:
Rafi Kohan, The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport (2017)
This book is for those who think sports is about more than just the games. To these fans, sports is also about place, community, and history. As the title indicates, Kohan travels to stadiums across America to learn about the biggest and most minute details of the country’s sporting landscape. His chapters are full of remarkable anecdotes on the forces pushing sports into the realm of entertainment, ranging from throughout sports history (he goes back to Roman times) all the way up to the present. Kohan enters the Black Hole in Oakland, puts on a hard hat to tour the remains of the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan, and tends the ivy at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Perhaps the most interesting section, however, is his profile of The Amazing Sladek, the daredevil who has beaten the odds to become the latest sensation in halftime entertainment. Be prepared, however: his book reads more like a series of short stories than an integrated narrative with an argument, and you might not always agree with his politics, which tend to lean toward the left (some may particularly find his critical treatment of the integration of the military with sports near the end of the book to be in poor taste).