Going Deep
Gary Smith
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Buy *Sports Illustrated: Going Deep: 20 Classic Sports Stories* by Gary Smith online

Sports Illustrated: Going Deep: 20 Classic Sports Stories
Gary Smith
Sports Illustrated
416 pages
September 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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You know that this is not your usual sports article when you see a passage like this:

“Near the lower lefthand corner of the (periodic table of elements) chart is an element named cesium. Among its own – the metals surrounding it in the chart, such as sodium and potassium – cesium is a quiet, unassuming element. But because it has just one electron on its outer shell, one electron aching to leap to any atom that is lacking a full outer shell of electrons, cesium is a bomb in a suitcase when it leaves its neighborhood.”
Thus begins Gary Smith’s portrayal of Richie Parker, a New York City schoolyard basketball legend whose fifteen minutes of madness in sexually molesting a schoolmate had harsh and far-reaching repercussions for Parker and a number of authority figures. Parker was denied the chance to play college basketball by several universities when news of his assault followed him wherever he went. While it is hard to sympathize with Parker, who otherwise appears to be an exemplary person, Smith’s narrative is both balanced and poignant.

In this riveting collection of twenty selected articles that Smith wrote for Sports Illustrated, the gamut is broad as well as eclectic. There is the story about Parker and one about the effervescent Jim Valvano in the throes of terminal cancer, as well as stories about Tiger Woods and Mia Hamm. Smith is interested in why athletes do what they do - in short, in what makes them tick. His portraits are penetrating and funny, yet appear quite capable of seeing multiple sides of the same issue.

Using superb pacing, uncommon metaphors and a delight in the mundane, Smith’s pieces are a rare treat to the sports fan. When he writes about John Malangone, the Yankees farmhand who was Yogi Berra’s anointed understudy as the team’s catcher but fell apart when a terrible tragedy involving him at a very young age continued to haunt him, the tension is palpable as the reader is kept guessing about the denouement. Such is Smith’s writing prowess that the narrative is gripping even if one knows the ending. Even among the pantheon of illustrious writers of SI, Gary Smith stands out as a seminal talent. This collection emphatically tells us why.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Ram Subramanian, 2008

buy *Sports Illustrated: Going Deep: 20 Classic Sports Stories* online
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