MY TURF: Horses, Boxers, Blood Money, and the Sporting Life

William Nack, Author
William Nack, Author . Da Capo $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-306-81200-2
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-306-81250-7
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In this stellar, if at times formal, collection, longtime horseracing and sportswriter Nack takes readers through his career at the track, the ring and the stadium. He forgoes many of the thrills of the games themselves for the dramas of the people (and animals) who play them. A profile of a determined and nearly human Secretariat mixes easily with an account of Keith Hernandez's loneliness, Bobby Fischer's ambivalence toward celebrity, and Sonny Liston's poignant awareness of the effect his race has on his reputation, and vice versa. Nack can use too blunt an instrument in his attempt at psychological portraiture, as he does in a piece about Robbie Davis, whose horse trampled fellow jockey Mike Venezia. (The accident took him "back to all those years of biting anger, self-loathing and shame that sprung from [his] abuse"). But more often he hits the mark. Nack also sets himself apart from other sports scribes with his prose style; rarely does sportswriting veer so easily into poetry. There is, it should be noted, a courtliness to his tone that can give some of the pieces a mechanical feel. And his portraits of place, particularly those on Saratoga and Yankee Stadium, feel especially soulless and perfunctory. But he more than makes up for these flaws with his keen eye; the author has an uncanny talent for finding the anecdote that illuminates greater truths about an athlete, such as heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano's paranoid refusal to accept checks. Anyone who has tasted the drama of sports—that is, the drama of being human—will enjoy this book, finding in its profiles of the larger-than-life an abundance of small pleasures. (Feb.)

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