American sports represents, in many ways, the pulse of the nation. For example, in the manner of civil rights, America first ennobled itself through a sporting event—on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson took first base at Ebbets Field, breaking the color barrier in professional sports. (Perhaps not so coincidentally, one year later President Truman integrated the United States armed forces.) The character of this nation is closely aligned with its sports and their heroes, be they iconic football coaches like Bear Bryant or baseball legends like Bobby Thomson or Ralph Branca. And the sports publishing industry captures the spirit of America, as it does this Christmas season, whether telling the story of Mickey Mantle, or how women's romance novels have gone to the NASCAR track. As America changes, the first indications may be at a sporting event near you.

Pit-Stop Lust

Nowhere is the pulse of the nation more vibrant than NASCAR. Today it claims 75 million fans (that is one-third of the U.S. adult population); it's the number one spectator sport (with 17 of the top 20 attended events in the U.S.) and the number two—rated regular season sport on TV. Its popularity is such that politicians shamelessly courted the "NASCAR Dad" during the 2004 presidential campaign. Perhaps they should have been paying more attention to the power and growing influence of NASCAR's fairer sex.

Far away from the roar of the NASCAR track, the romance novel has been a staple of the publishing industry for generations. In many historical settings, it dealt with helpless damsels in distress, their perspiring bosoms heaving as they waited for their hero to rescue them (think generic Fabio). Thirty years ago, the cover conferences were the most important part of the publishing process as the correct cover was painfully sought for the likes of Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. The late Leona Nevler, then the publisher of Fawcett Books, used to refer jokingly to the various lines of romances she published as "lust in the dust."

Although traditional bustier-busting romance novels are as popular as ever, the genre has embraced modern career women, and the 21st-century covers are now adorned with overheated race cars as lust has moved from the Regency manor to the pit-stop—and Harlequin and NASCAR are overjoyed.

NASCAR and women? Look at the facts: (1) there are 30 million female NASCAR fans; (2) female NASCAR fans are more likely than female nonfans to buy books; (3) romance novels are among the top five types of books purchased by female NASCAR fans; and (4) 35% of female NASCAR fans earn $50,000+ a year.

"We at Harlequin saw this as a great match," says Michelle Renaud, public relations manager, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. "Harlequin approached the NASCAR Library Collection to talk about future opportunities, and they loved the idea of our two powerhouses teaming up to bring fans on a variety of romantic journeys through the NASCAR world."

The NASCAR Library Collection, according to Jennifer White, senior manager of publishing/NASCAR, "is a brand extension within NASCAR's overall licensing program. The brand was created in June 2004 and all NASCAR publishing partners carry the logo on their product. It's another mark of distinction for the NASCAR fan when they are looking for an authentic NASCAR book."

In 2006 Harlequin published its first three titles under the NASCAR Library Collection: In the Groove and On the Edge, both by Pamela Britton, and A NASCAR Holiday by Debra Webb, Roxanne St. Claire and Kimberly Raye (to be published this November). Each title had a 175,000-copy first printing. In 2007 Harlequin is scheduled to publish 21 additional titles.

The agreement between Harlequin and NASCAR was a first for both companies, with In the Groove being the first fiction title licensed by NASCAR. Promotion plays a big part in the Harlequin-NASCAR agreement. Their tag-team approach to promotion began in February 2006 at the Daytona 500 and will continue at next year's 500 when Harlequin will be launching its own NASCAR-branded series, the initial title being Speed Dating by USA Today bestselling author Nancy Warren.

Yes, romance fans, pit-stop lust looks to be in its ascendancy. "The relationship between Harlequin and NASCAR has been very well received," says Harlequin's Renaud. "The media has loved the joining of these two powerhouses and to date we have received over 268 million media impressions." That screeching sound booksellers may be hearing is the NASCAR pedal being put to the publishing metal.

Bear Bryant Retrospective

PW counts no less than six new titles this fall about Paul "Bear" Bryant, the legendary Alabama coach, and wondered why the sudden adoration 23 years after his death. "Quite simply, Coach Bryant was a winner," says Pete Wolverton, associate publisher/executive editor at Thomas Dunne. "This resonates with college football fans. His character on and off the field also makes him an intriguing sports figure. I think, to a lot of people, Bryant represents something that has been lost—both in sports and society—which contributes to a certain mythology about his teams."

For all the adoration that Bryant enjoyed while he was alive—and obviously still enjoys today—his coaching career was not without controversy, especially what many thought was his rather late integration of the Alabama football team. Two books take a look at this landmark battle in civil rights.

"In the South," says Marc Jolley, director, Mercer University Press and editor of Career in Crisis: Paul "Bear" Bryant and the 1971 Season of Change by John David Briley, "the integration of sports was a critical element in the Civil Rights movement. Washington could pass laws, and King could preach sermons, but when white fans cheered for African-Americans on the field, the equality was undeniable. This book is about the year football was integrated at the University of Alabama. This is the first book-length treatment of one of the most important moments in African-American history in the American South." Barbara Keene, Mercer's marketing director, reports that response to the August book has been positive, and they are looking to go back to press shortly. Publicity includes book signings throughout Alabama and appearances on sports talk shows.

The game that prompted the integration of Alabama occurred in 1970 when Bryant's Crimson Tide faced John McKay's USC, which featured an all-black backfield. "Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South by Don Yeager [Sept.]," says Chris Park, senior editor, Hachette Book Group/Center Street, "is the story of a football game that had lasting repercussions on people's lives beyond the football field—the part of Bear's legacy that isn't often discussed." Coauthors Cunningham (fullback) and Papadakis (defensive captain) played in the game for USC. "[The book] focuses on one particular story that has long been mythologized in the lore of Bear Bryant," says Park, "that he deliberately set up a game against a racially integrated team, the first ever to be played on Alabama soil, a game he knew he would lose, in order to drive home the point that integration needed to come to the Tide. Years after the game, Bear famously said that its star player, Sam 'Bam' Cunningham, 'did more for integration in Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King Jr.' It was a watershed moment not just for the Crimson Tide, or college football, but for all of Alabama and the South. It's not really a story about football at all." Turning of the Tide has a 75,000-copy first printing and Hachette/Center Street are pursuing national media.

Race also plays a major part in The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize by Keith Dunnavant (Sept.), author of Bryant's biography, Coach.The book focuses not only on Alabama's quest for a third-straight national championship—which was denied by Notre Dame when they notoriously played for a tie with Michigan State—but also the segregation in the Deep South, Alabama's governor George Wallace's race-baiting tactics and the apartheid that existed as a matter of policy for the Crimson Tide. "It is a book that works on many levels," says Wolverton. "It appeals to the Alabama football fan, but it also tells an important story about the collision between football and culture—one that led to what some feel was a great injustice in college football history." St. Martin's/Dunne did a 35,000-copy first printing and is pursuing major promotion in Alabama.

Other recent Bryant titles include Bearby Don Keith (Cumberland House); Ain't Nothin' but a Winnerby Barry Krauss and Joe M. Moore (Univ. of Alabama); and Don't Play for the Tie by Creed King and Heidi Tyline King (Rutledge Hill).

A Special October
This October has special meaning for baseball fans of the boomer generation. Fifty-five years ago Bobby Thomson hit "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," and 50 years ago Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. Two special books commemorate the two anniversaries.

"There's a long drive. It's going to be, I believe... the Giants win the pennant!" Russ Hodges's epic radio call of Thomson's home run off Ralph Branca still elicits chills in baseball aficionados. That great summer of 1951 and the after-baseball lives of both Thomson and Branca are chronicled in The Echoing Greenby Joshua Prager (Sept.). The book also exposes a long-kept secret—the Giants were stealing the Dodgers' signs. "This book is not an exposé," says Dan Frank, editorial director of Pantheon. "In the end, Josh has found a strand that makes the story of that game even richer, even more dramatic." Pantheon's 45,000-copy first printing will be backed by major media and joint appearances by Thomson and Branca.

That picture of Yogi Berra jumping into Don Larsen's arms after the final out is indelible to this day. And Perfect, Once Removed (Oct.) by Larson's second cousin, Phillip Hoose, captures the essence of the event. "So many memoirs are trite and unoriginal," says George Gibson, publisher of Walker & Co. "This is an exception. Even the title suggests its quirkiness, its originality. Hoose perfectly brings alive the dreams and fears of a young boy. There is freshness and passion on each page." Walker plans a 25,000-copy first printing with extensive promotion.


After the phenomenal success of Moneyball in 2004, it's not surprising that Norton is going to the marketplace with guns blazing for Michael Lewis's new tome, The Blind Side (Oct.). The book—which may do for football what Moneyball did for major league baseball—will have an extraordinary 300,000-copy first printing. [It was recently excerpted in a New York Times Magazine cover story.]

The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher, a sophomore left offensive tackle—who guards a right-handed quarterback's blind side—at Ole Miss whose mother was addicted to crack and who was brought up by an evangelical Republican family. "The starting point of The Blind Side, as it was in Moneyball," says Starling Lawrence, editor-in-chief of Norton, "is information hidden in plain sight: the fact that the second highest paid player on a pro football team (and sometimes the highest) is the offensive left tackle. How can that be true, when fans probably couldn't pick the guy out of a police lineup? The answer involves a new—and in a way secret—history of the professional game, with a stranger-than-fiction focus on a great and almost anonymous emerging talent, a young man whose future has been utterly altered by the new economic rules of football." Lewis will be doing a 20-city author tour that will encompass both local and national media plus book signings.
Books of the Season
Moving the Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything
Charles P. Pierce

First printing: Oct., 100,000 copies

"Beyond the fact that Charlie Pierce has a brilliant eye for the telling detail and story, capturing a legendary quarterback mid-legend, he produces a reading experience not unlike the Patriots' typical edge-of-your-seat fourth quarter."

—Thomas LeBien, senior editor, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Jim Brown: The Fierce Life of an American Hero

Mike Freeman

First printing: Nov., 50,000 copies

"This is the first major bio of arguably the greatest athlete of all time, a very complicated man who had not only a huge impact on football but also the Civil Rights movement."

—Mauro DiPreta, v-p/editorial director, Harper Entertainment/Morrow

Speed, Guts & Glory

Joe Garner with Jeff Gordon

First printing: Nov., 60,000 copies

"From the text, to the photos, to the incredible range of DVD footage provided, the book will tap into everything that makes [NASCAR] one of America's greatest passions."

—Colin Fox, senior editor, Warner Books

Lapchick: The Life of a Legendary Player and Coach in the Glory Days of Basketball

Gus Alfieri

First printing: Oct., 20,000 copies

"This is a one-of-a-kind book because it's the first biography of this Hall of Fame player and legendary coach, written by the point guard from one of his championship teams at St. John's, and with the cooperation of the Lapchick family."

—Rob Kirkpatrick, senior editor, Lyons Press

Sports Illustrated Exposure

Photographs by Raphael Mazzucco

First printing: Oct., mid-five figures

"This was one of the great photo shoots in SI swimsuit history [Elle MacPherson, Rachel Hunter, Rebecca Romijn, etc.]—in terms of not only the assembled talent, but also the incredible images that Raphael Mazzucco produced."

—Rob Fleder, editor, SI Books

Driving Home: My Unforgettable Super Bowl Run

Jerome Bettis

First printing: Sept., 75,000 copies

"Jerome Bettis is an inspired leader and role model; he shares personal, moving stories and an array of private family photos, as well as a DVD including never-before-seen footage of his experiences during Super Bowl week and private career-defining moments."

—Mitch Rogatz, publisher, Triumph Books

Mickey Mantle: Stories & Memorabilia from a Lifetime with the Mick

Mickey Herskowitz with Danny and David Mantle

First printing: Oct., 50,000 copies

"The book also features removable reproductions of a variety of memorabilia—from Mantle's first baseball contract to a love letter to his wife. Fans will be seeing many items in this book for the first time."

—Kristen Latta, assistant editor, Stewart, Tabori & Chang

Trash Talk

Robert Gussin

First printing: Oceanview Publishing, Oct., 5,000 copies

"I began to think about environmental issues that might provide an opportunity for some fun in a story andgarbage came to mind. From here it was just a short hop to trash and then my sports enthusiast brain lit up: trash talk—what if athletes mistook an environmental meeting for a verbal insult meeting?"

—Robert Gussin, author

Instant Replay

Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap

First printing: Sept., 20,000 copies

"Originally published in 1968, Instant Replay is a landmark in sports book publishing not only because it was among the first books to offer readers a frank, first-person look at life in pro football but because it set the standard for memoirs by sports stars."

—Charlie Conrad, v-p, executive editor/editorial director, paperbacks, Doubleday

Floyd Little's Tales from the Broncos Sideline

Floyd Little and Tom Mackie

First printing: Aug., 10,000 copies

"Books about the Denver Broncos have been rare. That's why it is such a great opportunity for us to have a title written by one of the team's all-time great players who is still very popular among those fans."

—Maurey Williamson, national publicity manager, Sports Publishing