In this collection, his twenty-fifth book, Joseph Epstein departs from writing about literature and culture to indulge his fondness for the world of sport in all its forms. In these essays and stories, Epstein turns writing about sports into an art at once penetrating and highly amusing.
Chicago-born sportswriter Epstein makes himself the focal point of nearly every essay in this cavalier collection of previously published pieces by the former editor of the American Scholar. A review of David Halberstam's 1999 Michael Jordan bio, Playing for Keeps, for example, transforms into Epstein's own memories of growing up a young athlete and sports fan in Chicago. Multiple pieces seem to exist for no other reason than for Epstein to drop Gene Siskel's name while marveling at the fantastic on-the-floor seats the renowned film critic snagged for him. Mercifully, Epstein includes three solid pieces of fiction set in Chicago in the middle of this collection, the best of which is simply titled "The Goldin Boys," a coming-of-age story told through the melancholy eyes of a physician whose best boyhood friends were popular twin athletes. Epstein's eulogy for the long-gone magazine Sport, from which he turned down a $500 writing assignment in 1970, is also worth a read in part because the author, in a rare moment of humility, admits regret for passing up the gig.