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Best American Sports Writing

It could be argued that no anthology including a story about people firing guns at fish is a good idea.

It could be, but that would be an argument that ignores the beauty of The Best American Sports Writing Series, the annual collection of sports-related and not-so-sports-related stories by sports writers and writers who rarely write about sports. The point here is that each edition of The Best American Sports Writing has entries that will delight, surprise, outrage and otherwise powerfully move readers.

The 2005 edition includes not only the story of the people in Vermont who maintain that blasting away at fish from trees is exquisite sport, courtesy of Pam Belluck, but Steve Coll's superb account of the process by which the Bush administration and the U.S. military attempted unsuccessfully to make Pat Tillman a heroic poster boy for their wars. Tillman walked away from a career in the National Football League to serve his country. He was killed during a thoroughly botched mission in Afghanistan, the victim of the gunfire of his fellow Americans. Mr. Coll's "Barrage of Bullets Drowned Out Cries of Comrades" is chilling, but it is an antidote to the official version of events. (See what I mean about not-so-sports-related stories?)

This volume contains stories about athletes done in by steroids and other drugs, athletes who sell their autographs to long lines of people who ought to have more sense, and even some athletes who've conducted themselves admirably. The book is, like the volumes of The Best American Sports Writing that have preceded it, worthy of inclusion in any collection of good journalism.

This program aired on December 23, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

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