Bruce Wallace's story about Manar Mudhafar, an Iraqi soccer player killed by a stray bullet, must have been an easy choice for BASW series editor Glenn Stout and guest editor David Maraniss, even though it's not a sports story. "In Iraq, Soccer Field Is No Longer a Refuge," which Wallace originally wrote for the Los Angeles Times, reveals that after Mudhafar died on the field, his teammates found themselves asking each other, "Where do we bury him? A Shia ceremony? Or Sunni?"
On the soccer field, nobody had ever thought to ask.
Jeff MacGregor's "Let Us Now Raze Famous Men" is also exceptional. In his often hilarious portrait of boxing promoter Don King, MacGregor suggests convincingly that the billowing buffoon personifies all that this country he constantly and loudly celebrates ("Only In America!") has become. When King and Donald Trump find themselves posing together for a photographer, MacGregor is struck by the symbolism, but not struck dumb. "Accountable only to themselves," he writes, "the double Dons have built their empires on bluster; each man floating majestically above the American skyline in a giant bologna skin filled with his own hot air. That they remain aloft against the stubborn gravity of reality speaks to our endless credulity in the face of celebrity."
After that, it's tempting to conclude that there's nothing more to say, but that would be wrong. This edition of The Best American Sports Writing has a lot more to say. It includes Michael Lewis's exceptional portrait of Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Bill Parcells, who lives alone and lives only for football. Then there's Paul Cullum's article entitled "The Big Show by Little People," which will make you laugh until you are ashamed of yourself because, well, let me just point out that at the top of the story, Cullum muses as follows: "'Mexican Midget Rodeo'? Let us pause to savor that more slowly: Mexican...Midget...Rodeo."
This program aired on November 29, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.