Field Trip

Aimlessly walking a bookstore floor letting what happens happen is a 20th-century amusement. Still, every few months I'll hie to a mall, load up on some tutti-frutti, mocca-yoko yummy ice slurp and stroll a vast warehouse filled with popular books. I believe they call it browsing. In this instance, browsing Barnes & Noble.

Well, what's new in sports? I note the Sports section is adjacent to Women's Health, and let me say I couldn't be happier. Now then, before me is, Stealing the Wave: The Epic Struggle Between Ken Bradshaw and Mark Foo. Looks like two surfer dudes battle it out... "Soulful insight...thrilling glimpse...operatic world of..." blah, blah, blah... "New York Times."

Here's the first sentence of the first chapter. "When I was about 14 or 15 I had to write an essay at school entitled something like, 'My hero' or heroes and explain why..." BEEP. The use of "about" and "something like" in one sentence trips the automatic rejection sequence.

Next is The Inner Game of Tennis, by W. Timothy Gallwey. Here's his opening paragraph: "The problems which most perplex tennis players are not those dealing with the proper way to swing a racket. Books and professionals giving this information abound." I am agog at "abound."

World's Best Sailboats. This is very cool. Big, big book, glossy paper, glossy photos of every kind of sailboat taken from the air, or deck, or alongside. Sailboats on oceans, on rivers, in docks and harbors. Pictures of sailboat interiors, galleys, dining rooms, bedrooms. Sixty bucks. Want. Want. Want.

Here's another oversized book, The NASCAR Vault: An Official History Featuring Rare Collectibles from Motorsports Images And Archives, by H.A. Branham and Buz McKim. Also very cool. It's a fancy scrapbook. Regard, a facsimile of a 1938 Indianapolis 500 pit pass given to Bill France, the founder of NASCAR. And a ticket stub for the "Stock Car Race Classic, 150 miles, Sunday, March 19th, 1939. Good for one admission, 59 cents." Lots of artifacts and photographs. Somebody is going to love this book.

I move over to The Eiger Obsession, by John Harlin III. Also on the cover, in a smaller type, "Facing the mountain that killed my father as seen in the film, The Alps." Lousy title and TV movie alert. Here's the opening paragraph: "When I was a kid it always bothered me that Dad hadn't been able to survive most of his 4,000 foot fall. He would have wanted to savor the event: his 'ultimate experience,' the one he'd been looking forward to even though he wanted it to come later..."

Good enough to go to paragraph two: "Another minute of life might have been enough time for him to reflect on his children, ages eight and nine, and to realize how selfish it was to die when they needed him....

"But, who am I to criticize. My own nine-year-old daughter is watching me through the telescope as I climb past where Dad came down." Might be a keeper. I'll carry it around for a while.

Make way for Teddy Roosevelt's African Game Trails: An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist. I open to page 334: "I easily kept the camp in meat, as I'd guessed I could do. My men feasted on oryx and eland, while I reserved the tongues and the tenderloins for myself...." That's not sharing, Teddy.

Not by a Long Shot: A Season at a Hard Luck Horse Track, by T. D. Thornton. Chapter 1: "No other sport is as profoundly effected by the start of a new year as thoroughbred racing.... January 1 is the universal birthday for every registered thoroughbred in North America, regardless of their actual foaling date...." Not bad. On the other hand, not that good.

Finally, we have it. Here's T.O., by Terrell Owens and Jason Rosenhaus. First chapter: "Strong and quiet -- that's what I was like growing up in Alexander ("Alex") City, Alabama. Alex City is a small country town where there's nothing to do but get into trouble. As a teenager I was the perfect target for the big bully on the block...." Terrell, repent.

One shelf over, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France, by Floyd Landis and Loren Mooney. Not if you paid me.

A lot of fishing books. Lots of baseball books. I skim Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women's Sports, Basic Kayaking: All the skills and gear you need to get started, How to Make Knives, Winning Bowling, and So, You Want to Play in the NHL.

Yet, I am unsatisfied. Perhaps another tutti-frutti mocca-yoko yummy ice slurp and a flyby of Women's Health.

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