"In a wider sense, sport is culture. For many American men it represents a common background, a shared interest. It has a binding power that transcends social class and education." - Joseph Epstein in "Obsessed with Sport."
"Reading Rules of the Game is like getting a lesson in sports history from some of our finest writers while sipping an aperitif at the Algoquin Round Table. There is such a seamless bond between writer and sport and the Rules of the Game flows as smoothly as an Ali jab...." - Ron Darling, Emmy Award-winning broadcaster.
Rules of the Game:
The Best Sports Writing from Harper’s Magazine
Features writing from George Plimpton, Tom Wolfe, Mark Twain, Lewis H. Lapham,
Bernard DeVoto, Rich Cohen, Pat Jordan, Shirley Jackson, Joseph Epstein, and others
Preface by Roy Blount Jr.
Edited by Matthew Stevenson and Michael Martin
RULES OF THE GAME: THE BEST SPORTS WRITING FROM HARPER’S MAGAZINE spans much of the magazine’s 160-year history. The earliest article, “Yachting in Kiel,” by James B. Connolly, about German ships large and small, was published in 1903. The most recent, “Mudville,” by Lewis H. Lapham, ran in 2008, just after former Senator George Mitchell released his report on the widespread use of illicit drugs within major league baseball. In between, the magazine has published many articles about tennis, bowling, college football, gymnastics, wrestling, car racing, sailing, soccer, dog tracks, and baseball.
When Harper’s writers turn their attention to sports, however, they are in search of more than just a game. Former New York Yankee and Ball Four author Jim Bouton said that Pat Jordan’s “A False Spring” was the best account that he had ever read about trying to make it to the major leagues. In these pages, Jordan scouts a prospect who has been compared favorably to the legends of the game, only to find someone missing life’s cutoff men. For anyone who grew up in New York in the 1960s, the Rucker basketball tournament played in Harlem, described in the book by Pete Axthelm, has aspects of an urban legend. Lord Nicholas Bethell writes about the 1972 chess matches between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer, but “A Poisoned Russian King” reads just as well as an account of the Cold War. Shirley Jackson, author of “The Lottery,” finds parallels, lightly sketched here, between chance and the evil spirits of Little League baseball.
If there is a thread that links the articles in RULES OF THE GAME, it is that the writers use sports or the occasion of a game to reflect on the larger issues of race relations, culture, international politics, language, childhood, history, death, and urban affairs.
Matthew Stevenson is a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine. He is the author of Letters of Transit, An April Across America, and Remembering the Twentieth Century Limited.
Michael Martin is a freelance writer and editor. His fiction and poetry have appeared in a variety of literary journals; he was a co-founding editor of the literary magazine Hogtown Creek Review.
Matthew Stevenson and select authors from the book are available for interviews to discuss Rules of the Game.