When 21 themed essays, most by accomplished writers, end up in the same book, the rewards are almost always worth the price. That is certainly the case with Fathers and Sons and Sports, devoted to essays about the special bonds created when two generations of males share a devotion, as observers or as participants.
Although the book is quasi-exclusionary — mothers and daughters are rarely at center stage — it is not sexist. In fact, the bonding portrayed in the essays, while occasionally macho in nature, frequently demonstrates the softer, emotional sides of men. A fair generalization about the essays is that they qualify as "touching."
Readers who follow professional, college and high school sports will recognize names of writers who specialize in such subject matter: Mike Lupica, who composed the introduction; Tom Friend of ESPN the Magazine; Mark Kriegel, former newspaper sports columnist and biographer of football player Joe Namath; Jeremy Schapp, ESPN television anchor; Steve Wulf, who has written for ESPN the Magazine and Sports Illustrated; and others.
At least as many bylines, though, come from fiction and literary nonfiction backgrounds not primarily linked to sports writing: John Buffalo Mailer, son of Norman; Donald Hall; Norman Maclean; Buzz Bissinger; John Ed Bradley; Darcy Frey; Paul Solotaroff; Bill Geist; and others. A few authors cannot be categorized as writers about sports or as literary — Ron Reagan, son of the former U.S. president, for example.
I experienced little sports-related bonding with my father, so I was sometimes envious of the relationships between sons and fathers portrayed in these essays. Consider Lupica's memories: "There is no game I am watching that I wouldn't rather be watching with my dad. The best days I've had in sports, either in front of a TV screen or at the ballpark, were shared with my dad and my three sons." That is a statement to treasure.
Steve Weinberg is a freelance investigative reporter.