Up to now I’ve been thinking solely about football fiction, cause let’s face it the fiction of other sports just can’t be as interesting. I’ve just reviewed a non-fiction AFL book for my favourite Booksellers magazine and it struck me, for all I’ve been thinking football fiction is limited in its dimension, it’s also true that the fiction for other sports is even less diffuse. That's if ‘less diffuse’ is an actual expression. I wanted to say thin on the ground but I’m trying to stay ringside of sporting analogies. I’ll wait for the whistle though.
This does not mean that I will begin to look at other sports fiction on this blog. Far from it. I am loyal to my lady. Even if she’s made up of 22 blokes on a pitch, she is still my lady and she will forever hold me in her heart. Ever since I got picked off the wall at school lunch when there were boys still waiting to get picked that I thought were better than me, she’s had my lips, my hips, my love and my loins. I am a football fan first. To think about another sport would be something akin to betrayal. And while I know sports promiscuity is the domain of many a weekend cable telly watching channel surfing manslut, it’s not for me. It’s always been football and it will always be football. Now I have been known to take in the odd Olympic women’s Beach Volleyball stand off, but I know where my bread’s buttered. Besides you can only watch the beach volleyball on the telly every four years.
It could be argued, and I would, if all other sports are nothing in comparison, the fiction of these other sports would interest me even less.
Now, having said that, I can still name a couple of really good examples. The Naturalist by Bernard Malamud is a fantastic book about baseball, but I won’t be reviewing it. Read it yourself. It’s awesome. The Fight by Norman Mailer is the best book about boxing ever, but it’s not fictional. It’s a creative non-fiction account of Ali’s 1973 rumble in the jungle, a fight book so bloody, blunt and balletic only Mailer or maybe Hemingway could’ve written it.
In Australia, where Rugby League is the number one sport and football the poor cousin who only occasionally sleeps with a sibling, there are a couple of other sports fictions worth considering. The Specky Magee series is a best seller aimed at young Aussie rules audiences. If kids are reading anything other than the wanky wee wizard that’s a good thing innit?
Philip Gwynne’s brilliant book Deadly Unna? is about Aussie rules and a whole lot more. Then there’s Sam DeBrito’s rough and tumble book The Lost Boys about some lads an’ their surf boards, not much surfing mind you, and the time travel cricket series endorsed by thon eedjit, indian chart topper and buggerlugged bowler Brett Lee.
I’m reading a collection of cricket short stories at the moment. I don’t really get it. I had to watch the last Ashes and read at least two Gideon Haigh books before I understood half of it. Thinking about cucumber sandwiches and Pimms on the village green gives me the boak, so I’m not exactly coming at the collection with a warm heart, right enough.
There’s plenty more examples of other sports fiction, like plenty more - from other countries and other sports - and I’d be happy to take recommendations, but unless they’re as good as The Fight or The Naturalist I’m no sure I’d want them.