- Byliner Original
The greatest sports stories transcend sports. They are about risk and failure and craft, and the joy and wonder that come from watching a human being reach for grace. They are about us. And none more so than the eight stories in this edition. Each brims with ambition and fear, sweat and blood. Each says as much about our perpetual human quest for greatness as it does our love of sports.
There’s perhaps no better example than “The String Theory,” by David Foster Wallace (1996). It’s an obsessive tennis masterpiece about baseline play and unforced errors. But it‘s also about why at heart we are all like his subject, Michael Joyce—in the middle of the pack, struggling to reach the top. Or take “Gorgeous Dan,” by John Irving (1973), a beautiful and heartbreaking story about what it means to be the greatest wrestler of all time: you have to be perfect. It’s a pressure that another figure in this collection—Don Zimmer—knew all too well. Scott Raab’s profile of Zimmer, from 2001, overflows with as much passion for baseball and life as its indomitable bald-headed subject.
Then there are the personalities who shape the world to their own talent and whim and raw power, like the boxer in W. C. Heinz’s classic “Young Fighter,” from 1955. Or racing legend Junior Johnson: There are enough roaring engines, moonshine, and exclamation points in Tom Wolfe’s classic (“The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!” 1965) to power a million NASCAR races. Or the last truly great Yankee badass, ...