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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Boswell:  The joy of sports can’t quite be explained, but you can happily spend a lifetime trying

Thomas Boswell’s final column.

The Nats’ recent antics illustrate the dual role of sports; in childhood, they are born as pure fun and are played best in that spirit by adults, too. Yet they must, to reach their full emotional punch, be played as fierce, cut-to-the-quick-of-personality competitions, too.

That is why, from our own sports experiences at whatever level we reach — up to the pros or Olympics — we are magnetized by a desire for intense competitions that combine “fight” and “fun.” Maybe some species are just hardwired that way — for instance, ours.


Economically, sports are probably smaller than many think. The addressable global sports market this year is estimated at around $440 billion, which sounds like a lot, except the retail market for groceries is 26 times as big. As a result of its big-picture status as a niche industry, sports’ impact on the public weal is modest, except to entertain those who find joy in it. So we get another odd combination of qualities. Where else do play and passion meet, without dire consequences to any, but with the possibility of parades?

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 30, 2021 at 09:08 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: thomas boswell

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   1. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: June 30, 2021 at 09:24 AM (#6027011)
Boswell has written so many wonderful things over the years. I still remember checking "Why Time Begins On Opening Day" out of my local library as a teen and that led me to a lot of other great stuff.
   2. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: June 30, 2021 at 11:08 AM (#6027016)
My dad had that book on his shelf when I was a kid. I think it had a big panorama of Memorial Park in Baltimore on the dust jacket, with the early Ripken Orioles scattered across the field in their bright white uniforms. I didn't read it until I was in middle school, and I probably didn't understand it all that well, but it was part of a baseball obsession that really possessed me as a kid, in a way that nothing else really ever has. My dad had briefly been a sportswriter before turning to straight news, and he made clear that Boswell was a man at the height of his talents in those days, someone whose career should be followed and, if possible, emulated. I should go back and re-read it now that the guy is retiring.
   3. Perry Posted: June 30, 2021 at 11:29 AM (#6027019)
Boswell is second only to Angell in my book. All his collections are well worth reading. The baseball-specific ones are Why Time Begins On Opening Day, How Life Imitates the World Series, Heart of the Order, and Cracking the Show, and they're all great.
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 30, 2021 at 01:55 PM (#6027031)
Boswell became a little lazy after he hit it big in the book market, but he was re-energized when the Nationals came to town. Don’t know if he’ll continue to contribute occasional items to the Post, but Shirley Povich did so for 25 years after his ‘retirement’ and they held up really well.
   5. AndrewJ Posted: June 30, 2021 at 07:50 PM (#6027117)
All his collections are well worth reading. The baseball-specific ones are Why Time Begins On Opening Day, How Life Imitates the World Series, Heart of the Order, and Cracking the Show, and they're all great.

And right now, they're also all out of print. Most of Angell and Roger Kahn's output is on Kindle at reasonable prices.
   6. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 01, 2021 at 07:48 AM (#6027172)
Boswell is second only to Angell in my book. All his collections are well worth reading. The baseball-specific ones are Why Time Begins On Opening Day, How Life Imitates the World Series, Heart of the Order, and Cracking the Show, and they're all great.

My Mount Rushmore of baseball writers, in the order in which their baseball writing careers began, is Leonard Koppett, Roger Angell, Tom Boswell, and Bill James. Koppett was the most interesting and insightful, Angell the best stylist, Boswell is the best game reporter and deadline writer, and James is the most important innovator with the best sense of humor.

Boswell became a little lazy after he hit it big in the book market, but he was re-energized when the Nationals came to town.

I think that was more because he stopped becoming the Orioles' beat writer and became more of a sports op-ed commentator. My opinion of him also followed the same pattern as yours.

P. S. Boz is a much better writer than Povich ever was. Povich mailed in more columns than I can remember.

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