Making the Planet Safe
It is always refreshing when an athlete makes a principled stand on the issues of the day. So we were particularly pleased to see Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal, heretofore reluctant to stump for a cause, boldly affirm his loyalty to Planet Reebok by placing tape over the Nike swoosh that now adorns the Lakers' warmups. Shaq's next campaign: a Pepsi in every lunchbox.
End of the Book?
Zander Hollander's office, in his Manhattan apartment, is filled with books, most of them about sports, most of them covered with dust. It is where, for the last nine years, he has edited The Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball, the wonderfully sarcastic, if not entirely reliable, annual that last week released its 24th—and possibly last—edition.
A writer and editor for the now long-defunct New York World-Telegram in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, Hollander, 74, dates back to a rougher age of journalism. In 1965 he left the paper to concentrate on creating books and became the unofficial king of sports paperbacks. He has edited dozens of trivia collections as well as titles ranging from Broadway Joe and the Super Jets (1969) to The Complete Encyclopedia of Hockey (1970) to Bud Collins' Tennis Encyclopedia (1997).
His chefs d'oeuvre, however, have been the handbooks, which he began issuing in 1971 with the first baseball edition. Hockey, football and basketball soon followed. All feature a biting sense of humor, none so much as the basketball books. They turn the zinging one-liner into an art form—at least by the typically prosaic standards of such publications. This year's victims include New Jersey Nets center Yinka Dare ("Pronounced dar-RAY. Translated as: 'He who comes to NBA without game' "), the Timberwolves' Australian guard, Shane Heal ("Maybe the ball rotates differently in this hemisphere") and Washington Wizards forward Ashraf Amaya ("Where would Washington have been without his 144 minutes?").
Yet as more and more magazines publish annuals faster than Hollander can and with more up-to-date information, his handbooks, which debuted at $1.25 and now cost $7.99, are nearing extinction. The football handbook was discontinued a year ago, and the 1997 baseball handbook will be the last for the sport. Basketball may have been Hollanderized for the last time as well. Seven years ago circulation hovered around 85,000. Today it's closer to 40,000. "I don't know if there's room anymore for a guy like me," Hollander says. "It's a shame, but I've had a helluva run."