Is it just a happy coincidence that so many sports books are selling well? Some publishers and booksellers say it's more than that—that the popularity of sports books stems from a reawakened interest in heroes and their accomplishments. "It reflects a return to conservative values," says Belle Newton, publicity director at Doubleday (which published the Mantle and Hope books). Barbara Grossman, senior editor at Crown Publishers, says, "We've had this self-love since the Olympics. Some would say since the hostage crisis."
THE LONG VIEW
In the summer of 1949, in the 15-and-under Eastern boys clay court championships at Forest Hills, unranked Pete Bostwick, 14, of Westbury, N.Y., faced No. 1-ranked Don Thompson, 15, of New York City and lost 6-0, 6-2.
Time passed—36 years, in fact. Then, this summer, in the second round of the Eastern masters 45-and-over championships at Glen Cove, N.Y., the two met again. More or less echoing their earlier encounter, Bostwick, who just turned 51, was unseeded while Thompson, also 51, was seeded fourth. This time Bostwick prevailed, upsetting Thompson in a spirited battle 7-6, 7-5.
Now the two are looking forward to the rubber match, which they expect to play in the year 2021 at an 85-and-over tournament.
Walter Payton, the superb running back of the Chicago Bears, seldom blows his own horn, but he says he would like the respect that ought to be his now that he has broken Jim Brown's NFL career rushing record. "This is my 11th year, and nobody takes me seriously," Payton says. "You talk about the running backs that have been in the league, you ask, 'What about the running backs?' and the first names that pop into people's minds are Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Curt Warner. Or Billy Sims, William Andrews, George Rogers. Every year Payton's on the back burner."
Great runners have come and gone during Payton's career. He had played three seasons in the NFL before Earl Campbell arrived, for example, and last year he outrushed the battered Campbell by 1,216 yards.
"If you chart it [other runners' careers], you see peaks and valleys," Payton says. "Whereas my career, I like to think, has been like IBM or Xerox. I've been playing at the same level, and sometimes above, for at least nine years. I guess the people have come to expect that. Rain, sleet, snow, sprained ankle...or whatever, he's going to be there. Sometimes people tend to—not knowingly—they sometimes take things for granted. I guess I've been the Rodney Dangerfield of running backs.
"But it doesn't bother me," he says, brightening. "Rodney makes a lot of movies, drinks a lot of light beer."