One morning last month, after absorbing with my coffee some fairly bleak front-page stories, it was a pleasure to find inside the New York Herald Tribune these words from John K. Hutchens' review of our recent book, The Spectacle of Sport:
"While great photographers in black and white, from Mathew Brady to Nat Fein, have done pretty well through the years, nobody is apt seriously to dispute Sidney L. James, [ SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S] managing editor, when he says in a foreword that color brings 'something that is the very essence of sport.' What it does in added detail and immediacy for the green grass of Yankee Stadium, the blue water dripping off a fighting marlin, the red of a matador's muleta, the black eye of a lineman for Ole Miss, is wonderful to behold.
"When it's a sport of which you have some experience, as spectator or participant, the color takes you back to the scene as nothing else quite can: Stan Musial, in four pictures, uncoiling and lashing at that ball; Carmen Basilio dripping sweat and blood as he carries the fight to Johnny Saxton; the dust and clamor of a rodeo. And when it's a sport you never tried and may never care to, at least this will give you a better idea of it than you ever had before. Observe the Englishman, no doubt mad, as he stands atop a needlelike rock in the Alps and adjusts a rope for his descent down its bare, forbidding side. Note the adrenalin cases roaring down the Arkansas River in kayaks, and feel the white water splashing in your face.
"With these superb pictures go a good many of the words of which a picture is supposed to be worth at least ten thousand. The old axiom doesn't necessarily hold when the words are as well assembled as they are in Paul O'Neil's study of John Landy, Gerald Holland's recording of a Branch Rickey monologue, Miss Patty Berg on how she taught Bud Wilkinson to play football, Alec Waugh on Rugby, A. J. Liebling on Stillman's gymnasium."
Mr. Hutchens went on with a reservation about whether spotting a polar bear from an airplane and killing it with a 375 Magnum—one episode in the book—meets the true definition of sport. In a perfect world, he felt, the bear would have its chance at retribution. "Pending which happy event," Mr. Hutchens concluded, "you have only to enjoy this splendid compendium of happy days and nights afield and in the smoke-filled arenas where the race is to the swift or maybe just the lucky."