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The Year in Sports Media: Books
December 24, 2012
Did you see that Chris Bosh video bomb? How many versions of "Eli Manning Looking at Things" can you name? When the soccer titans tangled on Twitter, were you #TeamChastain or #TeamSolo? Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Well, SI is here to help, highlighting 2012's good (Charles Barkley does Shaq), bad (the Olympics on tape delay) and god-awful (Terry Bradshaw goes Gangnam Style). Consider yourself back in the loop
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December 24, 2012

The Year In Sports Media: Books

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Best description Of a Dallas Football owner (Not Jerry Jones)

"Billy is thinking if you took every person he's ever known in his life and added up the sum total of their wealth, this presumably grand number would still pale in comparison to the stupendous net worth of Norm Ogelsby, or 'Norm' as he's known to the media, friends, colleagues, legions of Cowboys fans and even the even mightier legions of Cowboys haters who for whatever reason—his smug, kiss-my-ass arrogance, say, or his flaunting of the whole America's Team shtick, or his willingness to whore out the Cowboys brand to everything from toasters to tulip bulbs—despise the man's guts even as they're forced to admit his genius for turning serious bucks."

From Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain's National Book Award--nominated novel

No-Spin Zone

Tim Wakefield began his professional career as a first baseman, but one season (and a .189 batting average in Class A ball) later, he had to take desperate measures to prolong his flickering major league dream: He became a knuckleball pitcher. "At first I felt like a freak show," Wakefield said years later, as he was nearing the end of a 19-year career in which he won 200 games. "Everybody asked me to throw it for them. They wanted to see it, like something in a zoo."

The knuckleball has always held novelty-act status in baseball's radar-gun-obsessed culture, but the pitch and its practitioners gained some long-overdue respect this year. It began last March with the publication of Wherever I Wind Up, a thoughtful, brutally honest memoir by then Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey. The book made headlines for Dickey's disclosure of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, but it was also a poetic meditation on the knuckleball as metaphor for life. It's winding, unpredictable, often uncontrollable—and can only be mastered with vast reserves of cunning and cojones.

Dickey wrote eloquently about the fraternity of knuckleball pitchers, a tight-knit group of current and former major leaguers that was the subject of Knuckleball!, the acclaimed documentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last April. Filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg followed the now-retired Wakefield (then with the Red Sox) and Dickey through the 2011 season, documenting the ups and downs of life as a knuckleballer and the friendships that have developed among Wakefield, Dickey and older pitchers like Charlie Hough and Phil Niekro.

To master the floater, ex-pitcher Jim Bouton says in the film, "you need the fingertips of a safecracker and the mind of a Zen Buddhist." By the end of the year it wasn't only knuckleballers themselves singing the pitch's praises. In November, Dickey, who won 20 games this year and led the National League in strikeouts, became the first knuckleballer to win the NL Cy Young Award. For one year, anyway, the knuckleball was a freak show no more.

—Stephen Cannella

You're Learning, Baby!

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