I was in downtown Portland today and I was checking out the used mass market books by the front entrance of the long-standing Cameron’s Books. What caught my eyes were a bunch of vintage sports books that evoked both nostalgia and excitement for me. The feelings of excitement elicited by seeing Dan Fouts or Bart Starr on a book cover is probably made up of equal parts haha irony and dopey sadness.
But it also made me think of some of the sports books that I actually own, which I also took photos of just now.
Some people don’t realize that I’m actually a pretty big sports fan, at least football and basketball. This time of year feels weird to me though, because it’s “between season.” The NBA has ended (my Sixers did pretty decent this year actually) and the NFL doesn’t start its regular season for another month or so.
I think I probably favor football, maybe just because there are less games and each one seems of utmost importance. I have to confess that I get so preoccupied with games every Sunday in the fall that I’m pretty much a useless human being. I work on Sundays usually and I am always so tempted to take three hour lunch breaks. My favorite team? Somewhat inexplicably, I’ve been a Cardinals fan ever since I was a kid. In the last thirty-something years of fandom, they’ve been the source of much misery. Being a fan of theirs is sort of like a living penance (if you’re Catholic). They’re getting better though (God, I say that EVERY year!). And remember–they almost won the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. I hate the word “almost” in that sentence.
But I love this play so much. My heart flutters when I see it:
And yes, the fact that they ended up losing on a last-minute drive and a tippy-toe sideline catch has haunted and taunted me in my mind ever since (Stop laughing! It’s not funny. It hurts.). Someday I will a full essay about that day, that month, maybe that year. But I’m not ready yet. I have still not quite recovered.
What is it about sports and sports books that we love? I even have old football magazines from seasons past. I’ve looked through them and had strange pangs of fanboy geekness when I see names like Roy Green, Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman (RIP), or Stump Mitchell. They’re sort of like superheroes. But I guess you don’t outgrow them. My current favorite superheroes are Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells, and Patrick Peterson.
A lot of the sports books I have I don’t even think I’ve actually read. Like the book, Big Red (pictured below) or the Neil Lomax autobiography that is displayed proudly (?!) by my desk at work (next to my autographed 8×10 of The Golden Girls, some 76ers basketball cards, and some poetry broadsides–just to show my literary side). But I don’t think it really matters if you’re younger or older–sports celebrities and the unpredictable emotions that a team can stir in you can be seriously intense and memorable. As a teenager, I would even cry when the Cardinals lost an important game. And I still remember how I celebrated my one NBA championship (in 1983, when the Sixers swept the Lakers)–I went out to Burger King for a cheeseburger and it was fucking delicious!
Here’s a little photo rundown of what I found today and what I have on my shelf currently. Please enjoy!