Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Road Tour of US Sports, Soup to Nuts

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Road Tour of US Sports, Soup to Nuts

Article excerpt

ROAD SWING: ONE FAN'S JOURNEY INTO THE SOUL OF AMERICAN SPORTS By Steve Rushin Doubleday

245 pp., $22.95

Steve Rushin, a writer for Sports Illustrated, smugly had assumed that his near-constant travel for the magazine had allowed him to see the world of sports. What made him question this was a trip overseas in 1994. It was while on Olympic assignment in Lillehammer, Norway, that he experienced a series of small epiphanies leading him to write "Road Swing," which he describes as a sports-addled relative of William Least Heat-Moon's "Blue Highways," the now-famous back-roads look at America. What started Rushin reaching for the Rand McNally Road Atlas, oddly enough, was a night spent watching women's figure skating - as a spectator. He realized he hadn't been an off-duty sports observer in years, and perhaps was missing a lot. After returning home he resolved to graze "at the endless salad bar of American sports: from the garbanzo beans of celebrity softball to the leafy lettuce of NBA basketball." In a rented Pathfinder, he set out to disprove the assertion in Shakespeare's "Henry IV" that "If all the year were playing holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work." His free-form travel saw him begin in Bloomington, Minn., his boyhood home, where a Minnesota Vikings switch plate still adorns Rushin's old bedroom. From there, he let his wanderlust take over. This is neither all backwater nor big-city travel, but a mixture, including points in between, strung together in two grand loops around the lower 48. In racking up 23,658 miles, he missed only four of the contiguous states. Rushin has a keen eye for the quirky and idiosyncratic and makes no attempt to read the cosmic tea leaves of sports. About his most sweeping conclusion is that many American families are bound together by sports, which is hardly revelatory. There's little sacred or too serious here, which at times can be disappointing, and sometimes an unwelcome amount of sports-bar- style coarseness and bite. But Rushin knows how to turn a phrase, tickle funny bones, and make telling comments. A Montana highway is "as straight as uncooked spaghetti" and Anaheim Stadium expresses the "blissed-out, vanity-plated ethos" of pro sports in California. …

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