Whoever first said “Sports build character” was the all-time champ for not knowing what the dickens he was talking about–and getting away with it.
This little gem of a paperback from 1978, Inside the Yankees by Ed Linn, goes behind the scenes of the Yankees’ 1977 championship season.
I’m not presenting it to you as a baseball book. Forget the baseball. Inside the Yankees is a soap opera.
From top to bottom, from team owner George Steinbrenner, manager Billy Martin, and superstar Reggie Jackson–er, wait a minute: there is no bottom. They’re all trying to be the one on top, and they will stop just short of murder to get there. Anyway, you wouldn’t believe grown men could behave like this and not get locked up somewhere. Like, was there anyone in or around baseball whom Billy Martin didn’t punch out?
My favorite scene is the one in which several of the team’s prima donnas, individually and without prior consultation, each makes his way up to Steinbrenner’s hotel room to complain about his team-mates–and as each arrives, George has to hide the previous petitioner somewhere in the suite. Did they take that from a Danny Kaye movie?
This is long before Colin Koprolite got rich and famous for whining about how much he hates mean old America.
I’m afraid professional athletes have always been d*****bags. I’m sure Rome’s gladiators and charioteers always used to carp and backbite each other–although gladiators did sometimes get the opportunity to settle their grudges permanently. Give Reggie and Billy a crack at that, and you’d see sparks fly!
Another fantastic book along the same lines is Glory Days With the Dodgers by their catcher, John Roseboro. Roseboro looked back at his own life in sports, starting with his days in grade school, and had a lot of unsentimental things to say about it.
No, sports do not build character. Amazing that anybody ever thought they did.