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The End Of Innocence
Greetings from The Booth!
I actually had to walk to the Booth for this edition, because of this week’s gas shortage…so I’m a little winded.
First, an update on Shenandoah University Baseball. The number-16 Hornets eliminated Hampden-Sydney to advance to this weekend’s ODAC semifinal series with Eastern Mennonite. On paper, things seem to set up nicely for 28-9 SU. The Royals, the 8-seed in the tournament, took out the top seed, Randolph-Macon. Good luck to Kevin Anderson’s juggernaut, as they hopefully can roll through the ODAC and secure an NCAA berth later this month.
So…for whatever reason, I went down a rabbit hole yesterday and ended up revisiting 2 books from my childhood that pulled the curtain back on a professional sports world that had previously been presented in All-American wholesomeness. Until these sports exposes were published, we as kids were told that our heroes drank their milk, got plenty of sleep, and took their vitamins everyday, and if we did the same, we could become pros just like them.
The first of these eye-opening books was “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton. “Ball Four” was really the first of the so-called “tell all” books and revealed the previously closed world of Major League Baseball. Bouton, a pitcher for the New York Yankees and later the short-lived Seattle Pilots, chronicled the late-night escapades of players like Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford, and took us into a clubhouse of ribald gags, hangovers, and tales of sexual exploits. Many kids my age read”Ball Four” under the covers at night with a flashlight , lest our moms catch us with such a book.
Then there was “North Dallas Forty,” a “fictional” account of a Texas pro football team, written by former NFL receiver Pete Gent. The central characters were wide-receiver Phil Elliott, and quarterback Seth Maxwell. You didn’t have to be a super sleuth to deduce that Elliott was Gent, who played for the Cowboys, and Maxwell was Don Meredith, who would go on to fame on Monday Night Football. Gent also revealed a world of drug use, late-night adventures, and a pro football world that valued computer data and devalued it’s athletes. The book was later made into a movie (although the book is much better) starring Mac Davis and Nick Nolte.
It was the end of the innocence for me. But it was not the end of the tell-all books, which keep coming today. There is the occasional blockbuster, but none had the impact of “Ball Four” and “North Dallas Forty,” which, if nothing else, took our heroes out of their ivory towers and brought them down to earth.
Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!