For heroes, real and imagined, sports books stuff that stocking


As the holidays approach, it's time for the fifth annual "Media Watch" guide to worthwhile (and worth missing) sports-oriented books that might fit nicely under a tree or in someone's library.

While last year's pickings were relatively slim, the 1998 list is much more promising, with some of the best choices coming from fiction, written either in a sports motif or by former athletes.

Legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins is back with "Rude Behavior" a funny sequel to the hilarious "Semi-Tough." In "Rude Behavior" (Doubleday; 421 pages; $24.95), former halfback Billy Clyde Puckett is trying to line up an NFL franchise for western Texas, and through Jenkins' sometimes profane but always witty style, Puckett and a rowdy band of cohorts go about it in an amusing manner.

In Harlan Coben's "One False Move" (Delacorte Press; 322 pages; $21.95), sports agent Myron Bolitar has to protect a beautiful women's basketball player who has been threatened, but also has larger issues to deal with. "One False Move," which should not be confused with the movie of the same name, is a lively read.

Football players turned broadcasters Tim Green and Boomer Esiason each have a new novel. Green's "The Red Zone" (Warner; 325 pages; $24) is a bloody tale of a linebacker who is accused of murdering the team's owner. The ending is wild and a little implausible, but the setup is satisfying.

"Toss" (Dutton; 343 pages; $23.95) is the initial offering of Esiason, the former Maryland quarterback who now mans the booth for "Monday Night Football," and, while it's a worthy first effort, Esiason and co-author Lowell Cauffiel fall a little short of the goal line.

Meanwhile, in nonfiction, Jenkins' daughter, Sally, a great sportswriting talent in her own right, has had a busy year, ghost- writing two books, "Reach for the Summitt" (Broadway; 260 pages; $25) and "Raise the Roof" (Broadway; 281 pages; $25), both with Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt. Of the two, "Raise the Roof," a chronicle of the Lady Vols' undefeated national championship season, is the more satisfying.

Another great sportswriter, Bob Ryan, an award-winning columnist with the Boston Globe, has penned a brilliant look at the greatest years in recent Boston sports history. "The Four Seasons" (Masters Press; 286 pages; $22.95) is a loving look at the 1967 Red Sox, 1971-72 Bruins, 1985-86 Celtics and 1996 Patriots that captures the joy and angst of one of the nation's most tortured sports towns.

Among the coffee table books, "Reflections of the Game: Lives in Baseball" (Willow Creek Press; 160 pages; $29.50) is a wonderful collection from the camera of Sports Illustrated photographer Ron Modra. Likewise, Joseph Wallace's "The Autography of Baseball" (Abrams; 224 pages; $35) is a nostalgic trip through the game's history through the words of some of its stars, backed with a collection of black and white photos.

And Newsday writer Kelly Whiteside's "A Celebration" (HarperHorizon; 102 pages; $20) looks colorfully through the first year of the WNBA.

Finally, the best of the athlete autobiographies is "TD: Dreams in Motion" (HarperCollins; 204 pages; $23), the story of Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis, ghostwritten by sportswriter Adam Schefter. Davis, the Most Valuable Player in the last Super Bowl, hasn't lived a long life, but it has been a fascinating one, and the story of it is well told.

Of course, you can't go wrong giving "The Real McKay," (Dutton; 293 pages; $24.95), Jim McKay's heartfelt story of one of the most remarkable lives in sportscasting, his own.

Around the dial

The big event of the weekend, even if it is rather anticlimactic, is tomorrow night's presentation of the Heisman Trophy (ESPN, 7: 30), and the heavy favorite to win it, Texas running back Ricky Williams, joins Jim Nantz on the set of "The NFL Today" Sunday (Channel 13, noon).

Cable viewers in Baltimore and Harford counties should keep an eye out for "Sportsview," the weekly magazine show anchored by local personality Robyn Marks. The show has been added in those locales and will air on the Harford Community College channel as well as the Baltimore County Education Channel, and this week's program includes an interview with Ravens running back Priest Holmes.

NBC has announced the extension of its deal to carry the Ironman Triathlon from Hawaii through the year 2001, and, as it happens, taped coverage of this year's event airs tomorrow (Channel 11, 4 p.m.). Meanwhile, CBS (Channel 13) has tape of the Presidents Cup from another warm-weather clime, Australia, tomorrow at 1 p.m. and Sunday after football.

From the ring, ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" (8 p.m.) will include a tribute to light heavyweight Archie Moore, who died Wednesday. ESPN Classic will remember Moore with a 2 1/2 -hour special Sunday at noon. HBO will present the Arturo Gatti-Ivan Robinson lightweight rematch fight tomorrow from Atlantic City at 10 p.m.

On a more gentle front, TBS presents an ice-skating show with some of the usual suspects, such as Olympic gold medalists Tara Lipinski and Ilya Kulik, from Lake Placid on Sunday at 9 p.m.

Finally, happy second anniversary to CNN/SI, and happy holidays to all.

Pub Date: 12/11/98

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