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Players: 250 men, women & animals who created modern sport By Tim Harris

Release date: 06th October, 2009
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press

List Price: £20.00
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Players: 250 men, women and animals who created modern sport
By Tim Harris
Yellow Jersey Press

Sportsbookofthemonth.com price: £13.00, saving £7.00 on rrp

Not one of the sports in which we heartily indulge, be it cricket, boxing, cycling, golf, football, rugby, tennis, or any others could be considered a natural pastime. Every one of them has been invented and had its original rules amended before some bright spark came along and introduced more effective tactics, better techniques, or even suggested a further amendment of the rules.

In Tim Harris's analysis of the people responsible for defining modern sport, he maintains that there are three types of person who have had an impact either upon their own sport, or else upon sport in general. He categorises the top group as 'Rulers', a section comprising great names such as Ali, Woods and Pele, about whom we already know a great deal. However, it would appear that we know little of sports' notorious 'rogues' and there's even less information about its 'revolutionaries'.

What more can be said of Mohamed Ali's position at the very pinnacle of sport's pantheon? Or of Johan Cruyff, "football's most original star"? Granted, they deserve to be in Harris's 'rulers' category, but it's these latter two sections likely to be of greater interest to sports enthusiasts.

Harris has produced a mighty book (it runs to more than 650 pages) within which he has written a succession of short, two- and three-page essays on the people responsible for creating our sporting universe. It's a necessary mix of the good and the bad, clever and dim, altruist and scammers and it makes for a fantastic read - they type of book you can dip into for half an hour and not return to it for a few days without losing the thread.

Some of Harris's best entries relate to people known only to a small circle of sporting aficionados.

Consider, for example, Edward Thring, headmaster of Uppingham School in the mid-nineteenth century, who first introduced sport to the school curriculum. He did so because he recognised it was a vital element in a child's education; he would turn in his grave if he could see what has happened since.

Then there's John 'Montana Jack' Ziegler, a former US coach and weightlifter who unwittingly introduced western athletes to steroids only to later condemn their use, by which time the genie was out of the bottle.

Boxing's Don King warrants a mention, not only as the most identifiable (and one of the richest) sports promoters of all time, but also as 'Donald the Kid', an amateur boxer who, in 1954 was cleared of murder on the grounds of justifiable homicide and who, in 1966, stood trial for second-degree murder after kicking a man to death over a $600 debt.

Kerry Packer, the man who revolutionised the way in which we 'consume' our cricket is probably worthy of a book (there have been several biographies) in his own right, but Harris's extremely amusing 'taster' has the reader wanting more.

Perhaps that's Tim Harris's plan: develop each one of his subjects into fully-fledged sporting biographies. What a plan. What a pension. Does that make him a sporting revolutionary?


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