Saturday, 23 September 2017

TBC: Best Canadian Sports Writing

A rainy Saturday has derailed my original plan of being in the garden today. In fact, with it being rainy and cold, the day has afforded me time to do something I rarely seem to have to time to do in reading. I spent most of the day with a book in my hands, and I am happy to say I read some very excellent writing. Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Best Canadian Sports Writing, edited by Stacey May Fowles and Pasha Malla, and published by ECW Press. In Best Canadian Sports Writing, Miss Fowles and Mr. Malla selected 38 stories written by a number of excellent Canadian writers who saw their works about a vast number of sports published in a number of different different places. The submissions of these stories were collected and chosen for this book by Miss Fowles and Mr. Palla, and presented as this collection entitled Best Canadian Sports Writing. And there are some great stories written!

From Miss Fowles' website, "Stacey May Fowles is an award-winning novelist, journalist, and essayist. Author of three novels, her bylines include The National Post, The Globe and Mail, Elle Canada, Maisonneuve, Toronto Life, The Walrus, Canadaland, Vice Sports, The Toast, The New Inquiry, Deadspin, Jezebel, The Classical, Rookie, Hazlitt, Prism, Quill and Quire, and many others. She has been a frequent guest on CBC's Metro Morning, is a former member of q's sports panel, and her writing has been anthologized in places ranging from Baseball Prospectus to Our Bodies, Ourselves." She currently lives in Toronto where she writes about books for the Globe & Mail and about baseball for Jays Nation and The Athletic. She can be found on Twitter under missstaceymay.

Pasha Malla is an exceptional young writer who was born in St. John's, Newfoundland before moving to London, Ontario. He was a graduate student at Concordia University. His first book, The Withdrawal Method, won the 2009 Trillium Book Award in fiction that comes with an award of $20,000 and won the $10,000 Danuta Gleed Literary Award the same year. The Withdrawal Method was "also longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for 'Best First Book' in the region of the Caribbean and Canada". "Filmsong", a short story Malla wrote, also won the Arthur Ellis Award. Malla has published two additional books entitled All Our Grandfathers Are Ghosts in 2008 and People Park in 2012, both of which received critical praise. Malla also contributes to, CBC Radio, and the Globe and Mail. He currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

The works contained within the covers of Best Canadian Sports Writing cover a vast number of sports - hockey, baseball, MMA, wrestling, cricket, basketball, and boxing among the topics - but they also cover a vast number of societal issues such as mental health in athletes, economics of playing sports, background and race in sports, and gender equality in sports. If one were looking for a textbook to teach sports journalism that has examples of outstanding writing not only on sports, but on society, Best Canadian Sports Writing would be my nominee for that textbook.

Now that I've called Best Canadian Sports Writing a textbook, I can hear a number of you saying, "Nope, not for me," but it's not written like a textbook in any way. The articles contained in Best Canadian Sports Writing are from reputable outlets such as Sportsnet Magazine, The Walrus, Toronto Life, and Sports Illustrated. These aren't dry, scientific papers with a pile of footers to reads through - although some do that footers - but rather a number of well-written, well-researched stories that connect the reader with the subject. In the end, reading Best Canadian Sports Writing felt like, to use a technology term, an RSS of the best Canadian stories on sports at my fingertips.

There were a couple of stories that really jumped out at me - Sheryl Swoopes' legacy in women's basketball was incredible, and Kimbo Slice's work in helping his son and others with autism find hope was inspiring - but it was Dan Robson's story from the May 12, 2014 copy of Sportsnet Magazine about the boys from Whale Cove, Nunavut that really show just how good Canadians writers are at framing and telling a story. Dan's story follows a ragtag group of boys from Whale Cove to Winnipeg and then to a small town in northwestern Ontario called Longlac where they are treated like rock stars for simply making the trip. It's here where we discover that these feisty young men from Whale Cove not only can play hockey, but are pretty amazing young people as well.
The journey to Toronto came next, after the series - a two-day bus ride with players from the Geraldton High team into a new world. None of the ten from Whale Cove had ever been to a city so large - it was a place they only saw on TV while watching the Leafs play. As the yellow bus wobbled along the single-lane highways of northern Ontario, the boys leaned on each other, resting in the tiny seats as they watched the trees blur by. Sixteen hours and 1,200 kilometres later, those trees gave way to concrete buildings, the single roads morphing into an eight-lane highway and a mountain of a rising city. They stared at the cars and the people that passed - so many anonymous faces. They passed people lying on the streets, cold and alone, and anonymous, too. And Demitre stopped to give one food. And David and Simon stopped to give another some of the cash they'd saved to buy new clothes. And so the Whalers did as Whale Covers do - "You would never see someone without a place to go in Whale Cove," says David.
Stories like Mr. Robson's piece are found throughout Best Canadian Sports Writing. While the focus is on the sport, there is so much good written alongside the athletes in question that give a glimpse into humanity that I didn't want to put the book down. From learning about the people who created a thriving Filipino basketball league in Whitehorse, Yukon to reading about the Raonics and how Milos found his passion in tennis to reading about the experiences and challenges of five black journalists, Best Canadian Sports Writing will open your eyes to some of the best writing ever produced in Canada!

While it's not a story that one would read from cover to cover, the nice thing about Best Canadian Sports Writing is that the 38 short stories are only a few pages long save for one long article on professional wrestling. If one were looking to take breaks between chapters, the short stories and pieces in Best Canadian Sports Writing certainly afford that and make it easy to plan reading sessions. I liked this design for the book, and the fact that the stories were mixed together in a jumble of sports meant that each new story often was a new sport with a new story to discover.

Overall, the 393 pages of Best Canadian Sports Writing contain 38 stories that take you across the sports landscape and introduce you to people whose stories are bigger than just the sport each plays. It's in this writing and this discovery that I believe readers of Best Canadian Sports Writing will find true value in this book. While HBIC focuses on hockey, the hockey stories in Best Canadian Sports Writing take you beyond the rink and into people's lives for a better understanding of each subject's full examination. This happens in every story in Best Canadian Sports Writing, and it's entirely why I believe that Best Canadian Sports Writing deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Best Canadian Sports Writing at all major bookstores and libraries in the New Release section as it was officially released on Wednesday. I recommend this book to all sports fans despite some occasional PG-language!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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