Everything They Had

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

David Halberstam—who died in a tragic car accident in April 2007—is probably best known for his stellar reportage of the Vietnam War. Slightly less well known, but no less captivating, is the impressive collection of sports writing he amassed over the course of six decades. Halberstam covered everything from fishing to baseball, and always treated sports with the same gravity as other, arguably more serious subjects.The posthumous volume Everything They Had collects the best of this body of work.

The relative importance of sports to “real life” issues is thoughtfully explored in the essay “Sports as a Window of Social Change,” written for The Sporting News in 1994. And while he was interested in all competitions big and small, baseball was his passion. In a 1986 piece called “The Fan Divided,” Halberstam discusses the weird gray area he occupied, as a fan, between his devotion to the Yankees of his youth and the Red Sox of his adulthood. He may have been the only person in the country who loved both equally.

His basketball commentary was no less seminal than his dispatches on America’s pastime. For an aging white guy who went to Harvard, Halberstam demonstrated a remarkably open mind (in 2001 he wrote a piece called “In Admiration of Iverson” for ESPN.com, included here), and he produced salient commentary that put the Michael Jordan revolution in its proper historical context.

For better or worse, Halberstam was sort of the anti-Mailer: He never made the pieces he wrote more about himself than the subject he was covering. For sports lovers and haters alike, though, Everything They Had is an important and engrossing slice of Americana from one of our best and brightest.

By David Halberstam. Hyperion, $25.