For years, many of Sports Illustrated's 21 million readers turned first to the magazine's last page, because that's where they find SI's most popular feature: the Life of Reilly column, written by best-selling author Rick Reilly.
A 22-year veteran of Sports Illustrated and a 10-time National Sportswriter of the Year, Reilly took over SI's back page in 1998, and his column immediately attracted a devoted following, including the legions of fans who helped make his first collection, The Life of Reilly, a New York Times best seller in 2000.
Now comes Hate Mail from Cheerleaders, 100 of Reilly's favorites, along with a new foreword and column postscripts by the author. Alternately sidesplitting and heartwarming but always opinionated and provocative, these pieces are the best work by the best columnist in the business.
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Rick Reilly has given his Sports Illustrated readers virtual access to sports' greatest stars for 22 years. In these 100 "Life of Reilly" columns culled from the past seven years, readers hang with golf's most anonymous legend, Annika Sorenstam (a security guard at one promo event asks to see her visitor's pass). We, along with the writer's 14-year-old son, attend an SI swimsuit-issue photo shoot ("Dad, we gotta be at the sunrise shoot. . . . they need us"). And we go through Derek Jeter's daily mountain of fan mail. A lot of Reilly's famed one-liners seem more shtick than funny. Or they're regrettable, as in his remark about skydiving with a partner: "I don't know how it is in our nation's incarceration facilities, but it's the most fun I've ever had with a man clamped on my back." Reilly, though, shines when he writes about nonprofessionals, like the dad who'd pushed his wheelchair-bound son through 212 triathlons, or the Katrina-decimated high-school team that won Louisiana's hoops finals, or the cancer-stricken boy who struck out to end his team's little-league championship hopes. And in this collection, Reilly elegantly, if unknowingly, delivers sports' essential paradox: the game has meaning, but, whether it's baseball or golf or basketball or football, it's just a game. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Starred Review. Sports fans and regular readers of Sports Illustrated will already know to snap up this book when they see it's a collection of pieces by award-winning SI columnist Rick Reilly. Others should follow their lead, as this superb, wide-ranging collection isn't so much about sports as about "people who happen to be in sports." Some columns are tearjerkers, such as the story of a blind man who finally gets to "see" a match played by his beloved New York Islanders, but most are laugh-out-loud funny, like the one detailing the season Reilly coached his daughter's middle school basketball team ("I learned something about seventh-grade girls: They're usually in the bathroom"). A few are scathing, as in his acid-laced response to Barry Bonds denying he used steroids ("Bonds's records should stay in the books. With a little syringe next to every one"). And though it may not be surprising how many columns aim for inspiring-like the story of spirited Ben Comen, a high school cross-country runner with cerebral palsy-it's a shock how many hit the mark. Reilly's columns are short but pack a punch; a collection best savored, readers should resist as best they can the urge to consume this book in a single sitting.
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