PREFERRED LIES AND OTHER TALES: Skimming the Cream of a Life in Sports

Whitaker, Jack

Published by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 10: 0684842726 / ISBN 13: 9780684842721
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Synopsis: "No sportscaster has ever used the English language better than Jack Whitaker." -- Chris Berman For nearly fifty years, Jack Whitaker has brought style, grace, and wit to the American sporting scene through his reporting, his commentaries, and his essays. He's a living testament to the days when sports and television were glamorous, not routine; when world travel was adventure, not just transportation; when deluxe hotels and good scotch were as much a part of a TV journalist's arsenal as a blow-dryer and a perma-tan. There isn't a major sporting event in the world that he hasn't seen firsthand and helped put before the American people: Major League Baseball, the first Super Bowl, all of golf's majors, the Kentucky Derby, tennis's U.S. Open, the Olympics, the Indianapolis 500, Ali-Norton at Yankee Stadium... It's been a helluva life and a helluva ride -- one as exhilarating as the Cresta itself, that run down the St. Moritz bobsled course where Whitaker joined Errol Flynn, Paul Gallico, and the Duke of Westphalia in having taken the ultimate sleigh ride and living to tell about it. In Preferred Lies and Other Tales, he shares his experiences and his thoughts in his trademark elegant, entertaining, and graceful style. The places he's been and the events he's been a part of! Whitaker was on hand for much of the rise of pro football to its preeminent position in the 1960s, calling the first Super Bowl before it bore that hype-filled moniker; he was standing behind the 18th green at Pebble Beach with Jack Nicklaus when Tom Watson chipped in on 17 to steal the U.S. Open; he rode in the pace car at the Indy 500 the year a starting-line crash wiped out a third of the field; he covered Secretariat's Belmont, when the big red stallion smashed all records with a 32-length victory, providing compensation to Whitaker for the embarrassing Kentucky Derby three years earlier when he arrived in the winner's circle to discover that none of the people involved with upset winner Canonero II spoke a word of English; and in the 1960s and '70s he was a part of the scene at P J. Clarke's, the legendary New York watering hole where Reggie Jackson celebrated his three-homer World Series game by drinking with Governor Hugh Carey, and a maître d' might greet the arrival of a Supreme Court justice seeking a table by calling out, "It'll be ten minutes, Arthur." From the paddock to Pebble Beach, from the backstretch at Churchill Downs to the fairways of St. Andrews, with stops all around the world -- Paris, Le Mans, Havana, Australia, Cold War-era Moscow, and the splendor of Augusta National -- Whitaker has had the opportunity, in the unforgettable words of Henry Longhurst, to "skim the cream" of the sports world's bounty. Like the best of Red Smith, Preferred Lies and Other Tales is a delightful reflection on the stories, events, and people that made us all fall in love with sports in the first place.

Review: In a TV universe crammed with cliché, sportscaster Jack Whitaker has managed to survive for half a century, his dignity intact, his respect for the word unquestioned. Whether perched in the press box or standing on the sidelines of our various fields of play, he's imparted a certain elegance, poetry, and wit from his microphone to our living rooms. Not surprisingly, his memoirs--whether he's in Normandy after D-day or Louisville on Derby day--are as limber and engaging as his commentaries.

A world-class raconteur, Whitaker writes affectionately of the early days of sports television, but he's no mere booster. If American television and sports seemed to grow up hand in hand, Whitaker won't hold his tongue on ways in which they have not matured well together. Nor is he about to make any effort to control his affection for golf and horse racing, the two sports that have particularly captured his heart, and why should he? His writing on these pursuits is superb. And while his chapter on the favorite courses he's played should turn golfers green with envy, it doesn't; his reportage is too generous for that.

Whitaker's been a privileged observer--and sharer. In his years at CBS and ABC, he has traveled the world, covered the mighty, been thrilled by victory, and agonized over defeat. His memoirs, to be sure, are a fan's notes, but they are laced with perspective and conclude with advice: "Sports cannot end wars, erase racism, or end poverty, but properly guided they can be a more positive force in these areas than they are now. To help with that guidance seems a worthwhile challenge for a new generation of sportscasters and sportswriters. All they must remember is that it's an adventure, not brain surgery for children." Among today's self-enthralled talking heads, that's become harder than it seems. --Jeff Silverman

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Title: PREFERRED LIES AND OTHER TALES: Skimming the...
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine

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