My Turf: Horses, Boxers, Blood Money, and the Sporting Life

My Turf: Horses, Boxers, Blood Money, and the Sporting Life



The Pequod Review:

William Nack's My Turf is a collection of twenty-six sports-related essays, most of them previously published in Sports Illustrated between 1983 and 2002. Nack's most passionate pieces are generally related to horse racing ("Pure Heart" is probably the best) but his essays on other sports (e.g., boxing, baseball, college basketball, etc.) are excellent too. Here is the beginning of his 1986 profile of Keith Hernandez:

There is only one place where Keith Hernandez feels truly safe, only one place on God's green earth where he is at home. To be Keith Hernandez—arguably the finest fielding first baseman of all time, a lifetime .301 hitter, the indisputable leader of the New York Mets—requires just such a place, complete with a moat, wherein he can make a separate peace.

Oh, to be sure, he has that two-bedroom condo in that high rise in Manhattan, where he lives alone with his paintings and his books on the Civil War and his racks of wine and his new suits of clothes. Way up there, he can stand on the balcony on a summer night and look up at the lights on the Chrysler Building and down at the masses flowing along Second Avenue and say, as he did recently, "They can't get at me here."

But other things can, and they do. There is the telephone ringing, often incessantly. There are those long, empty spaces in his life in which self-doubt mounts and rides him like a witch. There are the periods of loneliness between girlfriends, which compel him to call his older brother, his closest friend, in a state of panic and say, "God, Gary, I don't like being by myself! There are 10 million people in New York and it's so lonely. I don't think I'll ever meet anybody again."

There is only one place of retreat away from all that turmoil, and that's where the earth is really green and the bases are white, where those wonderfully straight chalk lines embrace him in the orderly universe of baseball. Nothing intrudes upon him there. 

These essays are masterpieces of sports writing, ones that goes far beyond the typical cliches of the genre to explore the personalities and motivations of those involved in the games. Highly recommended.