Inside the Ropes: Sportswriters Get Their Game On

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Most of us will never know what it's like to parachute out of a Cessna, tend goal for the Boston Bruins, burn rubber on a NASCAR track, scale Everest, or quarterback the Detroit Lions. So it's our good fortune when dauntless literary journalists actually play the sports they cover-returning with firsthand tales from inside the ropes. Here, in the tradition popularized by George Plimpton, is participatory sportswriting at its finest and most far-out. Editor Zachary Michael Jack fields a dream team of today's best sports journalists, hotshots, and rising stars in search of the game behind the game. More than three dozen decorated writers take the field. Heirs apparent such as Tom Verducci, Jack McCallum, Melissa King, and Sam Walker join veterans Paul Gallico, George Plimpton, Davis Miller, Donald Katz, Tim Cahill, Grace Butcher, and James McManus in swinging for the journalistic fence. Together these thrill-seeking men and women capture the mojo of returning John McEnroe's serve, taking a punch from Ali, paddling Jack London's Alaskan river route, coaching the Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash, umping Manny Ramirez. Forty eye-popping accounts offer the straight scoop as never before-not just in the field but on it.