Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Winners and Losers (2012)

By Bob Latham

Ever heard of Sports Travel magazine? Me neither.

It's easy to guess that it is devoted to the business of sports tourism. Sports fans all know people who travel to follow a particular team or event; fan doesn't come from the word fanatic for nothing. A magazine devoted to those people certainly doesn't turn up at the local supermarket, but it certainly fills a small niche.

Bob Latham is a columnist for Sports Travel. After reading his collection of columns called "Winners & Losers," it's easy to tell how he got the job. He's not bad at it either.

Latham is a lawyer by trade, so he does have some disposable income for such activities as going to sporting events. He's also been on the board for the United States Olympic Committee and the International Rugby Board. That last part probably puts him in the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans when it comes to knowledge about rugby. No one he was the chairman of USA Rugby.

Latham has been around a bit, obviously, and the column has given him a good opportunity to write about some of those experiences.

The chapters are arranged not by date, but by a broad subject in a particular chapter - "Places I Remember," "Learning from the Game," "Happy to be a Fan," etc. These don't come with a particular point of view or edge in almost all cases. Latham is definitely out of the old school, and can get goose bumps or tears out of watching a particular event.

A book such as this usually comes down to the question, "Does this work?" The answer might depend on the reader.Personally, I like my sports books to be a little more pointed than this one. As essay about Mark Sanchez of the Jets eating a hot dog during a game isn't designed to be anything but fun, but it's obvious rather light in weight. That's multiplied by the fact that Latham is not writing on a tight deadline, so he sticks to subjects that are less dated and read like he picked up the ball on an idle thought and ran with it for two and a half pages.

Latham obviously is a bright guy, and there's a place for something like this. In fact, I would guess that the audience for Sports Travel is a good fit for it. The readers there probably wonder "what's it like there?" when seeing a sporting event, and Latham is in a position to tell them. If they like the column, they'll certainly like the book.

By the way, this is a nice job of publishing by Greenleaf Book Group Press. It's expensive paper with color pictures. The book checks in at 200 pages, with plenty of white space, so it's a relatively quick read.

"Winners & Losers" is hardly life-changing and not filled with deep thoughts, but the purists out there may find it worth the comparatively short time it takes to read it. It's a pleasant effort from someone who seems like he'd be good company in the next seat at a sporting event.

Three stars

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