Sunday, August 02, 2009

Books: Andy Roddick Beat Me with a Frying Pan

There are many sports books that aspire to great heights. Authors like Michael Lewis give detailed analytic accounts of how sports and economics intersect. A few writers try to bring the sort of dramatic texture to an athletic contest as other writers would to a battlefield (just look at Marshall Jon Fisher's "A Terrible Splendor" to see how much can ride on the outcome of one tennis match). "Andy Roddick Beat Me with a Frying Pan" by Todd Gallagher takes a more whimsical approach.

It's a not-very-scientific look into the kind of strange hypotheticals that every sports fan dreams up: could I beat an Olympic swimmer if he was limited to using the doggy paddle? Can an NBA player really touch the top of the backboard? Would a pro sumo wrestler make a good NFL lineman?

Some of the tests are ridiculous (the morbidly obese NHL goalie challenge), some are thought-provoking (the discrimination against baseball players with dwarfism), but the titular challenge is the most interesting, since it uses the off-kilter premise as a starting point to explore the sport of tennis. You learn a lot about modern tennis racquets, modern tennis players, and, of course, #1 American player Andy Roddick.


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