How would you write your sports memoir? Maybe you’d recall a memorable trip to the stadium when you were young, or even getting an autograph from one of your favorite players. Was there a notable victory – or defeat – that marked your days as a player? Or are the events that stand out from your athletic career characterized more by humor than accomplishment? Did you spend Saturday afternoons in front of the TV with your dad, or maybe your grandmother? Perhaps you were in the stands for an event in the sporting annals. Or has your life as a fan and athlete been one of more losses than wins, steady persistence rather than moments of glory?
In his sports memoir, David Zang writes of the experiences of an ordinary, sports-loving American male. He collected baseball cards and read boys’ books about star athletes who always win in the end. He competed in Little League and high school wrestling. He cheered for losing teams and played for losing teams. Now a historian and professor of sports studies, Dave writes about hiws life as fan and player in I Wore Babe Ruth’s Hat: Field Notes from a Life in Sports (University of Illinois Press, 2015). As the title suggests, Dave has had some extraordinary moments, both comic and poignant. But the heart of the book is not the stories he tells, but rather the lessons those stories offer. Both funny and wise, Dave’s memoir reveals how our sporting experiences – even when they’re had in the cheap seats or on the bench – shape who we are.