The Ghosts of Sports Books Past

The last few days I’ve been scouring Amazon for old books published by The Sporting News to round out my collection. So far, I’ve found eight books, all of which have been purchased, and I’m excited to get them. This search, however, has caused me to hearken back to the heyday of publications like TSN, before the Internet Age, when bookstores and newsstands meant something.

In a nutshell, I really miss the “old school”, dead tree sports books of my youth.

I’ve always been a sports nut, with baseball and football being my two favorites. It was a great thrill as a kid, especially during Spring Training, to go to the local bookstore and pick up the new edition of TSN and Street and Smith’s yearbooks. The same thrill ride applied as time crept closer to Fall, ever nearer to the kickoff of the new NFL season. Regardless of the sport -- I even picked up a few basketball and hockey books -- I poured over those things day and night. I loved reading over the recap of the previous season, the team/player statistics, and the team-by-team previews for the coming year. As I got into my teen years, there were other books, too: bigger, nicer, coffee table-type ones. TSN would send me a catalog via snail mail of all the available books. I bought several of them, all of which I still have today. They’re wonderful reference material, and some of my most prized possessions.

I really miss the days when TSN and S&S were kings of the sports information landscape. I miss their yearbooks, guides, and greatest-ever compilations. In many ways, these books were the gold standard for sports information, long before sites like Baseball-Reference and the like came into existence. Online retailers such as Amazon have obviated the need for bookstores, taking away the charm of buying these annual gems. As much as I love the technological age I live in, there are times I wish the Barnes & Nobles and TSN’s of the world still existed. I know they still do to a certain extent, but it isn’t the same. The sports magazines you see on newsstands now feel like shadows of their former selfs1; to me, they don’t carry the nostalgic value or journalistic quality that the old guard did.

The irony of this, though, is that companies like Amazon make it possible for people like me to track down all these ancient relics, and to relive some of that joy we felt growing up. Price-wise, many (if not all) of these out-of-print titles are substantially cheaper now than when they were first available. Case in point: one of the books I ordered last night cost me $1.50, whereas when it originally went on sale, it retailed for $29.95. So, for as much as I wax nostalgic for the good ol’ days, it turns out Amazon hasn’t completely destroyed access to the joys of my childhood. As the saying goes, every dark cloud has its silver lining.

For that, my memories and my bookshelf are eternally grateful.

  1. Even TSN is a shell of its former, glorious self. They’re still around, but the yearbooks and such died long ago. In fact, Street and Smith’s, once their chief rival, was bought by the company awhile back. Needless to say, the S&S magazines haven’t been around for a long time.  ↩