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Fri Apr 29, 2016, 12:30 PM

How George Plimpton’s Sports Books Presaged the First-Person Media Age

The late author’s seven books of participatory journalism, recently reissued, put the writer in the middle of the frame, auguring much to come.
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2016/04/george-plimpton-sports-books

"...

Everyone knew Muhammad Ali’s name, especially after the Terrell fight. And everyone seemed to know Plimpton’s name, whether they read his books or not. Plimpton was an omnipresence for much of American cultural life—both high and low—in the last third of the 20th century. He appeared in commercials for Oldsmobile and Intellivision, and appeared in the movies The Bonfire of the Vanities and Good Will Hunting and on TV’s Married with Children. He was present when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, helping to tackle Sirhan Sirhan. He turned up as a character on The Simpsons. In a New Yorker cartoon from 1967, a man about to undergo surgery looks up at the doctor wearing a mask and asks, “Wait a minute! How do I know you’re not George Plimpton?”

That Zelig-like identity rested largely on a series of seven books in which the New York–born, Harvard-educated Plimpton threw himself both physically and intellectually into the professional sporting life. Decades before the onset of reality TV and the Twittersphere, Plimpton starred in his own Everyman story. And this year Little, Brown is reissuing all seven stories on the 50th anniversary of the most famous of the series, Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback.

...

Paper Lion, like the other sports books, came out of articles he wrote for Sports Illustrated, and here Plimpton, after approaching several football teams, convinces the Detroit Lions to take him on. He describes showing up at the private-school campus where the Lions are training. The 36-year-old writer pulls into the driveway of a boys’ boarding school called Cranbrook in a rented convertible. At the registration desk he is mistaken for a member of the other group dorming there—Episcopalian bishops, in town for a convention.

...

“Plimpton wrote Paper Lion,” Nicholas Dawidoff says in the book’s introduction, “in what was still a Walter Mitty era of armchair fandom when from the bleachers all reveries were plausible.” The private-school setting of Paper Lion, according to Dawidoff, highlighted “that central juxtaposition of an amateur among professionals, elitist intellectual amid hard-hat muscle.”

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Great stuff. Plimpton was fantastic.

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Reply How George Plimpton’s Sports Books Presaged the First-Person Media Age (Original post)
HuckleB Apr 2016 OP
TeamPooka Apr 2016 #1
HuckleB Apr 2016 #2
louis-t Apr 2016 #3
Blue_Tires Apr 2016 #4

Response to HuckleB (Original post)

Fri Apr 29, 2016, 12:38 PM

1. Groundbreaking works by a great writer.

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Response to TeamPooka (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 29, 2016, 01:09 PM

2. Indeed! -eom-

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Response to HuckleB (Original post)

Fri Apr 29, 2016, 01:34 PM

3. I remember being a kid and forgetting Alan Alda

was just an actor playing Plimpton. I was shocked to see a picture of Plimpton himself. One of the best scenes in the movie was Alda running a play, running back and forth in the end zone and finally smacking into the goal post and knocking himself out.

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Response to HuckleB (Original post)

Fri Apr 29, 2016, 02:09 PM

4. k+r

I've been wondering why his works have fallen by the wayside in the modern era... Plimpton was light-years ahead of his time, and you'd have thought a generation raised on "reality" television would be all over this...

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