The sports world has changed a lot since journalist George Plimpton first suited up with the Detroit Lions as an amateur, to describe the experience of a season in professional football. That kind of intimacy between players and fans has gotten a little lost amid increasing layers of publicity and controlled access in the sports world. That’s exactly why Little, Brown editor John Parsley wanted to spearhead a reissue of Plimpton’s seven sports books, for which EW is excited to premiere the trailer above.
“In an age of 24/7 media coverage, where you can watch your favorite team from every angle, George is still the best at delivering the intimacy of sport,” Parsley says. “The fresh experience of being able to ‘lace up’ is what he delivers.”
Each of the seven Plimpton sports reissues – Paper Lion, Out of My League, Shadow Box, Open Net, One of the Record, Mad Ducks and Bears, and The Bogey Man – are unified in design and presentation, as “The Books That Made a Legend.” Each of the books comes with a starry guest intro from the likes of Bob Costas and Denis Leary. Even more legendary sports commentators appear in the trailer above, from Gay Talese to Ken Burns. According to Parsley, Plimpton’s contemporaries barely needed convincing.
“What was astonishing was the force with which they said yes,” Parsley says. “These are people who whether or not they knew him, the work helped them become who they are. I was trying to find kindred spirits as much as someone who could write something really great. From start to finish, it’s been a pleasure to see how people believe these reissues should exist.”
For Parsley, the reissue process began with a visit to Plimpton’s archive – not collected in a library as one might expect, but a spacious storage facility, filled with hundreds of reporter’s notebooks and the old jerseys and gear Plimpton once used in his stories. Parsley says the intimacy of this experience carries through into the reissues themselves.
“It was a spine-tingling moment,” Parsley says. “Diving back into the books, I feel like the reader has the kind of experience I had. It’s a very intimate experience. You’re there with someone who’s trying something very hard. As much as it’s about craft, it’s about being a fan – the joy and abandon you feel for your favorite teams and players.”