I'm going to make a confession. I have enjoyed many of the same Onion headlines as everyone else over the years, from the exploits of presidents and Congress to the activities of store clerks and sad dads. But their sports coverage, while it's passed around somewhat less often and is a bit less well-known, is generally my favorite stuff they do. That's why I was delighted to see that there was a new Onion Sports book called The Ecstasy Of Defeat, which Onion Sports editor John Krewson and Onion head writer Seth Reiss talk about with Scott Simon on Saturday's Weekend Edition.
What makes the sports writing so special? Well, people are aggravated by politics; they're frustrated and impatient about it. But they're generally not passionate about it, with the exception of actual strong and important opinions, so it's hard to say they love it, exactly. It's easy to love sports, though, and the Onion sports coverage is done by people who transparently love sports. That gives the stories, and their angles, a nerdy obsessive's specificity, which the politics coverage doesn't always have, whatever its other wonderful qualities may be.
Any Onion story invariably has to include a parade of great headlines, so I will dutifully do my share: "Brett Favre Demands Trade To 1996 Packers." "Mickey Mouse Noticeably Avoids A-Rod During Trip To Disney World." "16,000 Diamondbacks Fans Killed On Complimentary Rattlesnake Night." And then there are the ones that have no business being as funny as they are, but nevertheless: "Hurdler Overcomes Many Hurdles To Win Hurdle Race."
There are themes that emerge in the book over and over: the merciless shellacking of Brett Favre (logical, given The Onion's long-ago Wisconsin roots), bafflement over the niceness/smarts of NBA star Tim Duncan (both "Tim Duncan Offers To Drive NBA Players To Polling Place On Election Day" and "Tim Duncan Forwards Story About Particle Accelerator To Spurs Teammates" appear), and a simmering frustration with both the steroid era and the denial-about-steroids era that leads to a less than excited response to Barry Bonds becoming home run king ("Destruction Of National Pastime Given Two-Minute Standing Ovation").
The stories in The Ecstasy Of Defeat balance straight-up comedy with fan-on-fan frustration ("Greatest Super Bowl Ever, Reports Incorrect Man"), and the result will make you want to sit right down and watch a hockey game.
That hockey game, you should know, would be covered in the chapter called "Lesser Sports." You may now begin addressing your angry e-mails. (But not to us.)