The Best of Plimpton

PDF EBook by George Plimpton

EBook Description

A cartoon in The New Yorker shows a guy in an operating room who looks up at the masked surgeon and says, “Wait a minute!How do I know you’re not George Plimpton?”There was very little Plimpton would not do in the name of “participatory journalism. The Best of Plimpton PDF EBook”He would stand in as the amateur Everyman experiencing and describing a wide variety of jobs done by professionals, most famously in the world of sports.Actually, maybe Everyman is not the right word for Plimpton.He was a gawky patrician, educated at Phillips Exeter, Harvard, and King’s College at Cambridge and brought on as the first editor in chief at The Paris Review.In any case, he would somehow get people to play along as he inserted himself into situations he could later write about:pitching to a lineup of major league all- PDFstars, running a series of plays as the Detroit Lions’ last-string quarterback, sparring with Archie Moore, and playing goal for the Boston Bruins in an exhibition game.Much of this collection is based on those experiences as the outsider on the inside.

We develop a truer appreciation for the skills involved when we view them through the Plimpton lens.With his literary background, of course he wrote well, but he also knew not to let flourishes get in the way of the story.He put just enough of his own fears and shortcomings in to let us know the challenges involved.One of my favorite descriptions was when he played goalie.He said they had coached him to keep his eye on the puck at all times.But in a game situation he said that this was like catching occasional glimpses of a mouse scurrying about.The sports stories were fun not only for the laughs we have at his difficulties, but for the personalities surrounding them.He was a wry observer of the boyish pranks oddly coupled with the professionalism.

Plimpton’s experiences went beyond sports.He also wrote about the time he did stand-up comedy, which sounded more perilous than you'd have thought.The most nerve-racking job he ever did, though, was as a percussionist for the New York Philharmonic.In sports, he explained, mistakes are a part of the game.In fact, the whole goal is to force the opponent into miscues and missed opportunities.With music, it’s all about just getting the thing right.His role in this case was an apparently simple one:sounding the gong when given the cue.But Leonard Bernstein was not the sort to laugh off mistakes.Plimpton, who didn’t even read music, came in at the right time (whew!), but with so much force that they joked about it for months.

Character profiles were another major part of the collection.He wrote about poet Marianne Moore (training her artistic eye on baseball), another poet named Muhammad Ali (as pretty a pugilist as you’ll ever find), Hunter S. Thompson (the gonzo man himself), Norman Mailer (who may have been even crazier than Thompson, or at least more challenging to be with), Vince Lombardi (a sonuvabitch, but one you’d sacrifice plenty for), and various other literary figures and sportsmen.A young Caroline Kennedy was also featured, full of “vigah” as she competed in games at the beach.

A few other stories stood out as well.One described the day Plimpton took his young daughter to a classic gridiron battle pitting Harvard against Yale.Her unique take-away points were later put in print in a newspaper she created.Then there was a story about an aspiring young writer who bid more than he could afford at a charity auction for a day with George.Once the man’s wife explained their finances to Plimpton and his wife privately, they wanted to make sure he got something both generous and sui generis out of the deal.They ended up going to Elaine’s where writers and assorted other artsy, intellectual types hung out.He met quite a few famous people including a normally stand-offish Woody Allen.

My favorite piece, though, had to be The Curious Case of Sidd Finch.This was an article he wrote for the April 1, 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated.It profiled an amazing young pitcher trying out for the Mets.He had somehow combined the yogic mind-body training he received in Tibet with mechanics borrowed from cricket to master the art of the pitch.His fastball was clocked at 168 MPH.(For context, Nolan Ryan's record fastest was 108.)The article had photos of the lanky Sidd (short for Siddhartha), quotes from stunned teammates including a very sore-handed catcher, and only the vaguest of hints that it was an April Fools’ Day hoax*.It was brilliant!Plimpton pushed the boundaries of plausibility about as far as they’d extend describing the quirky Sidd.Most readers loved it, though some threatened to cancel their subscriptions not only to SI, but to all magazines the parent company offered.Count me as one who loved it.

*Take the first letter of each word in the article’s subheading:“He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga — and his future in baseball.”
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