Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lost Classic: George Plimpton's 'Open Net' back in print

It always seemed like people weren't aware the late George Plimpton penned a hockey book after attending Boston Bruins training camp as a goaltender and playing in an exhibition game.

Well, good news: Open Net will be back in print in September, along with the late author's four other participatory sports tomes, with identical cover designs (The Bogey Man, Paper Lion, Out Of My League and Shadow Box). Come on, you owe to yourself to read a book that has this description of playing goal:
"With the puck at the other end, it was not unlike (it occurred to me) standing at the edge of a mill pond, looking out across a quiet expanse at some vague activity at the opposite end almost too far to be discernible - could they be bass fishing out there? - but then suddenly the distant, aimless, waterbug scurrying becomes an oncoming surge of movement as everything - players, sticks, the puck - starts coming on a direct line, almost as if a tsunami, that awesome tidal wave of the South Pacific, had suddenly materialized at the far end of the mill pond and was beginning to sweep down toward one."
Presumably, the reason Open Net hasn't endured in memory the same way Plimpton's other books has to do with the fact it was essentially a late-'70s Sports Illustrated magazine article which he fleshed out to book length in 1985. It probably wouldn't have anything to do with hockey fans having very little appetite for an outsider's irreverent take on their sport.

However, the Bruins players accepted Plimpton as one of their own, for the most part. Some of them are still familiar names, since Don Cherry has name-dropping with Stan Jonathan and Wayne Cashman for the past 30 years.

Plimpton's portrayal of Cherry was also a far cry from Grapes' TV persona. Cherry came off as much less of a blowhard, with far less singularity to his personality than his critics and his defenders alike see in him three decades later. It's worth a read, for sure.

Here's what The New York Times had to say when Plimpton's book was published.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip...not. "Paper Lion" is the most overrated sports book EVER. It's in the top ten of SI's top 100 sports books of all time. If don't read one book this year, make it "Paper Lion." Having said that, I think I'll take a pass on anything that guy wrote.

sager said...

Well-said. I was talking about Plimpton's underrated hockey book, not the overrated football book, heh-heh.

I never read Paper Lion. I did read the sequel, Mad Ducks and Bears, and it was OK, although it's hard not to have a funny book when Alex Karras ("Mongo just pawn in game of life!") is the subject.