From the Preface:
“I wrote these stories between 1992 and 2018. They cover a dozen different sports for a dozen different media outlets, from the Ann Arbor News to National Public Radio, and they stretch from a couple pages to a dozen. But they have one thing in common: they all meant a lot to me when I wrote them, and they still do today.”
The Best of Bacon presents both new and familiar stories by best-selling author John U. Bacon, all centered on sports in his home state of Michigan. Best known for his acclaimed books on college football, Bacon’s writing has been praised for going beyond traditional Xs and Os sports reporting. True to that reputation, this collection showcases personal, behind-the-scenes stories of players, coaches, and even fans. Many of these stories are connected to specific moments in time—a great season, the passing of a legendary broadcaster, or a star player’s daily grind before a big game—and will immediately transport readers to some of the highs (and lows) of their own sports memories. More often, Bacon’s writing explores timeless themes—why we love sports, how we pass that passion down to the next generation, and how it will be threatened or preserved in the future.
Michigan is one of the nation’s best sports states, home to countless amateur squads, two Big Ten schools, and professional teams in all four major sports whose histories reach back to the start of their leagues—something only New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois can also claim. This book covers the spectrum, from insider profiles of big names like Magic Johnson, Bo Schembechler, and Joe Louis, to cautionary tales of the debilitating greed threatening our favorite pastimes, to uplifting stories of the unsung heroes whose passion drives them to coach Little League baseball teams or run summer camps for peanuts. These stories speak to the value of sports, but also to our values. Whether a Spartan or a Wolverine, a long-suffering Lions’ backer or a diehard Wing-Nut, a lifetime sports fan or just someone who loves a good story, there is something here for everyone.
“While every vignette here takes you to a different place and time, it all resonates in a familiar way: John U. Bacon reports and writes with heart. He is a comfortable narrator even on the challenging subjects, and he offers a unique perspective on sports and all different sides of life. John has always brought the ‘lasting lessons’ on Michigan athletics, but the best lessons are the ones he finds within.”
—Eric Adelson, Yahoo! Sports, writer, awarded nation's top sports feature, 2013
“People who think they don't like sports probably haven't read John U. Bacon. That was me before I started talking with John on my show. He doesn’t write about statistics, wins, and losses. He writes about people digging down deep, challenging themselves to do better, try harder, encourage a teammate, weather a tough loss, get back up, do it again, and then—hopefully—celebrate a success. This collection will leave you looking at sports—and the people who play and coach them—with new eyes.”
—Cynthia Canty, host of “Stateside,” Michigan Radio
“John U. Bacon tells stories the same way a coach carries out a brilliant game plan. With passion and wisdom, hilarity and poignancy, he guides you to every corner of Michigan, a place where he has an unparalleled home court advantage. Whether he is writing about Bo Schembechler or Magic Johnson, Jim Abbott or Gordie Howe, his father or his son, frozen pond or broiling gym, a small-town high school hero or the forces of greed embezzling the essence of college football and basketball, Bacon examines our tumultuous love affair with sports in order to examine us. Open this collection at any juncture and find yourself transported to Bacon’s field of play.”
—Linda Robertson, award-winning sports columnist, Miami Herald