As someone who has played baseball, golf and tennis for decades, I have a soft spot for sports books. And as a longtime editor, I have little tolerance for hyperbole.
So I was torn while reading The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever. It recounts a 1956 golf match between young amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward and pro legends Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan - set up by two millionaires betting on the outcome. Author Mark Frost nicely weaves together details of the 18-hole contest, player profiles and golf history.
But the subtitle irked me. I recognize that certain moments - D-Day, 9/11, Waterloo - changed or accelerated historic trends, at least for a time. But too many books are hyped as "THE DAY/WEEK/MONTH THAT (insert topic here) CHANGED FOREVER." That line has been used to promote books on topics ranging from battles to plagues to the 1960 Olympics to Galileo's telescope.
Maybe authors need an unusual angle for a pitch to publishers. Maybe the marketing departments are playing a game of one-upmanship. Or maybe it's just a way to start an argument, like a guy in a bar saying Cal Ripken shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame.
As for The Match, a strong argument can be made that nothing changed on that day. The intriguing competition occurred as market forces were boosting the popularity of pro golf, and gentleman amateurs were vanishing. But the match decided nothing, and the hype sapped some enjoyment from an interesting book.
Here's what Read Street readers said:
* "The hype in relation to books started a long time ago. I'm Catholic and love the Bible, but is it 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'? No way! Hey, in my book, it can't compete with Gone with the Wind." - Gail
* "On a whim, I did a Google search for 'books changed the world.' The list of hits might fill a newspaper. Some of the book titles were: On the Origin of Species: the Book that Changed the World ... The Fish That Changed the World ... Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World ... Banana: the Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World.". - Patrick