Picks and Pans Review: Game Day Usa

updated 09/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

produced by Rich Clarkson

There are some vivid, evocative photographs of the subculture of college football in this volume. Be advised, however, that it is a full-fledged. NCAA-endorsed glorification, such a puff piece that if you stuck a pin in the book, it would hiss.

The pictures, all taken during the 1989 season by such photojournalists as Bill Eppridge, Arthur Grace, Douglas Kirkland, Brian Lanker, John Loengard and George Olson, contain only a few game-action shots. There are lots of sideline views, locker-room pictures, fan portraits, tailgating parties, picturesque stadium panoramas, cheerleaders and bands.

Not one photograph shows a drop of blood or a broken bone or smashed knee, a coach throwing a tantrum, a recruiter hustling a high school prospect, an All-America linebacker taking a patsy course, a ticket scalper or any of the other less savory phenomena that are as much a part of the real world of college football as the noble pageant shown by Clarkson, former National Geographic director of photography, who organized the project. This triumph of public relations over journalism might not seem so irksome if the book's four guest essays had shown some perspective or insight.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writer Richard Hoffer forces his contribution a bit. but at least he has an idea: suggesting that mid-western teams often lose on the West Coast because the life-style is so much more freewheeling and the western teams pass so much more. "In the West, hard work was not only not enough, it may have been irrelevant. Variety of experience was the point."

The other writers seem lost in some teenage football-novel fantasy. Novelist-editor Willie Morris writes about a crippling injury to University of Mississippi defensive back Chucky Mullins. but in win-one-for-the-Gipper tones. Morris even notes, with great solemnity, that after Mullins's injury, the team "dedicated the rest of the season to him." as if this was a hugely magnanimous gesture (or one of real comfort) to a young man who was rendered a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.

Journalist turned sports dilettante David Halberstam rambles on in patronizing tones, preening about how "hip" the Ivy League is. "The game matters, the sport matters, but above all the celebration matters." writes Halberstam. "It is an event and an occasion of bonding. If we are not that good at this, the unwritten code seems to say, then it is only because we are so much better at things that truly matter."

Frank Conroy, director of the respected Iowa Writers" Workshop, rhapsodizes about Midwest sports fans in general and University of Iowa fans in particular, concluding. "The spirit of the people lifts every action, and ever) action lifts the people."

This book is basically a high-class version of one of those stadium programs. There are nice pictures that are fun to browse through while waiting for the kick-off. But now, let's get on with the season. (Eastman Kodak/Thomasson-Grant. $39.95)

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