Encyclopedia Of Sports Films Review

Author: K Edgington & Thomas L Erskine with James M Welsh

It takes a while to compile any genre encyclopedia, so that’s probably why this book has three names on it to help edit together a volume which stretches over 500 pages from Scarecrow Press.

This book cruises through 100 years of just about any sport you can think of that’s been committed to film. Whether it involves travelling at fast speeds in motorised or pedal-powered vehicles to opponent match encounters, is team or mano-a-mano based or rain, shine, snow, sky and water-based, all sports are covered.

The difficulty with an issue like this is how to best present the titles. Do you go chronologically, or by sport even? Instead the decision was taken to list them alphabetically which in reference makes titles easy to find. But if you’re wanting to look for films by sport you’re interested in then discovering a little more about them will be harder to do. The first appendix however does list the films by sport while also giving the year they were released. It might have been an added bonus to provide the page number for each selection, but when the book is in alphabetical order it doesn’t take long to flick and find. A sigh of relief there.

The majority of films it features are on the likes of auto-racing, baseball, basketball, boxing, football (American) and soccer. Not every listed entry gets its due though – where some entries for bigger and better known films get pages of content, others get a measly paragraph (By The Sword – a fencing drama with Eric Roberts and F Murray Abraham gets a pathetic four lines! And bear in mind this section is divided into two columns, so it’s actually four half lines!). It’s nice the films are recognised, but it seems only recognition of existence. Perhaps a future volume can expand these entries.

But this aside, there’s no faulting the entries that really go for it. You get a full description of the plot and a short analysis afterwards.

There are several other appendix sections that offer lists of the titles in chronological order as well as a peek at films made for TV or DTV, movies inspired by true events and documentaries. Thankfully many of these are categorised by the sport they represent which makes it easier to find something you’re actually looking for.

This then is mainly best used as a reference guide, with part analysis. It’s a good first effort but requires more in depth knowledge for next time round.

Steven Hurst

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