I’ve always been a firm believer in the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Pictures give life to words. They have the power to brighten or darken any individual. They also have the power to tell stories. More often than not, the most captivating pieces of sports journalism are photo journalism pieces. Pictures in sports bring the events to life and allow the reader to place themselves within the situation and feel the atmosphere, depending on how powerful the picture. Imagine if you could go back in time to the 1900’s and re-live all of the major sports events in American history. What if you could pick your favorite sporting event from the twentieth century and be there within seconds? What if you could reminisce on the glory days of American sports from any year? With Time-Life’s A Century of Sports, you can.
This is a book with over 100 pages of pure sports gold. A Century of Sports is comprised of large scale photographs from 1900-2000 and contains pictures from various sports and sporting events around the world. The book contains many memorable events in sports history. Some events include the 1932 Olympics in Berlin Germany, where Jesse Owens completed a legendary defeat and became the first Black American to win gold, to the 1999 NBA finals and the beginning of the legacy of Tim Duncan, now arguably one of the greatest basketball players of all time. A Century of Sports does not have a plot per se, but one would argue that the story line of the book is just as captivating. The book features hundreds of athletes throughout the twentieth century, revealing the importance of sports not only in American culture, but world culture as well. The book takes the reader on a journey through time with tons of beautiful pictures to help keep the reader in the moment, and feeling like they were at the event at the time it happened. One of the most incredible pieces of information about the book is that none of the pictures are edited. Granted, they are sized to fit the pages of the book, but the validity and integrity of the pictures and the events they have captured remains intact. In class, we learned about the importance of integrity within journalistic works. In pictures especially, keeping things genuine is vital. The book contains pictures the size of the pages, which are larger than normal pieces of printer paper. This larger size allows for more detail to be shown and further engages the reader within the book.
Towards the end is, in my opinion, the most intense and incredible picture/story in the entire book. In 1996, Pete Sampras, one of the greatest American tennis players in history, was facing off against Àlex Corretja in the quarterfinals of the US Open. In a typical US Open match, the winner must win 5 out of the 7 sets to win the match. Sampras and Corretja were going back and forth the entire match, and both players were losing strength and energy as they approached their sixth hour of playing in the sun. Faced with a tie breaker, Sampras vomited on the court from dehydration. A Century of Sports included a full size image of Sampras throwing up his pre-match meal all over the cement. The story attached to the picture explains that Sampras overcame the tie breaker and defeated Corretja 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 5-7 6-4 7-6 (9-7). While Time-Life could have chosen another picture from this match or even edited the initial picture, they chose to stick with the original picture, maintaining the intensity captured from the image. It is pictures like this that define who we are as humans: tough, determined creatures who will do whatever it takes to win. Sports brings out the best in us humans; we are driven by success and representation of certain groups such as our family and our country. This picture wonderfully illustrates the passion and drive of athletes in America, and around the world. Moreover, the integrity of the picture was kept, and as a result, the picture is that much more powerful and emotional.
I first picked up A Century of Sports when I was in elementary school. It had just come out and my teacher had placed it deep in her book shelves in the corner of the room. Fortunately, it was the first book I reached for because of its sheer size and weight. It was the biggest book in the room, and at the time, the biggest book I had ever seen. I quickly flipped through the pages, marveling at the giant pictures and visceral emotions on the faces of the athletes. I wanted to feel the emotions these athletes had felt. That book singlehandedly drove me to become a successful athlete, and someday I hope to achieve that goal. Reading the book 12 years later, I am still in awe of the words and pictures displayed in this massive book. If you’re ever in the mood to feel the roar of thousands cheering your name or feel the pain of losing a championship, then I recommend reading this book.