Best-selling scribe David Maraniss, who visits town tonight, has written about politicians (most notably President Bill Clinton) and major sports figures, including coaching legend Vince Lombardi and baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. As for his latest, Rome 1960, which chronicles the 1960 summer Olympics, he says, To some degree, this book is kind of a culmination of everything I love, because it does have wonderful characters, I think, and good sports drama, plus history, sociology and culture.
Hes right. In addition to featuring athletic accomplishments by figures such as decathlete Rafer Johnson, speedster Wilma Rudolph and boxer Cassius Clay, whod later rename himself Muhammad Ali, the games bristled with Cold War tension and controversy over the participation of apartheid-era South Africa and the death of a Danish cyclist laid the groundwork for future doping scandals. Some scribes might have shied away from trying to tie so many disparate threads together, but not Maraniss. This was a more complicated story to put together, he concedes, and that was a challenge I wanted. He pulls it off masterfully, too.