Thursday, July 19, 2007

The League That Put the "Funk" in "Defunct"

The best sports book I have ever read is Terry Pluto's Loose Balls, an oral history of the ABA, which features some of the grooviest dudes of the late 1960s and 1970s playing basketball in front of some of the smallest crowds in major sports history. Talk-show grotesque Morton Downey Jr. owned a team for a while; so did Pat Boone. The Afros were as high as an elephant's eye.

Bob Costas was a kiddie announcer for the Spirits of St. Louis, and tells a wonderful story about how Spirits star Marvin Barnes, the Human Eraser, refused to board a plane from Lousiville to St. Louis that was scheduled to take off at 8:00 Eastern time and land at 7:59 Central. "I ain't gettin' on no time machine," Barnes said, and it's hard to argue with that kind of logic.

Even the endpaper of this book is worthy of your perusal, consisting as it does of the logos of every misbegotten team that ever played in the ABA, including such worthy squads as the Baltimore Claws, who folded without ever playing a regular-season game.

Hey, is the NHL season over yet?

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