The greatest sports stories transcend sports They are about risk and failure and craft and the joy and wonder that come from watching a human being reach for grace They are about us This third volume of Esquire’s eightieth anniversary anthology series showcases eight of the finest such stories in the magazine’s history The collection kicks off with David Foster Wallace’s whip smart tennis masterpiece “The String Theory” 1996 It’s a story of obsession—regarding baseline play unforced errors and sweat mixed with hair gel But it’s also about why at heart we are all like his subject Michael Joyce—in the middle of the pack struggling to reach the top Next is “Gorgeous Dan” by John Irving 1973 a beautiful and heartbreaking story about what it means to be the greatest wrestler of all time you have to be perfect It’s a pressure that another figure in this collection—Don Zimmer—knew all too well Scott Raab’s profile of Zimmer from 2001 is brimming with as much passion for baseball and life as its indomitable bald headed subjectThen there are the personalities who shape the world to their own talent and whim and raw power like the boxer in W C Heinz’s classic “Young Fighter” from 1955 Or racing legend Junior Johnson There are enough roaring engines moonshine and exclamation points in Tom Wolfe’s 1965 classic “The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson Yes” to power a million NASCAR races Or the last truly great Yankee badass Thurman Munson Michael Paterniti’s wrenching unforgettable story “The House That Thurman Munson Built” 1999 is as much about the end of childhood as it’s about Munson’s tragic death because our athletes are often what fuel our dreams of the impossible And yet as Luke Dittrich so deftly and beautifully shows in “Mutant” 2010 his profile of sprinter Usain Bolt even the world’s fastest human playing video games eating Jamaican patty dancing and smiling is very much one of us Finally there’s Ted Williams proof that ambition never dies “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” 1986 by Richard Ben Cramer is quite simply the greatest sports story of all time by one of America’s greatest journalists There couldn’t be a better representative of eighty years of sportswriting in Esquire These eight stories are shot through with aspiration and fear sweat and blood and they say as much about our perpetual human quest for greatness as they do about our love of sports

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