Review

Sport

by Mick Cochrane

When
I was a young little bean, it was the Atlanta Braves. I was living
in Olympia, Washington, but that didn't matter. There was a new TV
station, TBS, and every afternoon Skip Carey would do the
play-by-play for my beloved Atlanta Braves. Dale Murphy was my
idol. He was everything that was good about baseball. He was kind
but, at the same time, he belted baseballs with a wicked bat. I
collected baseball cards too. The player I collected the most? Dale
Murphy. I would fill sheet upon sheet with Dale Murphy. It didn't
matter if I had duplicates or triplicates, I just wanted to collect
as many Dale Murphy cards as I could. Later, I sold my entire
baseball card collection to a card dealer in town. He took
advantage of me, as I'm sure he took advantage of everyone. But
those days still resound within me, the innocence of childhood, the
crack of the bat, watching the baseball fly deep into the air, the
flipping through of baseball cards. That innocence and
coming-of-age is wonderfully rendered in Mick Cochrane's new novel
SPORT.
Cochrane, a professor at Canisius College in New York and
winner of the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers
Competition with his first novel, FLESH WOUNDS, follows up with a
delightful tale of youth and growing up. Harlan Hawkins is the
title character. He's a sharp boy obsessed with baseball. Whether
it be collecting baseball cards (he needs the Tony Olivia card,
needs it!), playing first base in the summer league, or watching
his beloved Minnesota Twins on the fuzzy black-and-white
television, he obsesses about baseball. It's a good life --- a mom,
a dad, a brother, food on the table, a roof over their head,
baseball on the television.
Then
his mother is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. His father, a
hard-drinking hot-tempered man, leaves her and the family.
Suddenly, it's not such a good life --- his mother gets sicker and
sicker, his brother distances himself more and more, the Twins are
losing, the bills are piling up, and they're sliding down towards
lower middle class, a kind of suburban poverty. SPORT relates
Harlan's tale --- his trials and tribulations, and his
triumphs.
George Walker is Harlan's baseball coach and neighbor. He's a
nice man, a man who does unto others as he would like done unto
him. He tries to bring some measure of stability back into Harlan's
life, whether it be letting him help in setting up baseball
practice, going to a Twins game, or fixing a window broken by his
violent father late one night.
What
makes SPORT a wonderful book is that it is relatable. Everyone
remembers their childhood, those moments that changed them for the
better --- or for the worse. Everyone has those instances that
moved them ever so slightly from childhood to adulthood. Usually,
those instances weren't major events, but the small and seemingly
unimportant moments that lit our eyes and our minds. For Harlan,
certainly there are difficulties, but he learns just as much from
them as he does from drinking Cokes with a neighbor in his kitchen,
watching the strategy in a Twins baseball game, and driving with
his mother while not knowing the destination. Harlan doesn't need
to know his destination, it's the journey itself that's
important.

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley on January 23, 2011

Sport
by Mick Cochrane

  • Publication Date: January 13, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312269943
  • ISBN-13: 9780312269944