Sometimes, a book comes along that hits the reader’s sweet spot – a book that you enjoy from beginning to end, and are a little sorry that it has ended. For me, at least, Gods at Play by Tom Callahan was such a book ... Admittedly, some of the names and stories might qualify as ancient history to those who are still waiting to have their first adult beverage in an establishment. But I think everything holds up well enough to still be current and enjoyable today ... Callahan really did have quite a ride in the business, as Gods at Play shows. Not everyone will love it like I did, but most will enjoy it thoroughly.
You’re almost guaranteed to learn something new about many sports legends ... [Callahan] has been intimately involved in the sports world since the 1960s and has plenty of tales to tell and wisdom to dispense ... That’s the kind of brutally honest, cold-blooded storytelling Mr. Callahan isn’t afraid to dish out, whether the subject is his own wife or a deified athlete. To him, no one is truly a god, and this book is as much about his uncanny ability to gain access and build trust than the athletes themselves.
Mr. Callahan offers up memorable moments and great-athlete portraits as he looks back on a life of sportswriting ... An episodic memoir, Gods at Play”has no long narrative arc. It does provide a few life lessons—but mostly of the kind that sportswriters have, such as it is good to overcome adversity and very good for ballplayers to answer reporters’ questions in the locker room. And yet this volume—written by one of the 'knights of the keyboard' (as Ted Williams called sports reporters) and not by one of the sports hawkers on the tube—may be one of the last of its kind, given how endangered our daily newspapers are today. It has a beguiling charm, reminding us of the portraiture that was a recurrent feature in the work of the great keyboard-knights of the past: Axthelm, Murphy, Smith, Povich ... The deeper one reads into Gods at Play, the more one sees how much the world of sportswriters resembles the one that political writers occupy: seeing the world up close, knowing the boldface names, assuming that the rest of the country knows them too.