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  • More Than a Game: The Best of Alf Van Hoose
  • Megan L. Popovic
Stephenson, Creg and Ed Mullins, EDS. More Than a Game: The Best of Alf Van Hoose. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2009. Pp. xiii+156. Index and photographs. $17.95 pb.

In More Than A Game: The Best of Alf Van Hoose, editors Creg Stephenson and Ed Mullins compiled a selection of various writings by legendary newspaper columnist and sports editor, Alf Van Hoose. Spanning from his first year as a "cub reporter" (p. 9) in 1947 into the mature, latter stages of his forty-three year career with The News, this conglomeration of editorials, opinion pieces, and weekly columns is a tribute to a writer who impacted a sporting region and sports journalism for nearly half a century.

Susanna Van Hoose Feld, Van Hoose's daughter, composed a beautiful foreword section dedicated to her father. These revelations add magnificent depth to the charismatic man, father, husband, and sporting enthusiast behind his mediated texts. The subsequent introduction section builds on Feld's contribution with additional attention to the intricacies of Van Hoose's unique writing style. With a startling, self-proclamation of 7,587 writings in the tenure of his career, Van Hoose's daily efforts perfected a method distinctly [End Page 486] his own. Always pushing creative possibilities within his prose, his works were compact and succinct, often playful and well-timed with his usage of phrases like "had to be seen NOT to be believed"(p. 24) and "Sho, suh" (p. 24). He wrote with emotion and suspense, using multiple narrator voices, ellipsis, and stream of consciousness writing. As the reader moves through chapters, they can observe the evolution in quality and depth of professional journalism.

The book consists of five chapters, segmented by temporal and topical clusters during Van Hoose's career with The News. The first chapter, The Early Days, 1947-1959, displays the earliest works of a neophyte reporter. The articles are descriptive, interpretive, third-person reports, on football, baseball, golf, and the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American Football League. Of particular note is his first opinion piece in which he opposes his editor and popular opinion, claiming Willie Mays, a young African-American baseball player, to be the best player in Birmingham, surpassing (white) hero, Jimmy Piersall. From a special assignment, the second chapter, Interlude: Vietnam, 1966, shows Van Hoose's astute attention to sensory detail and emotion. Collected from entries in his Vietnam Journal, the editors chose three pieces including a moving dedication to the loss of four fallen soldiers and a stream of consciousness story from a soldier's daily experience. The following chapter, Glory Days, 1959-1983, draws on works from the majority of his career. Paralleling the professional success of celebrated University of Alabama football coach, Paul "Bear" Bryant, many of Van Hoose's top stories involve the Crimson Tide dynasty. Partial to his alma mater, Van Hoose writes on Bryant's record-tying win in 1981, retirement in 1982, sudden death six weeks later, and the judicial drama surrounding claims of cheating and violence by a rival newspaper. Also included are a beautiful eulogy to journalist mentor, Benny Marshall, Babe Ruth's loss of the home run record to Hank Aaron, a letter published to his daughter on the eve of her wedding day, and an innovative multiple narrator voice article on a local celebrity golf tournament. In Final Days, 1983-1990, the articles mark the maturation stage of a seasoned journalist. Highlights include the final victory of the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl, the rise of Auburn as the new football powerhouse, a letter of gratitude to readers post heart surgery, and a bittersweet, reflective finale piece upon retirement in 1990. The fifth chapter, Denouement: Back to Bastogne and Beyond, 1989, consists of works from a definitive assignment overseas. Six months before retirement, Van Hoose took an assignment to Germany for the forty-fifth commemoration of World War II. In several powerful stories of the General George S. Patton's leadership, the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, and the sadistic horrors of the Dachau concentration camp, Van Hoose connects...


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pp. 486-488
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