Remembering a Well-Worn Olympic Classic
Having it pop into my mind had me instantly remember treasuring it, fascinated by the detailed content previewing Los Angeles 1984. I can smell today the well-worn pages and am reminded of how it became a treasured go-to comfort (re)read even after the Games ended.
The real charm, though, was inclusion of the 1980 medalists alongside blank spaces intended for the reader to fill in with the corresponding 1984 medalists. The Complete Handbook was interactive! Filling the book in along the way was a way to get this young reader attached. And, as a paperback novel-sized book, it was ideally convenient to be at my side.
Little did I know then, but gradually learned over years as a sports fan, that Hollander was an accomplished journalist/editor, with a staggering body of research across multiple professional sports. Sports writers and fans of a certain age should have deep appreciation for his ubiquitously prolific work over more than 20 years.
I'm not sure how I got the book. Perhaps my parents gifted it to me out of premonition of my imminent Olympic fandom. I think I had the Sarajevo 1984 edition, but Olympic fever kicked in for me that summer with L.A. And a love for detail and records, and Olympic athletes started while watching those Summer Games with The Complete Handbook in hand.
I'm also not sure when I didn't have the book anymore, surely lost to the supply of charity donations at some point. Note: I rue that decision as I look at my existing Olympic library. But I do know that I kept it for many years after 1984. I'm glad to have remembered it.
As long-time Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman put it to The New York Times regarding Hollander's general work, "I smell the book and it reminds me of...excitedly coming home, locking myself in my room, and reading that thing cover to cover." Same.