Peter Thody reviews “A Sports Fan’s Guide to Route 66”

Clements’ accessible and thoroughly enjoyable book offers a genuinely unique insight into a previously ignored aspect of life along the Mother Road: the sports enjoyed by the people who live and work along its 2,400 miles.

As well as covering the major sports of baseball, football, basketball, NASCAR, and soccer, there are fascinating snippets and suggestions relating to everything from wrestling, rugby, skiing, and horse racing to swimming, golf, rodeo, and drag racing.

It is also packed with the kind of facts and obscure trivia that sports fans love. Did you know, for instance, that more than 120 lawnmower races are held in New Mexico every year? That in 1928, 21 year old Andy Payne won the 3,400 mile International Transcontinental Foot Race from New York to LA in a time of 573 hours, 4 minutes and 34 seconds? Or that the closest ever NASCAR finish was in 2002, when Sam Hornish Jr edged Al Unser Jr by 0.0024 seconds? For me though, the most memorable discovery was that ‘winningest’ is a real word.

While the focus is predominantly on sports – from high school teams upwards – the book also acknowledges the more traditional appeal of traveling America’s Main Street and highlights the not-to-be-missed historic sights, signs, hotels, and diners along the way.

As a Brit for whom the abbreviations NBA, NHL, and MLB are next to meaningless, I have driven a fair chunk of Route 66 over the years without once consciously noticing – let alone stopping at – a sports venue along the way. I shall look at the stadia, arenas, and ballparks with fresh eyes in future and will gladly lend a few hours’ support to whoever happens to be playing, particularly if it’s Amarillo’s ‘Sod Poodles’, surely the best name in sports history?

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Peter Thody

Peter Thody

Over the past decade, road tripper, writer and photographer Peter Thody has been responsible for some of the most evocative travel commentary on RoadTrip America, including a series of ‘American Adventures’ covering extended cross-country trips. His photography – regularly featured on RoadTrip America – can be seen on record albums, CDs, travel magazines, websites, and book covers. He is also the author of an acclaimed book on the wolves of Yellowstone. As a commercial copywriter based in the UK, Peter’s day job sees him finding different ways to “say essentially the same thing again and again about clients’ products and services.” This pays for the trips to America where he and wife Carole indulge their love for exploring "the bits in between," risking cheap motels and making friends in the type of bars their daughters would be horrified to know they were frequenting. More of Peter's captivating and often humorous prose can be found at Thody.net, together with galleries of his extraordinary photographs.

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