Dispatches from the Sporting Life

Publisher: Vintage Canada
The first book to be set in the new Richler typeface, commissioned by Random House of Canada Limited and Jack Rabinovitch in memory of Mordecai.

Mordecai Richler’s final book pays homage to his personal heroes and celebrates a writer’s love of sport with his trademark irascibility, humour and acuity.

Even while writing his bestselling novels, Mordecai Richler nurtured his obsession with sports, writing brilliantly on ice hockey, baseball, salmon fishing, bodybuilding, and wrestling for such publications as GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Inside Sports, Commentary, and The New York Review of Books. Mordecai himself chose the pieces to include in Dispatches from the Sporting Life, and together they give us an intimate portrait of a man who admired the players and prized the struggle of sport -- as much as he enjoyed skewering those who made a mockery of its principles.

His encounters with Pete Rose, Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe (“Mr. Elbows…the big guy with the ginger-ale bottle shoulders”) are by turns bizarre, moving and uproarious. Richler travelled with Guy LaFleur’s Montreal Canadiens (“Les Canadiens sont là!”), but also with the “far-from-incomparable” Trail Smoke Eaters to Stockholm for the world hockey championships, where Canadians are “widely known, and widely disliked.”

There are wonderful pieces here about Ring Lardner, George Plimpton, Hank Greenberg and lady umpires, and a marvellous essay on his unlimited enthusiasm for the all-inclusive Encyclopedia of Jews in Sports, which includes among its champions Sandy Koufax, “who may well be the greatest pitcher of all time, regardless of race, colour or creed,” as well as one Steve Allan Hertz, an infielder who played five total games in Houston in 1964 and had a batting average of .000.


Foreword by Noah Richler

In 1972, my father brought his family back to Canada after nearly twenty years in England. I learned in no time that his preferred place on Saturday nights from September to May was on the living room couch, watching Hockey Night in Canada.

We returned to Canada in the country...
Read More


“Richler scores from the grave with sports book….This book’s selections, handpicked by Richler himself,…reveal his fondness for fishing and hockey and his obsession with baseball….Dispatches From the Sporting Life is a worthy read and a fine examination of one man’s enduring passion.” -- Mike McCann, Observer

“It’s one last bit of Richler, one more chunk of tart prose to savour this summer while grieving the sad fact that there will be no more novels….Dispatches From the Sporting Life is a personal postscript from Richler, a reminder that behind the acerbic wit was a warm family man, a sports fan like many ordinary men whose allegiances were formed in the hot enthusiasms of youth but frayed in old age by the cold realities of the sports business….And it is as a fan that he wrote these essays…The greatest hockey player of all time [Gordie Howe] decides to sell Amway as he retires, and Mordecai Richler, one of the greatest satirists of our time, leaves the room with a full ammunition clip…this moment alone is worth the price of admission.” -- Paul O’Connell, The Chronicle-Herald

“The best stories in this collection are like the best of Richler’s fiction.” -- Ottawa Citizen

Dispatches reflects Richler’s passion for sports…. Richler combines the enthusiasm of a fan with the curiosity and insight of a first-rate reporter. Add to the mix the prose skills of an accomplished novelist with the wry, mordant wit of a satirist and you end up with sports writing of a high order.” -- The Hamilton Spectator

"Canada lost more than a top-shelf novelist when Mordecai Richler died last summer; it also lost its last true man of letters….The same vigilant irony, the same stoical humour, the same vibrant language, all are omnipresent in everything he put his name to. Meaning that you’re probably better off re-reading Richler on Guy Lafleur than persevering through this season’s bright new light of fiction wrestling with the eternal verities…..vintage Richler….The real appeal of Dispatches from the Sporting Life lies in the previously uncollected pieces. Connoisseurs of Richler’s prose will be pleased to discover hard-to-find items from Signature, Inside Sports, GQ, and The New York Times Sports Magazine together in one tidy place…. Dispatches from the Sporting Life is a nice start at getting Canada’s greatest writer’s non-fictional house in order.” -- The Globe and Mail

“Laced with Richler’s senses of irony and wit on subjects from the sporting world.” -- The Record (Kitchener—Waterloo)

“It’s a Richler classic…. A wonderful selection…as achievements go, it’s right up there with pitching a no-hitter in the World Series.” -- Joel Yanofsky, The Gazette (Montreal, Que.)

“With economy, wit and flair, Richler shows how it’s done. The man’s style is always evident, whether he’s failing to catch salmon in Scotland or rooting on the hapless Habs…. Stylish sports essays from a master…. Like its namesake, the typeface is immensely readable.” -- Charles Mandel, The Calgary Herald

“Mordecai Richler’s 30 years of sports writing brims with insight and nuance…. Richler’s unpretentiousness and willingness to take the air out of anyone and anything -- himself included -- make him an especially Canadian treasure.” -- Stephen Knight, Quill & Quire

“ … this collection conveys the passion of a lifelong observer and fan holding up the ideals of sport even as he saw those principles being tarnished by people who should have known better…. a fun read…. tempered here by Richler’s characteristic wit, inimitable voice and cogent argument…. [Dispatches from the Sporting Life] should be required reading for some of today’s sports poobahs, the ones holding court in the box seats high above the action.” -- Andrew Vowles, Toronto Star

Dispatches From the Sporting Life is a worthy read and a fine examination of one man’s enduring passion.” -- Peterborough Examiner

“It is a treat…to have a set of such vintage Richler in one attractive volume. The book is razor-sharp, highly amusing, informative, and, at times, laugh-aloud funny. It is not surprising that Richler is so missed." -- London Free Press