This collection of pieces from GQ presents a somewhat skewed version of the world of sport. The first piece, a blood-spattered item about the no-holds-barred Ultimate Fighting Championship, sets the tone. Not that the book is overly violent, it is just that it is populated almost entirely by Real Men.
It's so testosterone-packed, it's tempting to say that it's a load of bollocks. That would not be fair, but if it was dope-tested, it would receive a lengthy ban. The sporting world according to GQ is mostly fists and fast cars, lags and hoolies, rugby thugs and 'roid rage enforcers (with a left-field contingent of drinkers and smokers, bad boys and mavericks). Men who pick themselves up when life smashes them in the face. GQ sport is for hard cases, boys with bottle. In Dave Hill's piece about Graeme Souness, the then Rangers manager pays a supreme compliment to an old adversary, Terry Yorath: "He's a man."
This doesn't leave much room for the other 51 per cent of the human race. It shouldn't be surprising - it is a men's magazine, after all - but the typical woman in this book is 'er indoors. Of 36 articles ranging over eight years, three are by women, while a measly two have female subjects - Karren Brady, and the all-conquering Doncaster Belles.
There's a slightly chaotic, lucky-dip structure to it - the section headings, "Sporting Life", "Unsung Heros" and "Gentlemen and Players", are virtually meaningless. It would surely have been better in chronological order, giving some sort of unifying thread, a feeling of the last few years unfolding. There is a sense of history to some of the articles - whatever happened to the promising young golfer, Liam White? Or even Lennox Lewis? There is a certain pathos to the piece about Kevin Keegan's first full season as manager at Newcastle, while the account of Ayrton Senna's first day with the Williams team in 1994 is acutely poignant. "If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs me my life," he says, "I hope it is in one go... It would ruin my life if I had to live partially."
There is lots of good writing under some classy bylines - Frank Keating, Julie Welch, Simon Barnes, Matthew Engel, for example. Personal favourites are Alex Kershaw's moving piece on Max Schmeling and Andrea Waind's "Village People", about the rural eccentrics of Ashby Carington Cricket Club. Whatever the politics, the book speeds by like a well-tuned Ferrari, a testament to machismo. If you're a man, GQ-world is a good place to be