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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

December 24, 1996|MIKE PENNER

What: 'Total Sport'

Touting itself as "Britain's Biggest Sports Magazine," Total Sport is a year-old glossy monthly that can be found Stateside, at least locally, at better bookstores, international bookstores, even Tower Records. It is the publication to turn to if your idea of football is played by Manchester United, or if you agree that Britain's Tin Henman is "the rising star of world tennis," or if you're eager for thoughtful analysis on the best rugby union sides ever.

However, Total Sport aspires to live up to its name, so it regularly reaches across the pond to grapple with an ongoing fascination known as American sport.

Occasionally, a thing or two tends to get lost in the translation, or the transmission.

In its November issue, Total Sport features a beginner's guide to baseball, which is "romantically known as 'The Game With No Clock.' " Included is a diagram of a diamond, a brief discussion of such nuances as batting average ("Confusingly measured as a percentage of at-bats against successful hits") and a photograph of "Fred McGriff: ace slugger of the Blue Jays." Which would have been correct, had Total Sport published this primer in 1990.

A photo essay on the phenomenon of sporting mascots ("The Yanks, of course, are just mad about people encased in brightly coloured foam. . . .") runs further adrift. The green-clad spartan of Michigan State is identified as "Michigan's Trojan." USC's Tommy Trojan, meanwhile, is labeled "California['s] bearded bloke in a skirt." Purdue University is re-christened "Perdue College." And Penn State's Nittany Lion is violently slandered as a "rosy-nostrilled bear."

A preview of the 1996-97 NBA season is attempted in the December issue, in which the Atlanta Hawks are thus assessed: "The Georgia side have always lacked a big man in the middle," but that was before "the arrival of Zairean centre Dikembe Mutombo." The Clippers? "Just like Tampa Bay in the NFL and San Marino in international football, the Clippers are the perennial whipping boys of the NBA."

San Marino is ranked 162nd in the latest world soccer poll, just behind Botswana and Kazakhstan. Even without a working knowledge of Donald Sterling, the Total Sport subscriber reading in Middlesex is quickly brought up to speed.

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