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March 20, 1997|ELLIOTT TEAFORD

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.

What: "Pre!" (Gold Medal Productions)

By: Tom Jordan (1977). In running stores or order through Track and Field News.

There are only two sports books worth reading, in my opinion: "Ball Four," Jim Bouton's groundbreaking chronicle of life in the major leagues, and "Pre!"

There are two Steve Prefontaine movies, one in theaters and another on the way, but neither can match Tom Jordan's rich 124-page book.

Jordan, a longtime writer and editor for Track and Field News, delivers a story crammed with anecdotes and observations from a wide range of Prefontaine contemporaries. Jordan does his best to stay out of the way, letting others tell the story.

Nicknamed "the Rube" as a freshman at Oregon, Prefontaine was unafraid to speak his mind. He also found time to work with at-risk kids. He built a sauna, planted a garden, tended bar, fumed that he couldn't legally make a living as a runner and captured hearts with his fearless front-running style, setting American records in every distance from 2,000 to 10,000 meters between 1971 and 1975.

More than anything else, that's Prefontaine's legacy. His death in an auto accident in 1975 left a void in American distance running that has yet to be filled.

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