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May 07, 1997|MIKE PENNER

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: Sportspages bookstore.

The sports-only bookstore may well be an American invention, but the best I have ever visited is a short walk from Leicester Square in London.

Tucked away in a small cul-de-sac off Charing Cross Road, Sportspages is, first and foremost, a proper British bookshop--meaning soccer has a fair run of the place. The selection of soccer books, videos and team jerseys is staggering, but the real delight is the fanzine aisle--home to dozens of quirky, rabidly passionate fan-produced publications bearing such titles as "Preston Pie Muncher" (in support of the Second Division club team Preston North End), "The Square Ball" (Leeds United) and "Are You Blue or Are You Blind?" (Manchester City).

However, Sportspages also devotes a full wall to American sport, with a wider variety of book titles than I have seen in any U.S. store.

Here you will find the expected--Dennis Rodman's "Bad as I Wanna Be" and Jimmy Johnson's "Turning the Thing Around"--but also such obscurities as "Lions Pride--Sixty Years of Detroit Lions Football" and "Then Came Brain Damage (Life After Football)" by Alex Hawkins.

And, yes, there are "American football" fanzines as well. "Wake Up the Echoes" is produced by "the Notre Dame UK Fan Club." The best title on the shelf, "Barry Switzer Ate My Hamster, Too," chronicles the accomplishments and transgressions of the Dallas Cowboys.

Sportspages offers a mail-order service, with a delivery time of four to six weeks. Information can be obtained by writing Sportspages at Caxton Walk, 94-96 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JG; by phoning the shop at 011-44-171-240-9604; or by faxing to 011-44-171-836-0104.

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