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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

June 12, 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: "The von Hoffman Bros.' Big Damn Book of Sheer Manliness."

Price: $29.95 (General Publishing Books).

Along with Swiss Army knives, John Wayne movies, recipes for "colon cleaner chili," WD-40 motor oil, velvet paintings of dogs playing poker and Mack trucks, Manly Sports are given their due in this tongue-in-cheek celebration of "rip-snorting, chest-thumping manhood."

Football, the authors decide, is the most manly game:

"No sport in history epitomizes American male machismo more than the game of football . . . Orange Crush-Steel Curtain-Four Horseman-New York Sack Exchange-Fearsome Foursome-Monsters of the Midway-Purple People Eaters-tackle-the-quarterback-tear-off-

his-leg-and-beat-him-over-the-head-with-it kind of football."

Baseball is suited more for boys, Todd and Brant von Hoffman argue, reasoning, quite perceptively, that "the only difference between a major leaguer and the average 5-year-old is that the major leaguer's temper tantrums tend to be a bit more severe."

Hockey holds a special place in male hearts because "how many [other] games allow 250-pound men to chase around little objects with sticks . . . but then let one guy beat the crap out of another guy 'cause of his displeasure with something that guy did or said, resulting in those two guys slugging it out until one drops to a knee or is too exhausted to continue, penalizing those two players for a 'major' rule infraction, only to allow them back on the ice in a couple of minutes to do it all over again!"

Basketball? More manly than gymnastics and calisthenics, which is why a PE instructor named James Naismith decided to invent it--those other activities being "too boring" and "much too lame"--but not as manly as boxing. Unless it's three-on-three basketball and you happen to be washing down a few cold ones after throttling a few "young punks" who challenged you on your turf.

Golf can be manly too, the von Hoffmans assert, because it combines "basic elements" many men find irresistible: tradition, weather "perfect for even Aztec sun gods," it gets a guy out of the house, and it "lends itself readily to characters, cocktails, cursing and clubhouses."

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