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The Inside Track

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May 13, 2003|Steve Rom

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, heard, observed, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here. One exception: No products will be endorsed.

What: "Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper."

Author: Stephen J. Dubner.

Publisher: HarperCollins.

Price: $24.95.

Rarely does one get to meet a childhood sports hero, let alone spend quality time with him.

Stephen J. Dubner, whose boyhood adulation was reserved for former Pittsburgh Steeler running back Franco Harris, has accomplished both. Dubner was so infatuated with Harris, in fact, that after seeing a magazine cover story on Harris two decades after his retirement from football, Dubner set out to write a book about him.

The result is "Confessions of a Hero-Worshipper," a 245-page analysis of Dubner's deep-rooted "connection" with Harris, something Dubner, a former writer and editor for the New York Times magazine, believes began taking shape after his father's death when Dubner was 10.

Dubner doesn't hold anything back in describing his infatuation with Harris, who in the 1972 playoffs pulled off one of the greatest plays in sports history, the play known ever since as the "Immaculate Reception."

When his quest to uncover the "real" Harris ground to a halt after Harris, now the head of a national doughnut company, began canceling interviews or skipping them altogether, Dubner began "working the phones like a losing candidate on election day," contacting anyone who knew Harris, hoping to get closer to the man he had once so admired.

Dubner's adaptations of the stories he heard about Harris prove to be the most compelling parts of the book, which ends climactically with a suggestion from Dubner on whom, exactly, our real heroes should be.

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