The Wilt Browning-edited sports history volume, “Nothing Finer: North Carolina Sports History and the People Who Made It,” combines an exhaustive look at the lengthy history of sports in the state with the writers who are passionate about the subject, producing a book that is fit for both newcomers and long-time sports followers. North Carolina has a dense sports history with roots in colonial times. From the first major sports industry, horse racing, to modern-day cash cows like football, basketball, and NASCAR, this chronicle covers all the main players, along with some even the most die-hard fans might not have heard of.
The book is split into nine sections, from the roots of sports in the state to prep sports, national champions, and the variety of sports available. Each section has a different tone and writing style, since they’re all written by different sportswriters. Pulling from a variety of sources like newspaper reports, first-hand experience, and urban legends, each writer paints a portrait of how each sport flourished in the state, not typically at the same time in history. With multiple wars, industry booms and pitfalls, the sports history of the state is about as tumultuous as it gets. All of the writers do an exceptional job retelling these histories, along with stats and figures to show how the big time players of the past stack up to the money makers of today.
The gem of this book is in the anecdotal stories. These stories are not something the casual fan would know about; these stories are lore passed down that can only be corroborated through quotes from those involved – and this book has those quotes. Read about the hometown rules experts during the budding years of baseball, and about the contested championships in the early years of basketball before the ACC. It’s in these stories that the real history is told.
The book is long and full of statistics, but for the avid sports fan, it’s a good read.