Dan Jenkins is somewhere between 35 and 3,000 years old. He is the best sportswriter I know at college football, golf and skiing, and I guess the only reason he's not the best at baseball is because he couldn't be bothered writing about it.
To my knowledge, no one has ever seen Jenkins write. No one has ever seen him carrying a typewriter—or making a note, for that matter. Some say that he goes down to this old tree with a hole in it one hour after every game and a little guy with a green hat reaches up and hands him his story.
Certainly Dan reads as if he was written half by Jove and half by a leprechaun. Grant-land Rice called the Notre Dame backfield "The Four Horsemen," but only Jenkins would have mused on them as "Harry Pestilence, Don Famine, Sleepy Jim Destruction and Elmer War." He has such a nice ear and feel for the ridiculous that only Dan Jenkins could have kept you entertained—as he does in his new book, Saturday's America (Little, Brown, $5.95)—for 23 pages with the description of two Texas couples taking in three college football games and one pro game in 55 hours.
You want to know about the origin of polls, of bowl games? Dan Jenkins feeds it to you so coated in hilarity you hardly realize you are being solidly informed. You want to know about Purdue? "Purdue University is the Big Ten's contribution to ethnic jokes...."
Ever been to Oxford, Miss. the morning of a Big Game? "They had started coming at 9 in the morning and parked in the Grove, the center of the Ole Miss campus. James Meredith wasn't there so it was all right. The old men raised the trunks of their cars and lifted out folding chairs, hammocks, tables, quilts and iceboxes. And whiskey bottles. The women uncovered huge baskets of fried chicken and sandwiches. Young girls wiggled through the trees in their stiff hairdos, chewing gum and giggling. Young men looked at them and said, 'Damned if I wouldn't tread a little water for that 'un over there!' "
What other football book you going to find Shirley MacLaine doing an end-around? Dan Jenkins calls it Saturday's America but there's an awful lot of Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-and-Friday America in there, too. And it's high-order literature as modern as the I formation, as readable as Benchley, as timeless as truth. Jenkins just tells it without surprise, indignation, chagrin, regret, sorrow or awe. He keeps his cool and covers his game like a quarterback who knows his receivers will open up sooner or later. And he never scrambles.