161 CHRONICLESnTHE ORDER OF VIRTUE by John P. SisknFor some time now, the literature of the sporting worldnhas offered one of the most agreeable ways of experiencingnrevisions of public reality. Perhaps this is why it isnhard to read Howard Cosell’s best-seller I Never Played thenGame without a sense of deja vu. “In the beginning,” henwrites, “I had romantic ideas about sports,” but 15 years as antelevision announcer had forced “vast changes in mynthinking.” He wants to dispel those misconceptions, particularlynsince the young of the 60’s and 70’s, having grown upnin a terrible time, now want truth, not fiction. As he put itnin his earlier Like It Is, “the religious acceptance of thendoctrine of purity which has previously enshrouded thenworld of sport” is simply too much for any thinking person.nThe time needs an “anti-hero like Mohammed Ali.”nIt may not be clear to all Cosell readers why he calls Alinan antihero, since Ali in his salad days had so much inncommon with an old-fashioned epic hero like Beowulf,nwho managed to confound the odds-makers of his day bynovercoming the reigning monster, Grendel, just as decisivelynas Ali overcame Sonny Liston. Ali was even a boaster innthe tradition of ancient heroes—something never permittednthe modern antihero, who has adopted desecratingnobscenity in the place of boasting as a sign of antiheroicnauthenticity. Perhaps it was Ali’s lack of respect for thenboxing establishment, that once tried to deny him hisnrightful honors, that makes him for Cosell the same scourgenof middle-class hypocrisy that the late Lenny Bruce was fornothers.nBut Ali is incidental to larger issues here. In his way.n.v-On]ohn P. Sisk is Arnold Professor of the Humanities atnGonzaga University. He is the author of Person andnInstitution.nnnCosell is writing postromantic literature and is himself thenantihero of a book in which he is no more bothered by falsenmodesty than Ali. As a trustworthy revisionist, he is in thentradition of the modernists and postmodernists, with connectingnlines to Flaubert at one end and Thomas Pynchonnat the other. In this tradition, the recurring conflict isnbetween romantic and realistic (sometimes nihilistic) viewsnof reality with the latter generally emerging triumphant,nthough on occasion with regrets, as in Fitzgerald’s ThenGreat Gatsby.nMost discovery-of-illusion stories that are not personalnrecords can be read as disguised autobiography. In annimportant sense, Fitzgerald is on the air mattress when JaynGatsby is murdered, and Flaubert joins Emma Bovary in ancommunal meal of arsenic so that he can say with somentruth afterwards, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” Such storiesnare also about survival under testing circumstances: Thenauthor, having put all in hazard, has passed through the veilnof illusion, and perhaps gone through hell in the process,nbut like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner has come back to tellnhis story for the benefit of an audience of less-privilegednmortals.nIt was clear enough in the early realists that there is anromantic excitement in the discovery of the fraudulence ofnromantic or idealistic vision—especially when the discoverernruns the risk of establishment opposition, as Cosell lets usnknow he did. The discoverer even repeats the formula of allntrue romance: no living without loving and no lovingnwithout risking, except that for him loving is not a selftranscendingnand life-enhancing commitment to anothernperson (who may turn out not to be worth the risk) but tontruth. And here, too, Cosell returns us to familiar territoryn—territory occupied for some time now by the antihumanistnpoststructuralists who have been trying to teach us thatnthe pursuit of the truth (even if the truth is pursued from thenfaith position of a dogmatic skepticism) can be less complicatednand more exciting than the pursuit of the humannperson. This suggests that, mutatis mutandis, many sportsnlovers will prefer John Madden’s Hey, Wait a Minute! tonCosell’s new book for much the same reason that manynlovers of literature still prefer Lionel Trilling’s The LiberalnImagination to Paul de Man’s Allegories of Reading.n* * *nThere is something very boyish about the American’sndisillusionment with the world of sports and games. Thendisillusionment is a painful end of innocence laced withnnostalgia for a pastoral of childhood when games werenplayed for their own sake, the way poets are supposed tonmake poems. “Children who play life,” Thoreau writes innWalden, “discern its true law and relations more clearlynthan men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think thatnthey are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.” The truenlaw and relations of life are never more scandalouslynviolated than when athletes, whether amateurs or professionals,ndefect from their ascetic code for fame or power ornmoney. The 1919 White Sox scandal still ranks in infamynwith Teapot Dome, Watergate, and Ezra Pound’s broadcastsn