There are names and words synonymous with Fort Worth golf. Ben Hogan, of course. Ben Hogan, naturally. Ben Hogan. Ben Hogan.
That’s one name. Others?
The Colonial Golf Tournament.
Among Jenkins’ many accolades would be his place on a short list of the greatest golf writers of all time. He was named to the World Golf Hall of Fame, covered golf and other beats for Sports Illustrated for 25 years, and is still on the staff of Golf Digest. He just covered the Masters for the 67th time.
As our city prepares for this month’s Colonial tournament, a Fort Worth tradition dating back to 1946 and now known as the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, it’s timely to take a look at Jenkins’ most recent book, Stick a Fork in Me, his 12th novel and 22nd book.
Golf is not the focus of the novel. There is actually a golf subplot in the book but it’s woven into a backdrop of quiet marital tension with a nine-iron hint of romance.
Maybe you are getting ready to attend the Colonial or preparing for a Memorial Day family picnic or a trip to the lake and do not have time to read this review.
If so, here’s the deal: If you’re too busy to read this or if I am boring you, buy this new book, which will stop you dead in your reading tracks and make you laugh out loud. Pick it up if you want to read a sentence here and a sentence there and say, “Holy cow, how did Dan come up with that one?”
The book centers around the career of Pete Wallace, a man who has spent most of his adult life as a college athletic director. Of course, Wallace represents the past in many ways. He was a college football coach and in the “old days,” that job almost automatically led to becoming the athletic director. Wallace has ably handled the challenges of Title IX and the future of college sports as a business. He is, however, ready to get the big fat retirement package.
As he awaits his school’s board of trustees meeting and the vote on a retirement package, he reminisces.
Few genres of writing are more difficult than satire. Jenkins is easily recognized and appreciated for his sense of humor and the wonderful one sentence killer line that brings a belly laugh at first reading. But confining him to a label so narrow as just being “funny” misses the point of his writing career.
His humor masks some appropriately serious messages. College sports programs have in many cases become ridiculously out of control. Like any big business, they are about money, money and more money. Boards of trustees can find themselves populated with sports-crazy buffoons who just happen to be rich.
College athletics is big business and decisions are made to add or eliminate certain sports based on the measured likelihood that they will bring fame and, yes, fortune to colleges and universities.
Wallace reflects on the decisions he has made over decades of work alongside his able assistant Rita Jo Foster, a “blue-eyed blonde who can hold her own with those smokin’ hot babes on Fox News.” He remembers the coaches he and Rita Jo had to cajole and put up with (“If there’s a downside to having a winning football program, it’s the risk of your head coach becoming a prima donna – not that he’d start dressing like he was in an opera.”) and the players who produced results on the field but were at the very least “challenging” in terms of keeping them in school and out of trouble.
If political correctness is your thing, stick to reading the dictionary or find yourself a Bible. This book will not be for you. A sense of humor is a must when reading this book but a reader must also have the insight to see that beneath the humor there is truth.
Read in this light, Stick A Fork in Me, shows a deft Dan Jenkins offering political commentary along with his trademark humor in the vineyard where he has labored not only long but also well for many decades.
Raised in Fort Worth, a Paschal High School and TCU grad, Jenkins started his sportswriting career at the legendary but long-defunct Fort Worth Press. He is a Fort Worth treasure – and not just a great sportswriter but, simply put, a terrific writer who can make you laugh and think at the same time.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at email@example.com