Book Review: Number Four, Bobby Orr

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 4.44.47 PMA complete collection of the feature articles it published on Bobby Orr over the years, Sports Illustrated’s Number Four, Bobby Orr contains articles written from his pre-NHL days to a final more contemporary look at his life as a player agent.

A Mike Farber forward shares his opinion of Orr, developed when the writer was in his teenage years and heroes still came from the world of athletics, one that mirrors the viewpoint of most hockey fans now closer to retirement age than the beginning of their working life.

A good read for a cold winter afternoon the book brings back some attitudes that are rarely shared in this era of litigation, special interest groups and media coaches. Frank Deford would have his copy redacted if he were to refer to Parry Sound as “the kind of town where the men stop to peer carefully into hardware store windows and where the pretty girls turn to fat before they grow old” today.

It is also very unlikely that a current day athlete with the a small-town upbringing and polished public image would declare that four was an ideal number of girlfriends to have at their disposal at any one time, as Orr did in one of the pieces.

Entertaining social comments aside, the elements making up Number Four, Bobby Orr combine to portray the chronology of Orr’s life in a manner not unlike those of mythic heroes. An unlikely champion emerges, triumphs, is acclaimed and then falls from his exalted position, brought low by  either fate, subterfuge or a combination of the two.

In Orr’s case the canon is played out chronologically with his talent, his oft-injured knees and the man who claimed to have his back serving as dramatic elements. He arrives, propels the Bruins to a pair of Stanley Cups, gathers more individual award silverware than previously thought humanly possible before being reduced to almost mortal status by the wear and tear of the game on his repeatedly operated-upon knees and betrayed, both personally and professionally by Alan Eagleson.

Redemption comes for the hero of this hockey saga through Eagleson being brought to account for many of the infractions he committed, not only against Orr but numerous other  players as well, and in Orr’s return to the game as one of the most respected agents working today.

Number Four, Bobby Orr – The Complete Sports Illustrated Collection
Multiple Authors
Trade Paperback
Publisher – Fenn/McLelland & Stewart
CDN 24.95


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