Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review of "Full Court Press"

No matter which sport is the subject, I am becoming drawn to books about how sports played a part in racial issues, whether they are integration matters or breaking certain barriers.  This book was one on that topic that I discovered literally by accident.  I was searching for books from the University of Nebraska Press and instead searched the University of Mississippi.  Lo and behold, my mistake led me to this book, which I also found out was available on NetGalley. Very good read on how a college basketball team and the coverage of said team helped put an end to segregationist policies.  Here is my review of "Full Court Press." 


Title/Author:
“Full Court Press: Mississippi State, the Press and the Battle to Integrate College Basketball” by Jason A. Peterson

Tags:
Basketball, college, history, race, Mississippi State

Publish date:
September 6, 2016

Length:
272 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
From 1959 to 1963, one of the best college basketball teams in the nation was located in Starkville, Mississippi.  The local college, Mississippi State University, won three Southeastern Conference titles in that time, but yet only went to the championship tournament only once, in 1963. It was in that year that the university challenged an unwritten law that would forbid schools in the state from taking part in integrated activities, which would include a championship basketball tournament.

The press in Mississippi played an important part of upholding this rule and later in its eventual collapse by the writings from influential columnists and newspapers. The role that the press had in the role of Mississippi State’s plight is explored in this book by Jason A. Peterson.

While the book does have some coverage of the Maroons' (later called the Bulldogs) winning teams and some interesting information on coach James “Babe: McCarthy, the book’s primary focus is on the press coverage of the team and the integration issue.  Peterson writes about many aspects of this issue from the point of view of how the press handled this matter, mostly newspapers as that was the principal form of media at the time. He covers not only the basketball team’s articles, but also opinion pieces on the issue of segregation and the unwritten acceptance of the Closed Society. This group was responsible for the segregation policy and rather than upset this powerful political sect, the press was mostly supportive.

However, once the University of Mississippi admitted a black student despite protests from the Closed Society, the attitude toward allowing the MSU team to play integrated teams started to change and the role of the press is just as interesting as the basketball itself. Peterson’s detailed writing makes for very compelling reading as the adventures of the team did not end with them going to the NCAA tournament in 1963.  Their cloak-and-dagger exit from Mississippi to Michigan to play that game was contrasted with the overwhelmingly positive reception they received when returning to the Magnolia State, even though they lost their opening game to Loyola.

No matter the sport, the topic of racial relations and how sports has played a part in shaping them makes for interesting reading and research and this book is another example of it.  Readers who are interested in racial issues in sports or the role of the press in these issues will enjoy this book as much as fans of college basketball, specifically MSU or the Southeastern Conference.

I wish to thank University Press of Mississippi for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:



Monday, August 22, 2016

Review of "Cardinal and Gold"

With the college football season about to start, I thought it would be a good idea to review this book on one of the most decorated college football programs. As soon as I saw it offered on NetGalley, I picked it up and it was well worth the time to read, even though I am not a Trojans fan.  Here is my review of "Cardinal and Gold."


Title/Author:
“Cardinal and Gold: The Oral History of USC Football” by Steve Delsohn

Tags:
Football (American), college, history, USC

Publish date:
August 16, 2016

Length:
288 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
As one of college football’s more glamorous programs, the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans have had a storied history, especially in the last 40 years.  That era of USC football is captured through the stories of many men who coached and played for the Trojans in this book by journalist Steve Delsohn.

Through many interviews and thorough research, Delsohn captures the spirt of the USC program in which the Trojans rose to prominence under coach John McKay in the 1970’s and was able to maintain that standard of excellence for the most part over the next 40 years. Of course there were some down seasons and a few coaches such as Lane Kiffin and Larry Smith were fired.

The interviews are interspersed in each chapter that covers one or two seasons of football that are not just game recaps but also recollections of the stories behind the games as well.  No matter which season or decade is being discussed, the stories from the players make the book very entertaining and worth the time to read.  It is also interesting to see some of the interviewees dispute some of the stories that were reported by the press and widely believed to be the truth. 

One example of a good story from a player being interviewed came in the discussion about quarterback Matt Leinert returning to USC for the 2005 season. It was widely thought that Leinert would declare for the NFL draft, but he decided to play his senior year at USC. The common belief was that Leinert just wanted to show his loyalty to USC but teammate Petros Papadakis disputed that, stating that Leinert was coming off two surgeries. I felt the animation in Papadakis’ account just reading that interview – one can only imagine what it was like to actually sit in that room.

This is just one example of the many stories and interviews that make the book a fun read for USC fans. However, since the program has always been one that has a large national following and because of this, Delsohn’s book is one that many college football fans will enjoy, even if they don’t follow the USC program closely.

I wish to thank Crown Publishing for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:



Friday, August 19, 2016

Guest Post - from Cassie - 5 Books Every Sports Lover Must Read

I received a message from a young poster who asked if I would feature one of her writings on this blog. This certainly seemed like a good one to add here, so here is a list of book recommendations from Cassie, our guest blogger today.




5 Books Every Sports Lover Must Read

Invigorating the competitive, pushing limits past their barriers and becoming the best there ever was—these are just a few things that sports can bring to athletes and viewers. They can also bring incredible tales from underdog to hero, from obscurity to fame and from small to bigger than ever before.

From the finish line to the court, sports have inspired some of the greatest stories ever written, and when they are written, they're bestsellers that can't be missed. Check out this list of top five favorites for sports lovers the world over.

1.     Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

While it’s most notorious rendition stars Brad Pitt and a serious Jonah Hill, the story’s printed version is the real MVP and the one that started it all. When the Oakland Athletic’s general manager Billy Beane's creates a new analytical system to get out from behind an aging system that helped leagues with bigger budgets stay on top, he introduced an aging, flawed tradition with tactics that provided some fresh blood and resulted in a reinvigorated game. Written by Michael Lewis, who investigated the success of Billy Beane and the meteoric rise of the Oakland A’s to the playoffs for the book, Moneyball is a narrative take on a sport that has long had the heart of the nation, but gets a refreshing update and an exclusive story in this bestseller.

2.      My Fight/Your Fight by Rhonda Rousey

Rousey—Olympic medalist, judo master, and one of the most dynamic sportsmen in popular culture—charts her meteoric rise in My Fight/Your Fight, which offers a deep look at all the struggles and wins of this incredible athlete from a training neophyte to a titled fighter. From never-ending practices inside the ring to surviving the world outside of it, My Fight/Your Fight gives the background story of the UFC Undefeated Champion and Hollywood star on how hard you have to hit to turn your opportunities into wins.  

3.      What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Definitely a thinking man's sport, marathons may not be the athletic department that inspires the most literature, but Murakami's take on the New York Marathon is one for the ages. The famously reclusive Japanese writer started participating in long distance running in the early 1980s, and his tale of writing, running and everything in between is a close look at how much of life interests when we are interested in it. From philosophical to funny and inspirational to deeply introspective, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a perfect read for everyone between getting into the groove with long distance running and completing many marathons.

4.      Friday Night Lights: a Town, a Team, a Dream by Buzz Bissinger

Longtime Vanity Fair contributor and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger came out with Friday Night Lights and changed the way high school football (and American life) was perceived across the country forever. Documenting the true story of the 1988 season for Permian High School in Odessa, Texas, Friday Night Lights followed the Permian Panthers as they took their chance for the Texas State Championship title and ended up rewriting the perceptions of America's obsessions with football. From players to coaches and all the families living in Odessa mixed up in the football craze, this book about a small town in America's heartland is perfect for any lover of the game. 

For fans of the books, the ABC show is currently available on US Netflix for binge watching sessions. International watchers never fear, just grab a VPN such as ExpressVPN before streaming and you're ready to go. It offers five seasons of stellar storylines and plenty of football. 

5.     Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George F. Will

This New York Times bestselling book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist is one that lavishly lays the love for the greatest game and also delivers real world applications that don't easily leave a reader. Will spent three years researching, which included interviewing Tony Gwynn (a right fielder for the San Diego Padres), Tony La Russ (a manager of the Oakland Athletics), Cal Ripken, Jr. (shortstop of the Baltimore Orioles), and Orel Hershiser (pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers). The book takes a close and serious look at how baseball works as a game. Calling for more walks and fewer strikeouts, Men at Work was on top for nine consecutive weeks, making it one of the most successful baseball books of all time. 

When the game’s over and you’re still begging for more action, head to any of these volumes for a sports story that keeps on giving even after the final score is set.

About the Author: Cassie is an entertainment blogger and avid sports and literature fan. Whether it's watching a game or reading about the greatest teams and players of all time, she can’t pass up an inspiring account of the underdog overcoming impossible odds.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review of "Learning to Fly"

Not everyone who reads this post may necessarily agree with my opinion that competitive cheerleading is a sport, but since I do think it is I decided to respond to a request by the author to have this book reviewed.  Since the participants are in shape, have to train and practice before performing and the performances require much of the same skills, strength and agility as athletes need in other sports, I believe this is a sport in the same class as figure skating or gymnastics.  It was a pleasure to learn more about competitive cheerleading.  Here is my review of "Learning to Fly."


Title/Author:
“Learning to Fly” by Dana Burkey

Tags:
Cheerleading, young adult, fiction

Publish date:
May 10, 2016

Length:
318 pages

Rating: 
4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
When one hears the world “cheerleading”, one of two images will come to mind. It will either be the young girls in skirts with huge pom-poms in their hands standing and jumping on the sidelines to cheer the school’s football team to victory.  The other image that may come to mind is a team performing well-orchestrated dances, tumbles, human pyramids and other similar stunts before judges in a competitive setting.

The latter of the two is the setting for this story of a 12 year old tomboy girl who discovers she has a talent for this type of sport and also more about herself. Max usually hangs out with and plays with boys, but when she decides to try some tumbling on a trampoline at a park, it leads her to entirely different world full of glitter, tights, dance and other “girly” things that she doesn’t like.

The story is geared toward “tweens” about the same age as Max with age-appropriate material and language. The dialogue is realistic for the girls who are practicing in the TNT Force gym. The acronym is for the first initial of the three adults who coach the girls.  The descriptions of the moves and the sport of cheerleading is excellent as a reader of any age will learn more about the sport and what types of practice and training these young people do in order to perform such a show for the judges and the spectators.

What also makes the story a good one for readers about the same age as Max is that she is constantly feeling conflicted. She hates all the glitter, tight shorts and makeup, yet she knows she is good at the dances, tumbling and flips. She feels out of place and feels the entire gamut of emotions while at the gym from isolation to elation.  She looks to adults, including the coaches and her father, for guidance.  All of these concepts and more make this a very good book for readers in grades 4-8.  It is the first book of a series that will follow Max as she works her way through the ranks. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

I wish to thank Ms. Burkey for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-Book (EPUB)

Buying links:



  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Review of "Striking Distance"

I readily admit that I know next to nothing about the sport of martial arts. When this book was offered to me by the University of Nebraska Press, I was hoping to learn a little more about the sport and Bruce Lee beyond what Hollywood portrayed. This book did that and so much more.  Here is my review of "Striking Distance."


Title/Author:
“Striking Distance: Bruce Lee & The Dawn of Martial Arts in America” by Charles Russo

Tags:
Martial arts, history, teaching

Publish date:
July 1, 2016

Length:
232 pages

Rating: 
4 ½ of 5 stars (excellent)

Review:
When one thinks of Bruce Lee, one usually thinks of Hollywood and the movies that the martial arts superstar made that became hits in the United States. However, Lee was much more than just an actor – he was a key figure in bringing the sport of martial arts to mainstream American and making them popular. How Lee assisted some of the pioneers of the sport in the San Francisco is the subject of this well written book by Charles Russo.

This book should be considered a biography, as only a short period of Lee’s life is covered, an approximately five-year period in the early 1960’s. Nor should the book be considered a complete history or a guide to the sport as the book concentrates on the sport as taught and participated in the San Francisco area.  But for the information that is written about, this book tells a complete picture and also lets the reader learn about some of the early pioneers of the sport. 

Drawing upon extensive research and numerous interviews, the reader will learn about the teachings of various forms of martial arts.  From the more popular and familiar forms like tai chi and ju jitsu and also some of the lesser known types as well.  Pioneers such as T.Y.Wong, James Yim Lee (not related to Bruce) and Master Choy Kam Man are introduced to the reader.

Bruce Lee’s adventure from being a dancing instructor to an eager martial arts student to a champion in various tourneys is also well documented and a fascinating journey. Not only did Lee participate in martial arts, but he was also a boxer – a sport with a strong connection to martial arts for both training and performance as Russo frequently mentions. 

Having little interest in either the sport of martial arts or the story of Bruce Lee before reading this book, it is one that any reader who is interested in any form of the sport should read.  Enthusiasts will enjoy the detailed stories about the sport in the Bay area and novices like me will learn a lot as well. 

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
Hardcover

Buying links:



http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/striking-distance-charles-russo/1122887941?ean=9780803269606

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review of "The Best Team Money Can Buy"

Going back to baseball for this review - and was very happy to find this book as an audiobook. It isn't often a book on a very recent team or season will teach me some new information, but this one did reveal information I did not know about the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Here is my review of "The Best Team Money Can Buy." 


Title/Author:
“The Best Team Money Can Buy” by Molly Knight, narrated by Hilary Huber

Tags:
Baseball, professional, Dodgers, audio book

Publish date:
July 14, 2015

Length:
337 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
The Los Angeles Dodgers had an exciting run during the 2013 season after spending the most money on player salaries in the history of the game. This happened shortly after the team was bought out of bankruptcy by an investment group, with the most recognizable name in the group being basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson.  Then, after losing the National League Championship Series, the team had even more issues in 2014, including a complete make over in the front office.

This book by Molly Knight recaptured that time frame and all the adventures the team went through. One doesn’t even necessarily need to be a baseball fan to enjoy some of the passages. The long description of the soap opera ownership of Frank and Jamie McCort is better writing than anything seen on daytime television. Following key personnel like Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and manager Don Mattingly is refreshing while reading or listening to Knight’s style of writing.

The narration by Hilary Huber is also very good as she speaks about the game as a knowledgeable person.  This is one of several audio books on baseball that Huber has narrated and her narration of this one is easy to listen to and makes the listener feel like he or she is sitting next to her in the studio.  

While the research and interviews were thorough, there was one issue through the book that kept repeating that kept me from giving this five stars. The topic of conversation seemed to keep going off on tangents. The best example of this occurred in the chapter on Dodgers rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig from Cuba. The narrator jumps from talking about Puig to broadcaster Vin Scully to relief pitchers and back to Puig without any connection. That may work for casual conversation but it was confusing for an audio book. But it did come all together and overall this was a good recap of the 2013 and 2014 seasons for the Dodgers. I do recommend this book for any baseball fan as it is an easy and quick read or listen.

Book Format Read:
Audio book

Buying links:


Monday, August 8, 2016

Review of "One Night Only"

It is always a treat to find new hockey books when I am searching the upcoming titles on sites like NetGalley that inform people of upcoming releases. So when I found this one that is a little different type of book in that the subjects were not stars in the sport but instead had very brief careers in the NHL, I wanted to check this out.  Here is my review of "One Night Only."


Title/Author:
“One Night Only: Conversations with the NHL One-Game Wonders” by Ken Reid

Tags:
Ice hockey, professional, short stories

Publish date:
October 11, 2016

Length:
240 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Every youngster who laces up a pair of ice skates and grabs a hockey stick has the same dream – to get a chance to play at least one game in the NHL This book by Ken Reid tells the story of 39 men who lived that dream and  did that - played just one game in the NHL. From the poignant to the hilarious, there are so many different paths these men took not only to get to that one special night, but also the lives they lead after that brief moment.

All eras, from the days of the Original Six to the current league of 30 teams, are represented by these stories.  The emotions of the men run the gamut as well, from very happy that there was that one game to the very frustrated, such as Ken Duggan’s not-so-kind words about Phil Esposito and his handling of the New York Rangers.

There are some similarities for most of the stories – many of these one-game wonders had to make a mad dash from their current location in the minor leagues to get to the city where the NHL team was playing that same day.  There are also many of them who were able to participate in pre-game skates in other games, but were healthy scratches and then sent back to the minors.  Nearly every player continued in the game in some manner after their one appearance in the NHL, either in the minor leagues or overseas. 

No matter the situation or what the player did after that night, I found each story entertaining and to a man, every one of them said that they enjoyed the experience.  There were two stories that I enjoyed in particular, both for very different reasons. One was the story of Dean Morton.  While he appeared in only one game as an NHL player, he is now in many more games every season as a referee. That is quite an adventure how he made it back to the league in a different role.  The other story that I enjoyed is that of Brad Fast, who appeared in a late season game in 2004 for the Carolina Hurricanes. He is the answer to a historical trivia question that I will not give away here – that piece of trivia is found in the book.

Overall this book is a fun, entertaining read that can be read easily in short spurts as each story is both alike and unique. Hockey fans will enjoy the ride taken with each of these men as they relive their adventures taken to enjoy that brief moment in the spotlight.

I wish to thank ECW Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-Book

Buying links (pre-order at time of posting):