Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Short review of "Pickleball 5.0"

As I have started playing this great game, I wanted to pick up a book that would help with the basics of the game.  This one does that and so much more.  Whether one is a raw beginner like me (have been on the courts twice), an instructor, or a seasoned player, this book has something for everyone.  I have only written a short review of it because I was only skimming the sections on teaching and advanced play, but I still wanted to share my thoughts on a book that for me was just as great to read as pickleball is to play.

Title/Author:
“Pickleball 5.0” by Phil Dunmeyer

Tags:
Pickleball, instructions, rules

Publish date:
November 17, 2017

Length:
282 pages

Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
When I started reading this book, I thought it was mistitled because it seems very advanced and not a good fit for players like me who are beginners or are social players (the "2.0" players in the title) . However, that really is not the case because it really is a book for any level of player. Everything from shots to court position to proper etiquette is covered. It is also an excellent book for instructors as there are many teaching trips and drills provided. Whether one is new to the game like me or has played in tournaments for many years, this is an excellent book to pick up
                                                                       
Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)                                                                                                                                

Buying Links:
https://www.amazon.com/Pickleball-5-0-Journey-black-white/dp/1979755833/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=


Monday, October 14, 2019

Review of "Homegrown"

Some books are about topics that I do remember once my memory is jogged because someone mentions a book about them.  This is one of those topics as when I received a request from the author to review this, I did remember this special college basketball team and its two superstar players.  Here is my review of "Homegrown"


Title/Author:
“Homegrown: The Making of the 1972-73 Providence College Friars” by Paul Lonardo

Tags:
Basketball, college history

Publish date:
May 7, 2019

Length:
136 pages

Rating:
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Before the 1972-73 season, Providence College wasn’t exactly considered a basketball powerhouse.  However, in the two previous seasons, there were two exceptional players who were honing their exceptional talents for their hometown school and as coach Dave Gavit surrounded them with good role players, the Friars had a magical run to the Final Four in that 1972-73 season.  The season, team and two star players, Ernie DiGregario and Marvin Barnes, are the topic of this short but enjoyable read by Paul Lonardo.

The book is an overall recap of the 1972-73 season for the last 40 or so pages, with each game broken down and described, especially the games in the NCAA tournament which ended with a heartbreaking loss to Memphis State. The reason why that season isn’t the entire content of the book is that Lonardo does a good job of letting the reader’s knowledge build up to that season in much the same manner as Gavit built the Friars from an afterthought to a great Cinderella story. 

Of course, teams like the Friars need exceptional players and they had not one but two of them and both were from Providence.  Point guard Ernie DiGregario hailed from the northern part of the city while power forward Marvin “Bad News” Barnes was from the southern part, the area considered the rougher part of town.  Despite very different backgrounds, childhoods and high school basketball careers, the two of them bonded quickly on the court and were good friends off it as well while at Providence.  While Lonardo does write at least a few paragraphs each about Coach Gavit and each of the other players, DiGregario and Barnes make up the bulk of this type of information.

How the city caught basketball fever was also an important part of the book and this is described well as Lonardo gives the reader a look at the city and its crown jewel from that era that this special Friars team christened – the new Civic Center building that upped the crowds from around 4,000 to over 13,000 for each home game. The success of that team in 1973 was a big factor in the successful operation of the Civic Center during its early days.
While the book is fairly short and does not go into great depth, it is a good source of material on one of the surprise teams in the history of college basketball and is one that comes recommended to those who want to learn a little more about that team. 

I wish to thank Mr. Lonardo for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
                                                                       
Book Format Read:
Paperback                                                                                                                                        

Buying Links:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Review of "Roaring Back"

Like the rest of the world, I watched in amazement the final round of the 2019 Masters tourney at the comeback Tiger Woods made to win that Masters. When I saw that a book was coming out on this feat written by one of the best writers in the sport, I had to pick it up. The book was even better than my high expectations.  Here is my review of "Roaring Back."

Title/Author:
“Roaring Back: The Fall and Rise of Tiger Woods” by Curt Sampson

Tags:
Golf, history, biography, championship

Publish date:
October 29, 2019

Length:
304 pages

Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
It isn’t too big a stretch to consider the victory by Tiger Woods at the 2019 Masters tournament to be considered the greatest comeback in the history of sports – any sport.  While that claim can be debated, no one will consider that comeback by a man whose many physical issues and personal problems were put on public display as one of the best stories of recent years.  Long time golf writer Curt Sampson tells the story of Woods’ epic win and something that is hard for any golf journalist to obtain or discuss – some insight into Tiger Woods the man.

If a reader is looking for a lot of salacious details about the very public affairs of Woods that led to his divorce and subsequent treatment for sex addiction, the reader will have to look elsewhere.  Sampson rarely mentions these in the book and when he does, he calls the infamous night in which Woods’ wife learned of the affairs as the “Revelation” as in Woods won the Masters nearly 10 years after the Revelation.  This reviewer appreciated this as the book focused more on other aspects of Woods’ life such as his warrior demeanor - the section on his desire to be a Navy SEAL was very interesting reading.

Sampson writes about several people who were close in Woods’ inner circle during his best days in golf but are no longer a part of the circle, such as Steve Williams, Butch Harmon and of course his late father.  These insights, most of which have been told in other publications or media, seemed fresh in this context and will help a reader understand the complex man that is Woods.

Sampson doesn’t leave his good writing only about Woods. His passages about the Augusta National course, especially those about the par three 12th hole during the last round of the 2019 tourney when three of the four men who were within two shots of the lead were battling to take control of the final round. Woods was the only one of the foursome (Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and Francis Molinari were the other three) who avoided Rae’s Creek on that infamous hole of Amen Corner. It should also be noted that the reader will learn more about and actually feel a little sorry for these three excellent golfers who succumbed to Woods on that Sunday.

Finally, the ending of the book is also quite good as Sampson reminds the reader that while they are closing the book, the book on Tiger Woods’ career is not closed yet and it will be one of the great mysteries in sports to see how this develops.  Will he regain that form that made him the best player in the game for nearly a decade and one that many consider to be the greatest in the history of golf, or will the 2019 Masters be a once-in-a-lifetime comeback for him?  If one wants to learn more about this comeback and the complete story, this is the book to get.

I wish to thank Diversion Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
                                                                       
Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)                                                                                                                                

Buying Links:

Monday, October 7, 2019

Review of "World Football Domination"

Rarely do I review fictional books, but when I saw this one on a listserv that I subscribe to, and seeing it was a quick read, I thought I would give it a shot - turned out to be much better than I expected.  Here is my review of "World Football Domination"


Title/Author:
“World Football Domination: The Virtual Talent Scout” by Anthony Ranieri

Tags:
Football (European), soccer, fiction

Publish date:
July 17, 2019

Length:
136 pages

Rating: to
4 of 5 stars (good)

Review:
No matter the sport, scouting for talented players can be one of the most challenging aspects of sports. How does one go about determining who are the best players, let alone trying to cover the entire globe to find those players?  In this quick read, Anthony  Ranieri takes the reader on an adventure into the future where technology will help answer that question, but not without perils.

Gunnar Grimmson has created a player identification drone that will take all the player data and observations for any player and let a scout know whether that player is the one that will take a team to the promised land. It is used successfully to lure a young talented player to Sydney, but there are concerns that this information could be used for espionage and other nefarious activities.  Ranieri keeps the action fast paced, the technology futuristic and the dialogue crisp between all characters.  Because of these traits, this is a story that is one that is not only quick and easy to read, it is one that is very entertaining.

The only part that may leave a reader less than satisfied is the ending, as it is open and doesn't really seem to answer any of the burning questions a reader will have, but this is the first of a multi-part story, so if this topic is one that a reader wants to read about in order to escape the real world for a couple of hours, it is a worthy choice.  

I wish to thank the author for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
                                                                       
Book Format Read:
Ebook (Kindle)                                                                                                                                        

Buying Links:
https://www.amazon.com/World-Football-Domination-Virtual-Talent-ebook/dp/B07SMY1TCV/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Review of "Kyrie Irving"

Another of the new baskeball books for the upcoming season is one that was just released on Kyrie Irving.  It is a very detailed look at his baskeball career and how he is both considered one of the best but also heavily criticized.  Here is my review of this book.



Title/Author:

“Kyrie Irving: Uncle Drew, Little Mountain and Enigmatic NBA Superstar” by Martin Gitlin



Tags:

Basketball, professional, biography, Cavaliers, Celtics



Publish date:

October 1, 2019



Length:

224 pages



Rating: to

3 ½ of 5 stars (good)



Review:

Kyrie Irving is one of the most exciting offensive players in professional basketball currently playing in the NBA.  His one-on-one game leaves defenders in the dust as he is among the very best at isolation play.  His play on the court, his relationship with his parents and some of his off-court statements that leave people puzzled are all documented in this book by Martin Gitlin.



As a pure basketball book, this was excellent as Gitlin writes about Irving's basketball life in high school, his brief time at Duke and his years with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics (the book was completed before Irving signed in 2019 with the Brooklyn Nets) in great detail.  Basketball junkies will love the details on Irving's contributions in key games for both teams, especially in the 2016 NBA Finals when he made the decisive three point shot late in game 7 to give the Cavaliers their first championship.  Known in Cleveland as simply "The Shot", there is a whole chapter devoted to this moment.



Speaking of the chapters, they are all short in length but long in basketball information. The best part of this information was the explanation of some of the advanced statistical analytics for basketball, something that may not be familiar to many readers. They are used to explain the criticism behind the weakest part of Irving's game, his defense. This has cause some friction between Irving and his teammates at times, and also been a frequent reason for his criticism in the press.



While the book is plentiful in basketball information, there is not as much information available on the rest of his life, save for his youth when he lost his mother at four and grew even closer to his father as a result.  He still kept his mother, who was part Native American, in his heart as he even was anointed with the Native American name of "Little Mountain."  There is also a few sentences about some of his more unusual statements, such as his questioning of the existence of dinosaurs and whether the earth is round.  While they are in the book, it would have been an even better read had these topics as well as some more about Irving the person would have been included to balance the amount of basketball writing.  


In fairness, Gitlin does mention at the beginning that Irving and his agent would not be contributing in any manner to the book and that would make including more information on his personal life difficult.  Nonetheless, I did believe that this book is one that basketball junkies and hard-core fans will enjoy but for those who enjoy memoirs that are more about the person will come away feeling shortchanged.  Overall, it was a good read for me as the information on the basketball analytics alone made it worthwhile.



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

                                                                       

Book Format Read:

Paperback                                                                                                                                        



Buying Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Kyrie-Irving-Mountain-Enigmatic-Superstar-ebook/dp/B07Q6P5XZT/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr


https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/university-of-nebraska-press/9781496213495/

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Review of "Hell With the Lid Off"

I am always grateful for the publishers who regularly allow me to review their books. One of them, University of Nebraska Press, has been very supportive of this blog and the reviews for several years now and they always let me know their upcoming books.  When I saw this one, not only the title was attention-grabbing but so was the subject.  One of the best rivalries in pro football is the subject during the era when I believe the sport was at its best.  Here is my review of "Hell with the Lid Off"



Title/Author:

“Hell With the Lid Off: Inside the Fierce Rivalry Between the 1970’s Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers” by Ed Gruver and Jim Campbell



Tags:

Football (American), professional, rivalry, Steelers, Raiders



Publish date:

October 1, 2019



Length:

400 pages



Rating:

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)



Review:

Sometimes the best rivalries in sports are not necessarily the longest lasting ones, but shorter ones between two excellent teams in their times when they play several meaningful games. Such was the case in the 1970’s with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. They met each other in the playoffs every year between 1972 and 1976, with the winner between them ending up as the Super Bowl champion three of those five years.  Both teams played hard-nosed, hard hitting football, drafted many future Hall of Famers and provided fans with very memorable playoff games. Those five years of the Steeler-Raider rivalry are captured in this excellent book by sportswriters Ed Gruver and Jim Campbell.



Because Campbell is not only a writer but also was an employee of the Steelers during this time frame, the book does slant a little toward more coverage of the Steelers than the Raiders. But that doesn’t mean Oakland get shortchanged in the excellent writing, detailed accounts of their seasons, or interesting stories on their best players. Both teams are praised for their play on the field, their smart drafting, and their coaching staffs from the head coaches (Chuck Noll and John Madden) on down, both teams are given their proper due for their success in the 1970’s.



The book’s tone is set early on.  The first chapter is an excellent account of one of the most famous plays in NFL history, the “Immaculate Reception” when Steelers rookie Franco Harris caught a deflected pass just before it would fall incomplete and ran it all the way for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 13-7 victory over the Raiders in the 1972 AFC divisional playoffs and begin what would be the fiercest NFL rivalry over the next five seasons.  Every aspect of that play was dissected and each of the main players involved not only shared his recollection of the play but was also portrayed in that chapter.  Then the book provides insight into the two owners and their very different philosophies on how to win, Art Rooney of the Steelers and Al Davis of the Raiders.  After them, each season of Raider and Steeler football is recapped along with their playoff matchup and the Super Bowl results on the three times one of them won that game during this time frame covered.



This book does a wonderful job of portraying both franchises and its players and coaches throughout the entire five year stretch and concentrates strictly on the football. There is very little commentary on the social or political situations of the cities or the nation at the time. That is what makes this book one that hard-core football fans of that era will want to read, even if they are not fans of either one of these teams.  That includes this reviewer – I did not care for either of them but respected their success and reading about them brought back some great memories of their classic battles.



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: