Monday, November 18, 2019

Review of "The Greatest Upset Never Seen"

For college basketball fans, just say the school name "Chaminade" and those of a certain age (or those who know their history of the sport) will know exactly how the school became known to them - for pulling off the biggest upset in the sport's history when they defeated #1 ranked Virginia and Ralph Sampson in 1982.  A book has been written about that historic game and it was a great read.  Here is my review of "The Greatest Upset Never Seen"

Title/Author:
“The Greatest Upset Never Seen: Virginia, Chaminade, and the Game That Changed College Basketball Forever” by Jack Danilewicz

Tags:
Basketball, college, history, upsets

Publish date:
November 1, 2019

Length:
232 pages

Rating: to
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
On December 23, 1982, one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history occurred when Chaminade University, located in Honolulu, defeated the top-ranked University of Virginia 77-72.  Not only was the magnitude of the upset noteworthy, but because it didn't finish until the early hours of Christmas Eve, not many people knew about it for a few days.  The game itself as well as the two schools and several people involved in the game are the subject of this great book by Jack Danilewicz.

The game itself is covered extensively in chapter 6, and that is the only place in the book where the reader will find information on the actual game itself.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, because just that chapter alone would make a great book as the writing is well beyond that of an extended game recap.  The reader feels like he is on the benches of the two teams and even sitting on the rim with Richard Haensich of Chaminade in the post-game celebration when reading about the game. It should be noted that this wasn't a game Virginia took lightly or that they didn't play with complete intensity, as Danilewicz makes that clear throughout the chapter.  The Silverswords simply outplayed and defeated the Cavaliers.  Also noteworthy is the fact that the defeat didn't haunt Virginia for the rest of the season as they went back to their winning ways in conference play and the NCAA tourney, although they fell short of their goal of a championship as they were eliminated in the Final Four. 

The rest of the book is a wonderful portrait of both schools and some of the key personnel in the game for both teams.  Danilewicz does an excellent job of capturing the essence of the schools without a lot of fluff or unnecessary text as the reader will learn much about both schools, especially Chaminade. It should be noted that their basketball program, while successful in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) before the Virginia game, that win made it even more visible and noticed. That game proved not to be a fluke as the next two years, Chaminade defeated Louisville as well, with the 1984 Louisville team ranked #12 at the time of its defeat. The Silverswords' success led to the creation of one of the most popular college basketball tournaments, the Maui Invitational.

Profiles about some of the people involved in the game are also well written.  This is especially true for the two coaches, Virginia's Terry Holland and Chaminade's Merv Lopes.  The story of Lopes will especially warm the hearts of the readers, as will the Hawaiian adventures of Tony Randolph, who enrolled at Chaminade after no Division I school recruited him.  Randolph played against the star of the Cavaliers, Ralph Sampson, who had a nice portrait in the book as well.

Whether a reader wants to remember the game, learn what the schools were like before the historic game, or what became of them and the players afterward, this book is a very good accounting of the biggest upset in college basketball history.  Readers who like to read about the history of that sport will want to add it to their libraries.

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.       
                                                            
Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

Buying Links:

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Review of "Don't Be Afraid to Win"

I LOVE to read about the business side of sports, including labor matters and legal issues that affect the games or the leagues.  This book is one that I believe is one of the best around on that topic.  It sticks ONLY to those topics, so if sports business is not your cup of tea, then skip this, but if it is a topic you like, then read on to get a review of "Don't Be Afraid to Win"



Title/Author:
“Don't Be Afraid to Win: How Free Agency Changed the Business of Pro Sports” by Jim Quinn

Tags:
Football (American), basketball, ice hockey, business, legal

Publish date:
November 5, 2019

Length:
376 pages

Rating: to
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Jim Quinn has made quite a name for himself in the world of sports when it comes to legal and labor issues.  He has worked on numerous cases involving either union matters or free agency issues against the NBA, NFL and NHL. He shares the stories of these cases and the importance they had in shaping free agency in each of those leagues in this book.

The book deals strictly with his work in each of these leagues and nothing else. It is not a memoir, it doesn't discuss the accomplishments of his more noteworthy clients such as Oscar Robertson and Freeman McNeil and it isn't simply stories inside the courtroom. Therefore, if a reader is expecting to find this type of information in this book, it won't be found.

However, if the reader IS interested in learning more about why these issues came about, the importance of free agency in shaping the business of professional sports as we know it today and some great inside information on the biggest cases involving free agency such as Robertson v NBA and Freeman v NFL, then get this book and read it cover to cover. 

The start of the book is probably the most interesting story of the whole book and it was not a case that Quinn worked on but instead was an impromptu strike called by Quinn's mentor, Larry Fleischer.  Fleischer became very well known as an agent for many NBA player as well as a sports litigator, but his first foray with NBA players and labor issues made for great reading.  Known as the "21 minute strike", Fleischer convinced players who were in the 1964 NBA All-Star game to not take the court unless the owners would agree to higher contributions to their pension plan.  Nervously, they agreed to do so, and it worked as the owners verbally agreed to do so and the players took the court.

From there the book discusses all of the various actions taken toward free agency in basketball, football and hockey.  The latter sport is mainly discussed because it was the one time owners "won" because the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season resulted in the players agreeing to the owners' demands.

In the other two sports, however, Quinn paints a picture of multi-millionaires using the same arguments in order to deny players free agency, namely competitive balance and the explosion of salaries.  It didn't matter what year or what sport, the book portrays the owners as unwilling to change while Quinn tells of his meetings with players and other lawyers in a very entertaining manner.  Of course, he also shares his secrets and strategies used in order to win cases and provide players with true free agency. 

As mentioned earlier, if this topic doesn't appeal to a reader, then that person should skip this book. But for readers who enjoy this topic as I do, it is one of the best ones available on labor and legal issues in professional sports and should be on their book shelves.

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

Buying Links:

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Review of "Oscar Charleston"

Having only heard very little about Oscar Charleston aside from him being one of the best players in the history of the Negro Leagues, I was very interested in learning more about the man in this book.  It delivered - it is probably to date the best source of information about him.  Here is my review of "Oscar Charleston."





Title/Author:
“Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball's Greatest Forgotten Player” by Jeremy Beer

Tags:
Baseball, biography, history, Negro Leagues

Publish date:
November 1, 2019

Length:
456 pages

Rating: to
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Review:
Ask most baseball fans or historians to name the best players in the history of the Negro Leagues and the immediate answers are usually Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell. However, if one takes a closer look at both the statistics available and the excellence of his play for a long period of time, the answer must be Oscar Charleston. Charleston's life and legacy are told in this excellent book by Jeremy Beer.

Whether one is researching Charleston's early life, his lengthy baseball career that took him to several teams' rosters or his personal life, it can be difficult to find official records and documents for him.  Beer did painstaking research to paint a complex picture of a man who was not only an excellent baseball player but also held other jobs within baseball with mostly successful results. He was a player-manager for a significant portion of his playing career and his rise in this profession makes for great reading, especially the 1932 season when he was the manager of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, considered to be the best team in the history of the Negro Leagues. Of note, he also was a scout for Branch Rickey and the Dodgers in the 1940's, becoming the first black man to be hired for such a position.

Reading the book gives the reader not only a good picture of Charleston the baseball player and employee, but also of Charleston the man.  He was portrayed by peers often as someone who was a trouble maker, especially with his penchant to never walk away from a fight.  Beer puts that reputation to the test with other testimony to show the respect he earned from competitors, including major league stars against whom he played in barnstorming or exhibition games.

Interwoven with modern statistics calculated from the available box scores and other sources of information, one cannot help to wonder how Charleston would have fared in the major leagues had he been allowed to play.  Even so, Beer paints a picture of a man who should be considered one of the greatest players ever to pick up a bat and glove.  Readers who want to get an informed introduction to Oscar Charleston should pick up this book.

I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.      
                                                    
Book Format Read:
E-book (PDF)

Buying Links:


Friday, November 1, 2019

Review of "Infractions"

This book captured my attention not only because it is about NCAA rule breakers, but because I work in healthcare compliance, the work done by the people in the Infractions Committee, which is where the author had worked, is very similar in nature to my profession.  For both a sports book and a book on a profession, I thought it was excellent.  Here is my review of "Infractions"






Title/Author:

“Infractions: Rule Violations, Unethical Conduct and Enforcement in the NCAA” by Jerry Parkinson 

Tags:
Football (American), basketball, college, ethics

Publish date:
September 1, 2019

Length:
376 pages

Rating:
5 of 5 stars (outstanding

Review:
It is no secret that schools that compete in college sports have broken many rules, especially when it comes to recruiting, in order to gain a competitive edge.  The governing body of college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) oversees compliance with the rules, investigates allegations of violations and deals out punishments to schools that are found guilty.  This book written by a former member of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions is an excellent look inside this segment of the organization.

Even though the NCAA has come under heavy criticism in the last few years, readers should not expect this book to be either a defense of the organization, nor is another one that bashes the NCAA because of unfair punishments, vague rules or any of the other reasons why NCAA-bashing has become popular. Instead Parkinson uses his experience in the rules enforcement area to explain to readers the inner workings of that committee through stories of past rule breakers.

Some of these incidents are well known, such as Southern Methodist University's (SMU) slush fund payments to players in the 1980's that resulted in the school receiving the only "death penalty" dished out by the NCAA. Two little known facts about this tawdry scheme and punishment for SMU are provided by Parkinson.  One, because SMU did not field a football team for two years (1987 and 1988) it is often reported the NCAA suspended the program for those two years.  Parkinson notes the penalty was only for one year and SMU voluntarily kept the program closed the second year believing they could not field a competitive team.  He also documents the school's basketball violations which are usually ignored in media reports, but were important in the decision to give such a harsh penalty because it made SMU have multiple major violations.

When discussing this case and the others, Parkinson writes in a balanced and fair manner. He states the facts of each case, he explains the cooperation or lack thereof by each school (an important factor in determining the result of the case) and what the Committee on Infractions did with the information provided. His inside look at the committee was also enlightening and will make a reader appreciate just how difficult the work can become.  For example, since the Committee does not have powers that some other investigative bodies have, such as the power to subpoena witnesses, it may be working without key evidence. 

While much of the reading is excellent, it can also be hard to digest. As one might imagine, the story of Penn State's assistant football coach who was found guilty of abusing children is still a difficult read, but even in cases like this, the material is enlightening as the reader will learn once again the difficulty of reviewing the infractions done by athletic programs, teams and coaches in order to win sporting contests.  This is a recommended read for not only college sports fans, but those who work in fields such as compliance and law for gaining an understanding of this profession in the world of athletics.

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: