This book was one of those "perfect" sports history books - far enough back to be truly a book on history, but recent enough that readers of a certain age will remember many of the events. That was the case for me and as a result, I thoroughly enjoyed "Glory Days"
"Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 and the 90 Days That Changed Sports and Culture Forever" by L. Jon Wertheim
Basketball, baseball, ice hockey, Summer Olympics, tennis, professional, Bulls, Cubs, history
June 15, 2021
5 of 5 stars (excellent)
1984 was a year that was not only popularized by George Orwell's novel written 35 years earlier, but also was a year that was a watershed one in several sports, most notably professional basketball, tennis and the Summer Olympics. Those moments and what they meant in the history of not only sports but also for social and political movements are captured in this excellent book by long-time Sports Illustrated (SI) writer L. Jon Wertheim.
The best passages are those about basketball and tennis, two sports he covered regularly for SI. The passages on Michael Jordan, especially near the end of the book, are very compelling. This is true whether they are about his basketball or his marketing appeal, especially for a relatively unknown shoe company at the time called Nike. The reader will learn much about the 1984 Jordan, especially his connection with Nike. Of course, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are included as well, including a great chapter on the NBA Finals that year with Bird's Celtics winning a thrilling 7 game series over Johnson's Lakers.
As for the tennis, the main personalities of his focus are the two players who were nearly unbeaten that entire year, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova. While the stories on McEnroe are good, Navratilova's story is even better, especially as she was one of the first athletes to speak out on social issues. For her, there were plenty – an immigrant who became an American by defection, her coming out as a lesbian, her hiring of a transgender coach, Dr. Renee Richards and even her training regiment. For the latter, she developed a muscular tone, considered to be taboo for female athletes at the time. I found this connection to many of the female athletes today who are activists like Megan Rapinoe and Serena Williams quite fascinating.
There are other important athletes and teams of from that year, most notably the Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. Instead of focusing solely on the boycott by the Soviet Union and other communist nations, the text focuses on the athletes and the organizer of the games. Portrayals of Mary Decker and Mary Lou Retton are notable, but the best writing on the Games was about the director, Peter Ueberroth and his determination to make the Games not only memorable but also profitable. His success with them led to him being named the new commissioner of baseball that year. Throw in some writing about Wayne Gretzky, Ryne Sandberg and the Chicago Cubs and even Mike Tyson trying out for the Olympic boxing team and you have a great book that captures the sports pulse for that summer.
I wish to thank Houghton Mifflin for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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