Shaking a fist at the sports establishment may work online, but Leitch’s frequently tedious, only periodically amusing...

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GOD SAVE THE FAN

HOW PREENING SPORTSCASTERS, ATHLETES WHO SPEAK IN THE THIRD PERSON, AND THE OCCASIONAL CONVICTED QUARTERBACK HAVE TAKEN THE FUN OUT OF SPORTS (AND HOW WE CAN GET IT BACK)

Sports Rants 101, from the founder of the snarky blog Deadspin.com.

Freelance writer Leitch brings his Deadspin vibe offline in a collection of essays breathlessly spewing vitriol about everything that bothers him regarding the games he ostensibly loves. Former big-league pitcher/racist John Rocker is a jerk! The sports media is annoying! Owners are money-grubbing a-holes! Sure, once every few chapters he has something nice to say—he has a soft spot for Washington Wizards goofball Gilbert Arenas, for instance—but for the most part he barrages the reader with anger and negativity. Approximately 90 percent of the book is a tongue-not-quite-far-enough-in-cheek dissection of everything that’s broken in big-time sports, but Leitch isn’t particularly eloquent when it comes to talking about what he likes. If the players are such prima donnas, and the owners are so greedy, and the media constantly gets on his nerves, why does he even pay attention? Leitch’s disdain for ESPN is especially tiresome. It’s quite all right to discuss how much he hates practically all of the network’s talking heads—he’s entitled to his opinion—but whether this merits 50-plus pages is seriously questionable. The entire book reads like a blog, and blogs are time-sensitive to the point of being disposable within days. So what does that tell you?

Shaking a fist at the sports establishment may work online, but Leitch’s frequently tedious, only periodically amusing manifesto loses something in its translation to the page.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-135178-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich...

PERSIMMON WIND

A MARTIAL ARTIST'S JOURNEY IN JAPAN

A reflective and entertaining journey through Japan, as the author seeks to reconnect with his martial arts sensei.

Lowry is a student of koryu (not to be confused with kendo), a style of Japanese classical swordsmanship. Koryu is a medieval art, like Noh and the tea ceremony, a style of combat born on the battlefield–but more importantly, it’s a way to address the world (though an esoteric one: Lowry may well be the only American practicing the art in the United States). Indeed, present-day practitioners refrain from exercising its fatal possibilities. Lowry’s sensei left the U.S. to return to Japan, urging Lowry to follow. Though his life headed in a different direction, he never forgot his training–when the time was ripe, he journeyed to Japan to join his sensei. The narrative revolves around this pivotal decision, and it provides a warm center from which the author expounds on such topics as the glories of a Japanese bath; the evolution of the Samurai caste; the peculiarities of Japanese landscape architecture; the elements of proper sandal-tying; the custom of the premarital shenanigans called yobai; and the teachings of mikkyo Buddhism. He also includes the vital story of the sword–what it reveals about Japanese life and technology, social structure and aesthetic values, etiquette, apprenticeship and the process of education. Lowry’s seriousness lends an earnest cast to the proceedings, but he’s not without a sense of humor–commenting upon his accomplished slurping of noodles, a friend’s wife notes, “He really sucks!”

A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich tradition.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-890536-10-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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