College basketball as it was played in New York in the Forties and Fifties was a beautiful thing--lithe, quick, and rushed...

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THE GAME THEY PLAYED

College basketball as it was played in New York in the Forties and Fifties was a beautiful thing--lithe, quick, and rushed like the tempo of the city itself. At the time of CCNY's triumphant sweep of both national tournaments (1949-50), a scrimmage player like Cohen could aspire no higher than playing at Madison Square Garden with the City College Beavers. Only a few months later, a ""fixing"" scandal rocked college athletics, and CCNY's heroes were arrested, pilloried, sentenced; the joy and pride went out of the game. Cohen took it very hard, and 25 years later goes back for another look at the disgrace. Explaining the intricacies of the ""point spread"" and how the gamblers could make a killing without actually dumping the game, he is sure-footed; remembering the outbreak of righteousness that swept through the Midwest--their teams, it would soon be learned, were equally on the take--Cohen burns with unforgiveness for the vindictiveness of small town America (in New York the game was played by Jews and blacks). And his compassion for the players caught in the snares of a venal athletics' system is not misplaced: recruited and subsidized, their academic records doctored for the benefit of gate receipts, the players merely ""followed the example of their elders and tampered with the rules."" Yes, but there's more here, a metaphoric more that makes the sports' scandal emblematic of much that was hypocritical and spiteful in the Fifties. And more yet on ""America's insatiable appetite for exposure"" which somehow links the rigged games to the Kefauver hearings and HUAC's witchhunts. Can basketball take so much heavy freight? Not really; and one does wish Cohen had stuck to the story he knows so well and scrapped the wispy, dubious feints at social history.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1977

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1977