No finesse player, but Cowser’s writing has that light-handed, knowing touch, elevating a violent sport into a thing of...

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DREAM SEASON

A PROFESSOR JOINS AMERICA’S OLDEST SEMI-PRO FOOTBALL TEAM

An English professor sinks his teeth into a piece of living history by joining the Watertown (NY) Red and Black semiprofessional football team—the oldest in the country—and enjoys himself enormously.

Cowser (St. Lawrence Univ.) is on the cusp of 31, a teacher and a new father, but he wouldn't believe that there was no room in his life for both the meathead and the egghead. He loved the game of football, played it in high school to some distinction, and yearned to reexperience its rough and tumble. Watertown is a long hoof from Canton, his hometown, but he made the commitment to be there twice a week, plus for a game on the weekend, for the ten-week season, plus the two months of practice beforehand. This is no Plimptonesque excursion into deep sporting waters, as Cowser is a sturdy 230 pounds (if less than six-feet tall) and ready to play any position as long as he gets on the field. He doesn't get as much playing time as he hopes for this first year—he will get much more the next year, as recounted in a short chapter at the end, on a brand-new team—but he does get to taste dirt in his mouth and strangle a pinkie finger when it gets caught in an opponent's jersey mesh. His writing in terrifically inviting, whether talking about his qualms in the hypermale space of the locker room or football's curious balance, the truly odd sense of grace and tranquility in the midst of “a game predicated on deception, feigning and faking, misdirection. And it is violent, brutal.” He worries, as a brawny intellect, if he is simply a tenure-track professor in search of his inner linebacker, though that is of less interest to him—and to readers—as his appreciation that semi-professional ball is a “world of semi-truths and fantasies,” where all sorts of strangeness is played out on the iron.

No finesse player, but Cowser’s writing has that light-handed, knowing touch, elevating a violent sport into a thing of gratifying harmonies.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-87113-923-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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A book that will help everyone feel good at the end of the sporting day.

THE RUDY IN YOU

A GUIDE TO BUILDING TEAMWORK, FAIR PLAY, AND GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP FOR YOUNG ATHLETES, PARENTS, AND COACHES

An uplifting guide to sportsmanship. The subtitle says it all.

Using the example of Ruettiger, whose experience as a Notre Dame football walk-on inspired the 1994 film, Rudy, the authors rail against disrespectful behavior in sports, at any level. They argue that kids, parents and coaches are part of a matrix that can either create a joyful youth sports environment, or a nasty stew of overweening pride, gross expectations and antisocial behavior. With an old school bluntness, they plainly state how participants should act: Kids should have a clear sense of what they want to do, develop strategies for achieving their goals, listen and learn, show respect to all, cultivate a strong work ethic, be positive and helpful and trustworthy, and finally, be patient. Parents should be involved, too, but should always "remember to be the adults. Let the kids be kids." This means not projecting your own aspirations onto your children, while encouraging self-esteem and confidence. Coaches must know their sport (even if they are only volunteers), exemplify personal excellence, challenge the kids, earn their trust, be open to feedback and get everyone involved. The authors’ straightforward advice may seem obvious, but Phillips, Leddy and Ruettiger go further, providing solid examples of how to put these principles into practice. And for all the character building, they also appreciate that kids just want to have fun.

A book that will help everyone feel good at the end of the sporting day.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2005

ISBN: 1-58348-764-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2010

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