INSIDE EDGE

A REVEALING JOURNEY INTO THE SECRET WORLD OF FIGURE SKATING

A mix of giddy admiration and honest reporting that's as wobbly as a junior skater attempting a triple flip. Brennan, a sports reporter for the Washington Post, organizes her book around the cycle of one competitive year, yet the narrative is all over the place, jumping from quick portraits of various up-and-coming skaters, such as 12-year-old media darling Tara Lipinski, to the effect of AIDS on the skating community, to sometimes fawning, sometimes critical, sometimes informative portraits of stars such as Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt. The chapter focusing on the 1995 US national and world championship competitions has the momentum and drama that show what this book might have been. Here Brennan follows some of the top junior and senior amateur skaters as they fall prey to, or triumph over, the vicissitudes of competition and the prevailing attitudes of judges. One of the most poignant losers is 14-year-old Michelle Kwan, who skated two flawless programs at the World's yet finished in fourth place. ``The only thing Kwan couldn't do in front of the judges was grow up and become sixteen, which is what they were waiting for,'' Brennan sharply concludes. Brennan does convey the upheaval wrought in the skating world by the sport's newfound popularity and notoriety: intense media attention, the lure of big dollars; the rush of agents to cash in on a new group of sports celebrities. But Brennan is much more forgiving than Joan Ryan (Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, p. 542) of those who control the fates of these young athletes. After pointedly reporting the frequent injustice of the judges, Brennan then protests that, after all, they are only human. Ironically, she is harder on the skaters, who divide into good girls and boys (e.g., Kwan, Todd Eldredge) and bad (Nicole Bobek, Christopher Bowman). Best read both Ryan and Brennan for a balanced picture of a grueling yet beautiful sport. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80167-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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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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