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A monumental show brought to life again in a perfectly pitched read for sports fans.

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A behind-the-scenes look at ABC’s Wide World of Sports, the famous sports show.

ABC’s Wide World of Sports ran for 37 years and was, for most of that time, a huge success and ratings hit. Iconic host Jim McKay and an array of reporters and interviewers—Bud Palmer, Frank Gifford and of course Howard Cosell—took advantage of advances in air travel and satellite technology to take sports reporting to places and events broadcast TV had never been. In his friendly, chatty debut memoir, the show’s producer and director Wilson says, “Every kid in America who tuned into Wide World could now picture himself or herself racing through the streets of Monte Carlo, diving off a coastal cliff in Acapulco, or hurtling headfirst down a treacherous ice track in St. Moritz.” Wilson proves himself an excellent, entertaining guide to the show’s growth and acclaim, providing readers with the perfect balance of insider politics, shrewd estimations of his celebrated colleagues—in particular, his characterizations of McKay, “a good friend, the guy next door,” brim with affection—and a store of enthralling anecdotes, many revolving around the amusing personality clash between sportscaster Cosell and boxing legend Muhammad Ali. “You’re being very truculent,” Cosell sarcastically told Ali, to which the champ replied, “Whatever truculent means, if it’s good, I’m that!” Wilson is openly and winningly sentimental about the sports greats who came through the show, including daredevil motorcyclist Evel Knievel and Soviet gymnast Nadia Comenici, “the elfin girl who charmed the entire world with a simple flick of her wrist at the end of her floor exercise in ’76.” Some of his stories are unexpectedly touching, like the black-and-white photo of Helen “Penny” Chenery (aka Mrs. Tweedy), the analytical owner of the racehorse Secretariat; watching the horse thunder past the half-mile pole, she was able only to say, “C’mon, big boy.” With warmth and intelligence, the book captures a vanished era of sports coverage before the advent of cable’s overwhelming specialty networks.

A monumental show brought to life again in a perfectly pitched read for sports fans.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-1490403663

Page Count: 206

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2013

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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...

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. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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