A quite unsuccessful attempt to out-Seabiscuit Seabiscuit.

FUNNY CIDE

HOW A HORSE, A TRAINER, A JOCKEY, AND A BUNCH OF HIGH SCHOOL BUDDIES TOOK ON THE SHEIKS AND BLUEBLOODS . . . AND WON

Much ado about an admittedly fine horse—and its group of tenders and owners—whose story should have been just plain good fun.

Not that Funny Cide's 2003 bid for the Triple Crown was anything short of exciting, but Jenkins, who cowrote Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike (2000) and is clearly in the author’s seat here, tries to beat the event into a froth only to have it collapse around her feet. Beginning with the questionable subtitle (making it sound as if they were battling the Taliban), Jenkins has a weakness for exaggerated and even silly statements. “In the year 2000,” she intones, “there would be just 33,689 live thoroughbred foals born in North America.” (Just?) She refers to the men who pooled their cash to get into thoroughbred horseracing as “working-class,” though the group included an optometrist, a construction company owner, a teacher, and a health-care consultant. Nor was Funny Cide's jockey a “busted-up has-been,” but a talented rider who had seen personal and professional ups and downs, not unlike many a jockey or other human being, and who, as Jenkins admits, “won the Travers and the Belmont on Lemon Drop Kid in 1999.” (A lot fewer than 33,689 have done that.) Referring to trainer Tagg Barclay as a “journeyman” in one breath, then six pages later calling him “a horseman of deep knowledge and uncompromising methods who over the years had done more, with less, than just about anybody” begs for clarification. And claiming that the Kentucky Derby, not the most demanding of horse races, is “the horse equivalent of asking a college kid to play in the Super Bowl” is pointless; since all the horses in the Derby are three-year-olds, that kid would simply be playing against other college students.

A quite unsuccessful attempt to out-Seabiscuit Seabiscuit.

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-15179-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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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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