BIG GIRL IN THE MIDDLE

The slight story of big-girl Reece, the 6'3', 170-lb. model and captain of Nike's Women's Beach Volleyball Team. In chapters that alternate between Reece's first-person account and co-author and novelist Karbo's (Trespassers Welcome Here, 1989) description of one not-too-successful summer on the pro beach volleyball tour, we learn both more and less than we'd like about the stunning athlete. Her mother, a circus dolphin trainer, left her with friends from the age of two until the age of seven. Reclaimed by her newly remarried mother, Reece (already five feet tall) began a somewhat peripatetic existence, moving from Long Island to St. Thomas, back to New York, and then to Florida over the next ten years. Reece began playing volleyball and modeling seriously in college, but she felt her modeling career was on the decline by the time she was 21; she stood out too much in a business that required a more chameleon-like look from its supermodels. And she discovered that volleyball was more satisfying than modeling. The only thing she yearns for in her pro ball career is a first-place finish for her team, something Nike has not yet accomplished. The book is an easy read, although the insights are limited (``Using sex as a tool is a sure way for a woman to fail to command respect'') and the life described not remarkably eventful (Reece is only 26 years old). The sports scenes also leave something to be desired, as in the description of the climactic game against the Paul Mitchell team (Hair vs. Shoes). Two-plus pages of ``NIKE 10 serving 7. NIKE—net violation. Side out. Paul Mitchell 7 serving 10. Point, Paul Mitchell 8-10. Side out'' can get a little tiresome. Not much appeal beyond the hardcore beach volleyball enthusiasts set. (16 pages color photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-517-70835-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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Like eavesdropping on the team bus, sports enthusiasts will enjoy reliving a time when college football was top national...

THE UNDEFEATED

THE OKLAHOMA SOONERS AND THE GREATEST WINNING STREAK IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY

A rousing look at the colorful coach and players who achieved an amazing 47-game winning streak for the Oklahoma Sooners.

In order to have present-day readers understand the true significance of the Sooners, Texas journalist Dent (The Junction Boys, 1999) gives helpful background information about the state where “Big Oil was a dream. But football was a religion.” Oklahomans, still suffering from effects of the Great Depression, also had to contend with the popular perception (perpetuated by Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath) of destitution and dispossession. In an attempt to fight the stereotypic Okie image, the University of Oklahoma decided to answer with a winning football team. And win they did. With coach Bud Wilkinson at the helm, from the second game of the 1948 season to the eighth game of the 1957 season, the Sooners compiled a staggering 94–4–2 record. They had winning streaks of 31 games and the fabled 47, which ended painfully at the hands of archrival Notre Dame. Dent avoids the potentially dry, statistical tone and instead provides atmosphere with snappy dialogue and by fleshing out the team, foibles and all. Wilkinson (dubbed “The Great White Father”) believed in a strong team of 22 “lean, fast, hard-boned country boys,” including a good group of second stringers. Besides their play on the field, the team, including the coach, played hard off of it, with women and drinking figuring prominently. Some players stand out, particularly quarterback Jimmy Harris, 1952 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Vessels, Gomer Jones, and the first black player, Prentice Gautt, whose personal struggles to be accepted by his teammates and his treatment under the Jim Crow laws provide some of the more poignant moments here. An epilogue reveals how many of the key people of those teams led, and still lead, productive, successful lives.

Like eavesdropping on the team bus, sports enthusiasts will enjoy reliving a time when college football was top national news. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26656-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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A must-read for Packer and Lombardi fans, and will interest most NFL fans as well.

THAT FIRST SEASON

HOW VINCE LOMBARDI TOOK THE WORST TEAM IN THE NFL AND SET IT ON THE PATH TO GLORY

The exciting chronicle of Vince Lombardi’s pivotal first season as head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

Former Baltimore Sun sports columnist Eisenberg (The Great Match Race: When North Met South in America’s First Sports Spectacle, 2006, etc.) looks back at 1959, a year that witnessed one of the more momentous turnarounds in NFL history. In his first season as a head coach, Lombardi took the one of the worst football teams ever and led it to its first winning season in more than a decade. Having sunk to 1-10-1 under Scooter McLean the year before, the 1959 Packers were expected to win no more than three or four games, but Lombardi righted the ship, steering them to a 7-5 record that year and initiating their run to six championships during his nine-year tenure as head coach. How the stout, brash Brooklyn native was able to transform a directionless assemblage of players into a gridiron behemoth is as much the subject of Eisenberg’s exhaustively researched account as his thrilling description of each game. Relying on period articles and interviews with key players from the Lombardi dynasty, the author convincingly shows that the coach’s fierce work ethic, militaristic-style training camps, perfectionist tendencies, belief in fitness and ability to instill confidence in his players were as central to the team’s metamorphosis as his brilliance as a game-play strategist. Though his “sarcastic, critical” coaching style didn’t always endear him to the players, when they saw the results of his simple, run-centered offense and powerful zone defense, he soon won their trust.

A must-read for Packer and Lombardi fans, and will interest most NFL fans as well.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-618-90499-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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