A detailed and thoughtful account for enthusiasts of the sport.




The rise and fall of New York’s first superstar soccer team.

Although soccer has largely failed to penetrate the American psyche, British sportswriter Newsham (John Daly, 2003) takes us back to a time in the 1970s when it enjoyed a brief moment in the sun. He begins by sketching out the history of the North American Soccer League (NASL), which was formed in the 1960s. The league drew meager crowds and looked in danger of complete capitulation until Warner Bros. and its garrulous chairman, Steve Ross, took an interest. Ross helped form the New York Cosmos, a team he believed would catapult the sport into the nation’s hearts. The 1975 signing of Brazilian Pelé, the world’s greatest player, was Ross’s statement of intent, and the crowds soon flocked to see the Cosmos play. Other players of a similar stature followed Pelé to the team, most notably the rambunctious Italian Georgio Chinaglia, but the dream was to be short-lived. Pelé’s retirement, after a glorious Cosmos victory over Seattle brought them the 1977 NASL championship, signaled a downturn in both the club’s and the league’s fortunes, leading to the NASL’s ultimate dismantling. Newsham paints a vivid picture of the Cosmos players as they ascended to unexpected heights. Tales of drug-fuelled excess and nonstop partying at New York’s Studio 54 paralleled the kind of debauchery enjoyed by the era’s most decadent rock stars. Indeed, Mick Jagger was one of the many celebrities Steve Ross enticed to the Cosmos’ adopted home at Giants Stadium to see the team play. The author’s attempts to align the Cosmos’ achievements with other significant events of the ’70s—Elvis Presley’s untimely demise, the Son of Sam murders, the New York blackout of 1977—are fleeting and wholly unnecessary. It’s his incontrovertible love of the game, the team and all the hoopla surrounding the Cosmos that make this story compelling.

A detailed and thoughtful account for enthusiasts of the sport.

Pub Date: June 19, 2006

ISBN: 0-87113-941-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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


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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