A landmark achievement in basketball journalism.

PLAY THEIR HEARTS OUT

A COACH, HIS STAR RECRUIT, AND THE YOUTH BASKETBALL MACHINE

In his debut, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist embeds himself in the sleazy underbelly of grassroots basketball.

Though Sports Illustrated senior writer Dohrmann is not the first to expose the seedy side of elite youth basketball leagues—a world in which middle schoolers are exploited by shoe companies and avaricious men intent on building fortunes without regard for the welfare of their charges—he is the most ambitious. Rather than profiling a single player, the author developed a relationship with an inexperienced, underqualified, but desperately determined young coach named Joe Keller and spent eight years chronicling his players’ struggles during their coach’s improbable rise from no-name youth coach to multimillionaire power broker. Before Keller, companies like Nike and Adidas fought over the most promising high-school prospects in the hopes of signing the next Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. Keller, however, set his sights on a previously taboo pool of players: still-developing nine- and ten-year olds. Despite his ambiguous morals, the coach displayed an impressive eye for talent, recruiting a team of young phenoms led by Demetrius Walker, who was soon ranked as the top player in his age group. Keller’s ascent within the grassroots community contrasts sharply with Walker’s struggles to live up to the hype generated by his power-hungry coach. Dohrmann’s account of Walker’s rise, fall and resurrection is more than a simple indictment of the grassroots system; it’s a warning shot across the bow of the basketball community to end the exploitation of good kids from difficult backgrounds whose opportunity to use their athletic gifts to forge a better life is stolen by morally bankrupt companies and shady middlemen. On the surface, it’s an easy story—unscrupulous white men making money off the sweat of undereducated urban youth—but in the author’s skilled hands, a potentially trite morality play becomes a powerful, nuanced chronicle populated with struggling parents, coaches both villainous and virtuous, and confused kids whose innocence is too readily exchanged for a long shot at glory before they understand the price.

A landmark achievement in basketball journalism.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-345-50860-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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

WHY WE SWIM

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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In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

DUMB LUCK AND THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

The latest collection of interrelated essays by the veteran fishing writer.

As in his previous books—from The View From Rat Lake through All Fishermen Are Liars—Gierach hones in on the ups and downs of fishing, and those looking for how-to tips will find plenty here on rods, flies, guides, streams, and pretty much everything else that informs the fishing life. It is the everything else that has earned Gierach the following of fellow writers and legions of readers who may not even fish but are drawn to his musings on community, culture, the natural world, and the seasons of life. In one representatively poetic passage, he writes, “it was a chilly fall afternoon with the leaves changing, the current whispering, and a pale moon in a daytime sky. The river seemed inscrutable, but alive with possibility.” Gierach writes about both patience and process, and he describes the long spells between catches as the fisherman’s equivalent of writer’s block. Even when catching fish is the point, it almost seems beside the point (anglers will understand that sentiment): At the end of one essay, he writes, “I was cold, bored, hungry, and fishless, but there was still nowhere else I’d have rather been—something anyone who fishes will understand.” Most readers will be profoundly moved by the meditation on mortality within the blandly titled “Up in Michigan,” a character study of a man dying of cancer. Though the author had known and been fishing with him for three decades, his reticence kept anyone from knowing him too well. Still, writes Gierach, “I came to think of [his] glancing pronouncements as Michigan haiku: brief, no more than obliquely revealing, and oddly beautiful.” Ultimately, the man was focused on settling accounts, getting in one last fishing trip, and then planning to “sit in the sun and think things over until it’s time for hospice.”

In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6858-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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