A breezy read that provides cultural context to accompany another football season.




An unabashed fan of professional football offers a spirited defense of a sport besieged by controversy.

While the book isn’t likely to convert anyone who considers the sport unconscionably violent, it offers comfort to fellow fans that the sport deserves their attention and even their love. “In today’s NFL, there’s much not to like,” writes former ESPN.com and current Atlantic columnist Easterbrook (The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America, 2013, etc.), who decries taxpayer subsidies of franchises worth billions and children being introduced to playing the sport before either their maturity or their bodies can deal with the risks. “There is also a lot that’s terrific, creating a love-hate relationship so many Americans feel with the national game.” The author praises the example it sets of teamwork, of putting the common goal above the individual accomplishment, of the way that the sport can revive and rally community spirit. He discusses the symbiotic relationship of pro football and TV, though he rails against the ineptitude of most cliché-ridden TV announcers and says that fans without access to a radio broadcast might be better with the TV sound off. He makes much of the sport’s masculinity, verging on boorishness in the process: “Increasingly the media elite look down on manhood, depicting male behavior and male impulses as things to be ashamed of.” But he also has a lighter attitude toward the game, and he devotes more space than warranted to a strategic argument against punting. On more substantive issues, Easterbrook insists that football players know the risks of concussion and are paid accordingly, that violence toward women is no more common among these high-profile athletes than amid the public at large, and that “the commissioner penalizes players not for being unethical but for causing bad publicity.” Hence, “Deflategate,” a “matter too trivial to discuss, let alone to activate such a national ruckus,” with a quarterback’s suspension overruled by the judiciary since this book was written.

A breezy read that provides cultural context to accompany another football season.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61039-648-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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