A treat for Thompson’s many fans, though guaranteed not to earn him many admirers among the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld believers.

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HEY RUBE

BLOOD SPORT, THE BUSH DOCTRINE, AND THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF DUMBNESS: MODERN HISTORY FROM THE SPORTS DESK

War and football have this in common, quoth the ascended master of gonzo journalism: “They are both profoundly violent and cruel and utterly unforgiving, and they both require public brutality by people wearing elaborate uniforms.”

Football has been much on the mind of the good Dr. Thompson (Kingdom of Fear, 2003, etc.) for decades, and especially now that he’s reassumed his erstwhile role as sportswriter, this time for ESPN’s Web site. ESPN is to be commended for bravery, even if its editors take pains in this collection of columns to distance themselves from Thompson’s views—for, aside from his trademark championing of the use of adult beverages and pharmaceutical treats, he has also had war on his mind since the ascendancy of George W. Bush, whom Thompson calls “a baffled little creep” and worse. This is about sports in the same way Lolita is about sex: which is to say, not much and not often, and then mostly as an obsessive undercurrent in a discourse given over to other things. Sports fans should take interest nonetheless in Thompson’s rants about the decline of the NFL (“There are too many teams and not enough quality players”), sportswriters (“a rude and brainless subculture of fascist drunks”), pitchers (“pampered little swine with too much money and no real effect on the game except to drag it out and interrupt the action”), and sundry other athletic topics. Thompson’s real constituency, which may care little for events on the playing field, will revel in the same intemperance directed to matters set on a larger stage, ranging from war and its consequences (“American troops are killing journalists in a profoundly foreign country, for savage, greed-crazed reasons that most of them couldn’t explain or understand”) to the surreal consequences of drug-fueled conversations with film celebrities, as with Thompson’s weird fugue involving Sean Penn, a Saudi princess, and Homeland Security—a piece worth the price of admission all by itself.

A treat for Thompson’s many fans, though guaranteed not to earn him many admirers among the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld believers.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2004

ISBN: 0-684-87319-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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