An incisive, damning indictment of the world’s most popular pastimes.



Revealing some of the ugliest truths about professional sports.

Luther and Davidson are both well known in the world of sports journalism, and their investigative skills serve them well in this acute survey of their chosen field. (This is also a natural follow-up to Luther’s previous book, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape.) Written as something of a guide to ethical conflicts that so often erupt in this massive, lucrative business, the overarching theme here is cognitive dissonance. With guidance from psychologists and other experts, the authors dig into the mindsets of fans and their love of the game and players and the manners in which they experience them. They also examine what happens when players and owners behave in problematic, occasionally inexcusable ways. There are some obvious targets: The authors first tackle the issue of doping, famously represented by Lance Armstrong, as well as the inherent issues around brain trauma in the NFL and the persistent problem of defending players credibly accused of domestic violence or sexual assault. But the depth and breadth of the book are impressive, as the authors discuss less-reported issues like inequality in the world of women’s sports or the struggles of players who identify with the LGBTQ community. Because the authors are journalists and not commentators, they also delve much deeper into the inner workings of the sports industry, covering in detail such topics as malevolent team owners, exemplified by former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banished by the league for his racist comments; the odd mechanics of professional baseball’s free market; and the economic inequities surrounding college basketball’s March Madness. With illuminating interviews and commentary by insiders from the sports community, an appealing pace, and elegant writing, this is a sports book that should interest not just sports fans, but anyone interested in politics, business, or society at large.

An incisive, damning indictment of the world’s most popular pastimes.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4773-1313-8

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A deep, occasionally hagiographic dive into the life of a one-of-a-kind superstar.


The story of King James’ rise and reign.

Any conversation about the greatest NBA player ever must include LeBron James, a four-time MVP and player on four championship teams. (He just became the league's all-time leading scorer, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.) Veteran sportswriter Benedict frames James’ story as a tale of destiny fulfilled. Raised by a poor single mother in Akron, Ohio (his father’s identity remains a mystery), James was supported from an early age by coaches and other community members. Shining at both basketball and football, he skipped college and was drafted by his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in 2003. Benedict describes this path in (overly) deep detail—James doesn’t make his NBA debut till nearly halfway through the book. But from there, the narrative is a well-paced account of James’ on-court ambitions and struggles with how to wield his celebrity. Early on, he could be closed-off with reporters, waffled over signing a letter criticizing China’s human rights record, and famously alienated NBA fans everywhere in 2010 by announcing his decision to “take my talents to South Beach” (and join the Miami Heat) in an overblown hourlong TV special. Benedict suggests that a tight circle of trusted advisers, plus a few championship trophies, helped elevate James as a leader. He effectively played a general manager’s role in assembling squads, didn’t hesitate to speak out after the murders of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, and was comfortable clapping back at then-President Donald Trump. Benedict correlates James’ reputational ups and downs to his relationships with sportswriters—hitting his nadir when he was frosty with the ghostwriter for a book about his high school days, triumphing when he welcomed a Sports Illustrated writer to report his return to the Cavaliers. But James’ roles as world-class athlete and media phenomenon are intertwined, and the author ably captures both elements.

A deep, occasionally hagiographic dive into the life of a one-of-a-kind superstar.

Pub Date: April 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781982110895

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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