Inspired by his 5-year-old son’s fascination with the pageantry of a televised Army game, Drape went to West Point looking...

SOLDIERS FIRST

DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY, AND FOOTBALL AT WEST POINT

New York Times sportswriter chronicles the 2011 edition of the Black Knights football team.

During the 1940s and ’50s, Coach Red Blaik’s undefeated, powerhouse teams thundered up and down Michie Stadium’s field, and Army featured players—Doc Blanchard, Glenn Davis, Pete Dawkins—talented enough to win the Heisman Trophy. At the outset of Drape’s (Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen, 2009, etc.) account of last year’s young, not-very-talented team, he concedes that the glory days of Army football are over. He’s in search, however, of something else: Where, in the moral sewer of today’s big-time college athletics, does honor still reside? His book contains a game-by-game replay of the disappointing three-win season, but the author is mainly concerned with explaining what it’s like to play a Division I sport at a place where the idea of a student-athlete is real. He focuses on the coach, Rich Ellerson, the team’s three captains, the quarterback and a few others to tell about a culture where being a player “is a picnic compared to being a West Point Plebe,” where football training camp is far easier than the field training to which all cadets are subjected, and where gridiron disappointments must be set aside quickly, because “[t]here is always something more important coming at you.” At the United States Military Academy, no Hollywood celebrities or NFL stars show up at practice (although a Medal of Honor winner might), no player receives special treatment to ensure his eligibility, nor are any concessions made to cadets who are soldiers first, players second. In reporting this story, Drape had “unfettered access to the Academy.” He’s returned from the banks of the Hudson with a sports book that has far more to do with character, intellect and sacrifice than it has to do with football.

Inspired by his 5-year-old son’s fascination with the pageantry of a televised Army game, Drape went to West Point looking for college football’s “good guys.” He most certainly found them.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9490-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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INSIDE AMERICAN EDUCATION

THE DECLINE, THE DECEPTION, THE DOGMAS

American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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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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