A worthy offering for fans of the modern, increasingly embattled game.

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QUARTERBACK

INSIDE THE MOST IMPORTANT POSITION IN THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

A QB–centric look at how football works, on and off the field.

Quarterbacks are vital to any gridiron contest. You know that, writes sports journalist and commentator Feinstein (The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup, 2017, etc.), “because there are two people the media must listen to after a game: the head coach and the quarterback.” Quarterbacks usually take their time giving the media their piece of the story, but in the author’s opening vignette, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is quick to get to the microphones following a charged division game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in October 2017. Asked to explain the Ravens’ loss, Flacco said, “I sucked. We sucked as an offense, and I’m the quarterback, so I’m responsible. It’s pretty simple.” Well, yes and no: Some of the QBs Feinstein mentions in this leisurely stroll down the field are a little less quick to fall on their swords, while others are exemplary in many ways. One of the author’s chief subjects, for instance, is Doug Williams, a rarity in his day, the first African-American quarterback to bring home the Super Bowl; if racism figured in the 1970s, it certainly hasn’t gone away in the decades since. Neither has the tendency of some clubs to treat players as cogs in the big moneymaking machine, as with Ryan Fitzpatrick, asked to take a pay cut following a career-best throwing season for the Buffalo Bills, then axed for failures not of his own making—save that he was the captain on the field. “When things go well, everyone loves you,” he tells Feinstein. “When they don’t, people fall out of love in a hurry." The author ably gets to the heart of the game, and if little of what he writes will come as news to discerning fans, there are some fine set pieces featuring battle-weary players and devious front-office types.

A worthy offering for fans of the modern, increasingly embattled game.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-385-54303-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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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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