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A sobering, carefully written assessment of ongoing inequalities dotted with small victories.

One of our most prolific sportswriters examines race and racism in sports.

Black players are prevalent in many areas of professional and college sports. Of the front office and the coaching staff, writes Feinstein, the representation is more skewed. One of the subjects of this fine book is George Raveling, the pioneering Black coach who took the helm of Washington State’s basketball program in 1972 and led it to two NCAA tournaments. “Where I grew up,” he tells Feinstein, “if you were Black, there wasn’t much chance to dream. It was all about survival.” Nonetheless, during his time at Villanova, Raveling played alongside 10 other Black students, all of whom were exemplary: All graduated in four years, half have doctorates, one earned a gold medal in the Olympics, another headed a major corporation. Given equal opportunities, executive performance by Black and White coaches is, yes, equal. However, as Feinstein notes, only one NFL coach has ever been fired after a 10-6 season, and that one was Lovie Smith, who is Black—even though he had led the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl and three playoff berths and been named Coach of the Year. Protests sometimes make a mark, but mostly not. Even with the famed case of Colin Kaepernick and the spread of his custom of taking a knee, the result has been mostly White rage. One Sunday soon after Kaepernick’s first protest, Feinstein notes, “more than two hundred NFL players either knelt or stayed in the locker room during the playing of the anthem. The issue came roaring back—which may have been what Trump wanted: make white America angry at Black America.” Racial tension is endemic and at every level of the game. As Feinstein writes near the end, only a few analysts and sportswriters are Black, and no matter what the race, all “are under what amounts to a gag order on air,” forbidden to raise thorny issues.

A sobering, carefully written assessment of ongoing inequalities dotted with small victories.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-54093-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Basketball fans will enjoy Pippen’s bird’s-eye view of some of the sport’s greatest contests.

The Chicago Bulls stalwart tells all—and then some.

Hall of Famer Pippen opens with a long complaint: Yes, he’s a legend, but he got short shrift in the ESPN documentary about Michael Jordan and the Bulls, The Last Dance. Given that Jordan emerges as someone not quite friend enough to qualify as a frenemy, even though teammates for many years, the maltreatment is understandable. This book, Pippen allows, is his retort to a man who “was determined to prove to the current generation of fans that he was larger-than-life during his day—and still larger than LeBron James, the player many consider his equal, if not superior.” Coming from a hardscrabble little town in Arkansas and playing for a small college, Pippen enjoyed an unlikely rise to NBA stardom. He played alongside and against some of the greats, of whom he writes appreciatively (even Jordan). Readers will gain insight into the lives of characters such as Dennis Rodman, who “possessed an unbelievable basketball IQ,” and into the behind-the-scenes work that led to the Bulls dynasty, which ended only because, Pippen charges, the team’s management was so inept. Looking back on his early years, Pippen advocates paying college athletes. “Don’t give me any of that holier-than-thou student-athlete nonsense,” he writes. “These young men—and women—are athletes first, not students, and make up the labor that generates fortunes for their schools. They are, for lack of a better term, slaves.” The author also writes evenhandedly of the world outside basketball: “No matter how many championships I have won, and millions I have earned, I never forget the color of my skin and that some people in this world hate me just because of that.” Overall, the memoir is closely observed and uncommonly modest, given Pippen’s many successes, and it moves as swiftly as a playoff game.

Basketball fans will enjoy Pippen’s bird’s-eye view of some of the sport’s greatest contests.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982165-19-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Everything about Sabathia is larger than life, yet he tells his story with honesty and humility.

One of the best pitchers of his generation—and often the only Black man on his team—shares an extraordinary life in baseball.

A high school star in several sports, Sabathia was being furiously recruited by both colleges and professional teams when the death of his grandmother, whose Social Security checks supported the family, meant that he couldn't go to college even with a full scholarship. He recounts how he learned he had been drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the first round over the PA system at his high school. In 2001, after three seasons in the minor leagues, Sabathia became the youngest player in MLB (age 20). His career took off from there, and in 2008, he signed with the New York Yankees for seven years and $161 million, at the time the largest contract ever for a pitcher. With the help of Vanity Fair contributor Smith, Sabathia tells the entertaining story of his 19 seasons on and off the field. The first 14 ran in tandem with a poorly hidden alcohol problem and a propensity for destructive bar brawls. His high school sweetheart, Amber, who became his wife and the mother of his children, did her best to help him manage his repressed fury and grief about the deaths of two beloved cousins and his father, but Sabathia pursued drinking with the same "till the end" mentality as everything else. Finally, a series of disasters led to a month of rehab in 2015. Leading a sober life was necessary, but it did not tame Sabathia's trademark feistiness. He continued to fiercely rile his opponents and foment the fighting spirit in his teammates until debilitating injuries to his knees and pitching arm led to his retirement in 2019. This book represents an excellent launching point for Jay-Z’s new imprint, Roc Lit 101.

Everything about Sabathia is larger than life, yet he tells his story with honesty and humility.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13375-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Roc Lit 101

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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