A good yarn, but might have made a better chapter than a full-length monograph.

READ REVIEW

THE BIG SCRUM

HOW TEDDY ROOSEVELT SAVED FOOTBALL

The unlikely—and perhaps slightly overblown—tale of how Teddy Roosevelt flexed presidential muscle to save the fledgling game of football.

The story of football’s rise from a haphazardly organized game dominated by Yale and Harvard to America’s favorite sport is a fascinating one, requiring the contributions of many men—not the least of whom, writes National Review correspondent Miller (The First Assassin, 2010, etc.), was President Roosevelt. An advocate of the “strenuous life” that helped him overcome childhood asthma, the president admired those who sacrificed their bodies on the playing field and felt it was the job of America’s universities to spend as much time molding young men’s bodies as they did minds. Football’s popularity grew in lockstep with Roosevelt’s political success, though the game became increasingly controversial, the result of a style of play that led to numerous deaths and countless debilitating injuries. Trailblazing Harvard president Charles Eliot, himself a firm believer in exercise, crusaded against football as a dangerous endeavor that encouraged deception and cruelty, making him the perfect foil for Harvard grad Roosevelt. Even as Eliot led efforts to ban football, Roosevelt called the game’s most influential coaches—including legendary Yale coach Walter Camp—to a White House summit to discuss the state of the game. Though the tangible results of that meeting—a joint statement by the coaches in which they promised to be more vigilant in upholding the rules of fair play—were minimal, the author contends that the meeting had a profound impact on the game’s development and set Roosevelt up as a behind-the-scenes influencer who ensured the game’s survival long enough for new rules (including the forward pass) to make it safer. It’s a worthy addendum to the story of football’s rise, even though the case for Roosevelt as a cornerstone of its development feels overstated.

A good yarn, but might have made a better chapter than a full-length monograph.

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-174450-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more