A portrait of a sport boasting tremendous ferocity and mayhem that may soon give NASCAR a run for the money.

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FRIED TWINKIES, BUCKLE BUNNIES AND BULL RIDERS

A YEAR INSIDE THE PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDERS TOUR

A buzzing introduction to the world of professional bull riding, from New Orleans Times-Picayune sportswriter Peter.

If you’re not one of bull-riding’s millions of fans, here are the finer points of trying to stay atop a whirling ton of animal flesh. The rider must remain on the bull for eight seconds, never touching it with his free hand, or dropping his rope. (Women have yet to break into this muy macho profession.) He can ride underneath as long as he doesn’t touch the ground, though he won’t win any points for artistry. Judges award points for the rider’s (and the bull’s) performance. After a half-dozen rides or so, the man with the most points wins. The author describes the origins of modern bull riding, rooted in liquor, gambling and bragging rights. He depicts the riders’ nocturnal rituals and outlines the sport’s financial incentives: The top rider gets a $1 million bonus, while others are guaranteed not one cent. He focuses on the 2004 season, a hotly contested series populated by a number of very different individuals, each smartly profiled. That season featured a square-off between the Professional Bull Riders’ president, an enormously popular ex-champ looking out for the riders’ interests, and the PBR’s CEO, whose eye was always focused on the bottom line. The competition was almost halted by a boycott—a sure indication that bull-riding has entered the big time. There were uncounted injuries, some serious, most of them ignored, and the season saw the flicker of a movement to ensure that the bulls weren’t mistreated by the riders, who occasionally used devious and injurious tactics to weaken the animals. All that action keeps the writing spirited throughout.

A portrait of a sport boasting tremendous ferocity and mayhem that may soon give NASCAR a run for the money.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2005

ISBN: 1-59486-119-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Rodale

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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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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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