An affirmation of the strong state of American sportswriting.

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THE BEST AMERICAN SPORTS WRITING 2013

For more than two decades, this series has provided annual roundups of some of the best American writing about sports, broadly and generously defined, from the previous calendar year. The 2013 edition continues this tradition.

Series editor Stout (Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway's Remarkable First Year, 2011, etc.), who every year does the bulk of the culling of entries, and Pulitzer Prize winner Moehringer (Sutton, 2012, etc.), who edits this year’s edition from Stout’s initial selections, have done a credible job of pulling together a selection that, if not actually representing all of the best sportswriting of the last year, at least serves as a reasonable representation of the healthy state of writing about the games and pastimes that so occupy millions of Americans. Occasionally, the editors confuse a great story (the thing being written about) with the execution (the writing itself) and, in at least one occasion, allow an author’s reputation to outstrip their judgment about the quality of that writer’s contribution. Although professional athletes and famous coaches appear—in the form of the dysfunctions of the Kansas City Chiefs, the lies of Lance Armstrong and Urban Meyer’s return to college football as the Ohio State coach—the best of the entries focus on high school athletes, competitors in individual sports and obscure activities away from the glare of the media. Tragedies feature prominently. This year’s edition also serves as a reminder of the healthy state of long-form writing in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet. Stout includes a listing of “Notable Sports Writing of 2012,” most of which will be available to readers with Internet access. Once again, the series captures the zeitgeist on writing about sports ranging from bullfighting to football, bowling to basketball, with sports almost always being incidental to the human interest beneath the surface.

An affirmation of the strong state of American sportswriting.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-88460-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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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

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