In the introduction the editors write, “this book is for the losers—which is to say, for all of us.” They deliver.

LOSERS

DISPATCHES FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SCOREBOARD

Essays from the realm of competitive sports focusing on losing, which “reveals something raw about what it means to be human.”

A few of the bylines are well known, especially Gay Talese (his oft-anthologized 1964 Esquire profile of Floyd Patterson) and Arthur Conan Doyle (1908 Olympic marathon). Refreshingly, though, most of the contributors are less well known to general readers, and their subjects range from obscure to famous. Some of the essays were previously unpublished while others appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the Believer, and other venues. As a collection, the book holds together well even for non–sports fans, though some readers may wish for value-added material such as postscripts or updates. Pilon and Thomas, who both write for the New Yorker and other publications, each contribute an essay. In her piece for that magazine, Thomas focuses on the pressures of the professional tennis tour via a profile of Nick Kyrgios, the volatile Australian who cannot seem to reach his potential in front of tournament crowds. “At some point in every match,” she writes, “he tends to do something brilliant—or he snaps.” Pilon’s piece, published in 2013 in the Times, is set in the world of low-level mixed martial arts, “shadow fighting circuits” that are “far from the bright lights of professional matches.” For basketball fans, Charles Bock offers “The Sporting House,” about an ill-fated star in 1980s Las Vegas, a time when UNLV was the best show in town. Baseball fans will enjoy Bob Sullivan’s “Yankee Strike” and Abby Ellin’s “Larry and the Ball.” In “Banderillero,” Barry Newman writes about bullfighting, an endeavor relatively unknown to American readers. Mike Pesca investigates the many faces of losing and how many “come so close they can taste it, only to be left lapping at the dust of their rivals.”

In the introduction the editors write, “this book is for the losers—which is to say, for all of us.” They deliver.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313383-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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For golfers only. (Fiction. YA)

BOGEY TRAIN

This rarity, a YA book about golf, has a sweet swing but a stiff delivery.

Because family money is tight, Bobby takes on too many jobs while trying to help his Mom make ends meet. He’ll need a golf scholarship to go to college. Unfortunately, he must face Blake, a superior but insufferable player, in the Junior Golf Championship. But with the help of the greenskeeper, good friends and an attractive female golfer, Bobby learns how to break the cycle of constant failure. The well-meaning author manages a bit of suspense as Bobby faces down seemingly insurmountable obstacles and strives for victory, but the novel and its characters remain simple and, usually, dry. Most of the sentences are short and lifeless, delivering one fact each. Much of the story is only slightly more interesting than a textbook on golf–though the reader’s desire to see the villain vanquished may pique curiosity. Even then, McIntyre describes the course of play shot by shot, with the resulting scorecards as illustrations. Readers unfamiliar with golf will be lost almost immediately. Nevertheless, there is a sweetness to the book, perhaps arising from its simplicity, that may appeal to those resolute enough to continue after the opening chapters.

For golfers only. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-4116-9298-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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A good book that could be better with better editing, but that still has plenty to offer sports fans looking for something...

IRELAND'S PROFESSIONAL AMATEURS

A SPORTS SEASON AT ITS PUREST

A sportswriter spends eight months in Ireland, observing Gaelic football and hurling and living with the amateurs who coach and play the games.

Mendlowitz has found an enormously compelling story for Gaelic football and hurling, popular sports that fill NFL-sized stadiums in Ireland. The games are played by amateurs who will never see a dime for their efforts but for the pride of parish and county, a stark contrast, as the author states, to the hired guns in American sports. A staffer with the (Harrisonburg, Va.) Daily News-Record and a stringer for the Washington Post, Mendlowitz is a career sportswriter, and he is at his most effective when covering a game or the clubhouse. He deftly sets up a Gaelic match between Kilmurry and Ballina so readers can follow not only the action but individual footballers’ personal stories as they play out shot to shot. Likewise, the story of the much-maligned Kilnadeema/Leitrim hurling club literally betting on themselves is a wonderful little sports fable. He also captures the strain the Gaelic Athletic Association faces in preserving its amateur Gaelic football and hurling leagues as players sacrifice their family, health and day jobs while watching the money flow in soccer and rugby. Mendlowitz adds some great local color as he moves from parish to parish throughout his trip, incorporating some history of the Troubles in a section on clubs in Northern Ireland and the “Celtic Tiger” boom from earlier in the decade. But as he drifts further away from the game, his prose can sometimes be clunky and overly cute, dipping into needless first-person asides, bad metaphors and clichés, or just plain lazy writing.

A good book that could be better with better editing, but that still has plenty to offer sports fans looking for something other than the standard star bios and team profiles.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-595-45684-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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