Despite the multiple sports explored and the large cast of characters, Futterman develops his theme seamlessly in a book...

PLAYERS

THE STORY OF SPORTS AND MONEY, AND THE VISIONARIES WHO FOUGHT TO CREATE A REVOLUTION

In his debut, Wall Street Journal reporter Futterman explains how American professional athletes in a variety of sports morphed from poorly paid to multimillionaire status in the span of just a few decades.

The author devotes the first quarter of the book to the entrepreneurial genius of the fascinating Mark McCormack, a Cleveland lawyer who essentially invented the occupation of full-time sports agent. The obsessive-compulsive McCormack persuaded a young Arnold Palmer to turn over his business dealings to his fledgling agency, International Management Group. Within a decade, Palmer's earnings rose from roughly the equivalent of a schoolteacher's salary to something akin to the earnings of a Fortune 500 CEO. Other golfers went on to benefit mightily, and McCormack went on to represent Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, as well as many other superstars in other sports. After delineating in fascinating detail how McCormack altered the equation for golfers, Futterman shifts to similar developments—some involving McCormack's agency, some not—in tennis, baseball, basketball, and football. Other than the Palmer saga, the story developed most deeply by the author is that of baseball pitcher James "Catfish" Hunter, whose battle for free agency from an unfair system showed the genius of union leader Marvin Miller, an economist by education. Futterman illuminates McCormack's career through the superagent's death in 2003 and then shifts attention to additional business visionaries who enhanced the earnings and working conditions of undercompensated athletes. Within the master narrative, the author offers insightful miniprofiles of sports commissioners, team owners, and TV network decision-makers who paid for rights that supplemented earnings.

Despite the multiple sports explored and the large cast of characters, Futterman develops his theme seamlessly in a book that will appeal to casual fans as well as those who live and die according to the accomplishments of athletes.

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1695-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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