MAD AS HELL

HOW SPORTS GOT AWAY FROM THE FANS--AND HOW WE GET IT BACK

Nothing new in this angry diatribe from sports columnist and novelist Lupica (Jump, 1995, etc.): Professional athletes and team owners are arrogant, selfish, and greedy; the fans are fed up; and somebody should do something about it. This should be the Golden Age of sports, with more sports and greater access to them than ever before, says Lupica. But it isn't, he continues, because fans are powerless against rising ticket and cable prices and because of escalating salaries for mediocre or ``preening'' players. The modern fan ``feels like someone trapped in an abusive relationship.'' He lays part of the blame on free agency, which came for the players in the mid-1970s but has been around a long time for the owners: Seeking better deals, owners like Walter O'Malley can move the beloved Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles with no regard for loyalty or tradition. More recently, Art Modell, in spite of 30 years of sold-out crowds at Cleveland Stadium, betrayed the city and Browns fans and moved to Baltimore. But as for the players' role in alienating fans, the author drags out the usual suspects: Dennis Rodman, Derrick Coleman, Michael Irvin, Albert Belle, Darryl Strawberry—misfits who have repeatedly shown contempt for fans, authority, and their game. Lupica provides statistics of athletes arrested or charged with crimes during 1995: Among them are 160 college football players; 49 professional football players; 21 hockey players. He offers a number of oft- heard solutions: no guaranteed contracts; pay college athletes something—maybe they'll stay in school longer; boycott ``rat owners''; institute a strict Code of Conduct for owners. Most will concur with Lupica's Lament, but his voice is so shrill, and he is often so crude (he says Modell sold the team for the same reason an ``old dog licks his balls. Because he can'') that even the angriest fan will turn away. (First serial to Esquire; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1996

ISBN: 0-399-14221-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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