Kohan brings the modern sporting arena to life in this fine exploration of the “corners of American stadiums that aren’t...

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THE ARENA

INSIDE THE TAILGATING, TICKET-SCALPING, MASCOT-RACING, DUBIOUSLY FUNDED, AND POSSIBLY HAUNTED MONUMENTS OF AMERICAN SPORT

An inside look at the secular cathedrals where we hold our sporting masses—and celebrate with unrepentant excess.

In this highly compelling book, New York Observer contributing editor Kohan deeply explores the myriad facets of the places where our sports teams play their games. Part history and sociology, part ethnography, and part journalism—sometimes straight shoe-leather, sometimes participatory, and oftentimes a little bit gonzo—the book features many of the behind-the-scenes questions you have always had and a few that you never considered. What is it like to be a stadium mascot or the halftime entertainment? Or a groundskeeper—and where do they get that turf? How does ticket scalping work in the age of the internet? What happens to a stadium that falls out of use or that never really fulfills its promise to begin with? And how do they deal with all that food and beer? Kohan is an entertaining tour guide, and while his reporting is top-notch, he also takes a deep dive into the literature on stadiums from antiquity to the present. He loves sport but is no fan of stadium boondoggles. He respects the military but wonders about the justification for the increasing amount of jingoistic paeans to the military on game days. His travels took him to stadiums and arenas across the country, from sparkling new gems to old classics like the Big House in Ann Arbor or Wrigley Field in Chicago. The author embedded himself with grounds crews and supervisors, working folks and management, making the most of the impressive access he was granted at facilities across the country. Each chapter takes a kaleidoscopic look at its topic, with the author effectively merging ground-level and bird’s-eye views.

Kohan brings the modern sporting arena to life in this fine exploration of the “corners of American stadiums that aren’t necessarily hidden but are almost assuredly unseen.”

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63149-127-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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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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