Ideal for Chicagoans, both casual and die-hard sports fans, and anyone who wonders, “What happens when you have a dream and...

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MONSTERS

THE 1985 CHICAGO BEARS AND THE WILD HEART OF FOOTBALL

A fan’s engaging yet ultimately melancholy love letter to his beloved team and his hometown.

“Pick your team carefully, because your team is your destiny.” Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone contributor Cohen’s father’s solemn advice can be easily understood by sports fans. However, other readers will enjoy this entertaining, if profane, history of the 1985 NFL champion Chicago Bears. That team symbolized Chicago through their fierceness and audacity and by playing a “blitzkrieg” style of football that would certainly be banned today. Throughout, the author provides comical anecdotes about head coach Mike Ditka, a pugnacious tantrum-thrower whose method was “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Ditka’s orneriness mirrored that of “stingy, angry and mean” team owner George “Papa Bear” Halas (a founder of the NFL) and met its match in the defiant quarterback Jim McMahon, who, despite being undersized with a weak throwing arm and a bad eye, played without regard for his body and led his team to a 15-1 record. Cohen’s telling of the Bears’ founding and its tradition of nastiness is by turns devastating, regarding the irreparable harm done to players’ bodies and minds, and moving, as when he explains that Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton was “Chicago as Chicago wanted to be: a fighter…who’s been knocked down but always gets back up.” Cohen thankfully avoids sentimentality and doesn’t bog readers down in lengthy game reports or analyses. The author is at his best in the interviews with 32 retired players and executives who offer their impressions of the Bears’ famed “46” defense, “the most devastating force in football,” and its characters, including the Hit Man, Mongo, the Black & Blues Brothers and, most famously, the Fridge.

Ideal for Chicagoans, both casual and die-hard sports fans, and anyone who wonders, “What happens when you have a dream and that dream comes true?”

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-29868-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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More than just a game book of college football, The Sweet Season at the innocent appeal of sports in everyday life.

THE SWEET SEASON

A SPORTSWRITER REDISCOVERS FOOTBALL, FAMILY, AND A BIT OF FAITH AT MINNESOTA’S ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE

Sports and human interest intertwine as a man rediscovers the pureness of amateur sports as well as the joys of family life.

Journalist Murphy spends a much-needed sabbatical from his stint at Sports Illustrated by taking his family to rural Collegeville, Minnesota, in order to interact with the coach and players at St. John’s, a small Benedictine college, which happens to have the best record in college football history. Through 2000, the Johnnies have won the conference title 23 times, advanced to the national playoffs 16 times, advanced to the title game 4 times, and have won it 3 times—thanks mainly to its head coach, John Gagliardi, the NCAA’s winningest active coach (second on the all-time list to the retired Eddie Robinson) and a regional celebrity. Gagliardi is a friendly and sometimes elusive, Yoda-like coach who insists that his quarterbacks call their own plays and who hides a strategist’s mind behind an unassuming style. But besides Gagliardi, and talented players such as Tom Linnemann, it is the atmosphere of the school itself that Murphy credits with the success of the Johnnies. At first experiencing some culture shock, Murphy and his family settle into life at this place where the Benedictine monks set the reflective tone and unhurried pace. And while Murphy gets involved with the team, he also reconnects with his wife, Laura, and his two young children. With appealing humor, Murphy recounts how he acquires newfound respect for what his wife goes through on a daily basis and how, in turn, Laura sees in her husband “more of the guy she fell in love with.” The epilogue gives a brief synopsis of the 2000–01 year, when the Johnnies lost to Mount Union in the Stagg Bowl.

More than just a game book of college football, The Sweet Season at the innocent appeal of sports in everyday life.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019547-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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An appealing mix of baseball and cultural history.

SUMMER OF '68

THE SEASON THAT CHANGED BASEBALL--AND AMERICA--FOREVER

During one of the most tumultuous years in our history, a remarkable baseball season unfolded.

In 1968, most baseball players had to work a second job to make ends meet. There were no wild-card teams or division winners. That year the Detroit Tigers became only the third club in history to rally from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the powerful St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic. Showcasing this looming match-up, Wendel (Writing/Johns Hopkins Univ.; High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time, 2010, etc.) foreshortens the season by focusing on the stories of individual Tigers Gates Brown, Willie Horton, Dick McAuliffe and, especially, pitchers Denny McLain, who won an astonishing 31 games, and Mickey Lolich, the Series MVP. The author also looks at Cardinal stars Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, Orlando Cepeda and especially pitcher Bob Gibson, among the game’s all-time greatest. He charts the thrilling Series game by game. More intriguing, though, is the season’s unique backdrop: the “Year of the Pitcher” in baseball and the national turmoil surrounding the sports world. In addition to McLain and Gibson’s heroics (both won the Cy Young and MVP awards), the season saw five no-hitters (including a perfect game by Catfish Hunter), a consecutive game strikeout record by Luis Tiant and an unprecedented scoreless innings streak by Don Drysdale. Meanwhile, the country was falling apart. Urban riots and massive antiwar demonstrations helped persuade LBJ not to run again. By the time the Chicago Democratic Convention exploded in the streets, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had already been assassinated. Wendel touches briefly on how the year agitated other sports, but he focuses on the baseball story and the athletes accustomed to ignoring the outside world. They found that impossible to do in the chaotic year of ’68.

An appealing mix of baseball and cultural history.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-306-82018-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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