IVY LEAGUE AUTUMNS

AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S GRAND OLD RIVALRIES

A New York Times football writer scores points in this illustrated account of how a major college football conference ``downsized'' to retain its focus on academics. Comprising Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Penn, Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell, the Ivy League is indisputably the cradle of American football, the place where the sport's founding fathers learned to play. Goldstein faithfully recreates the game's early days, when Ivy schools dominated and play was rough, often excessively so. (In 1905, the year after 18 men died on the nation's gridirons, President Theodore Roosevelt intervened by holding a White House summit to put an end to the mayhem.) The author, however, is quick to point out (occasionally stridently) that, despite their prowess and frequently unchecked ardor for the game, these are, after all, scholar-athletes. To underscore this fact, he identifies an impressive raft of gridiron heroes who used their heads as more than mere helmet stuffing, including Jack Kerouac. He notes that when the rest of the nation's colleges softened their academic standards for footballers the Ivy league's teams regularly had their hats handed to them. Conceding that they couldn't maintain academic excellence and still compete with the top teams, the eight officially formed the Ivy League in 1956 as a means of restoring football to its intended extracurricular status. Since then, no Ivy team has seriously contended for a national title (the last Top 20 team was Dartmouth in 1970, with the league finally being relegated to Division I-AA status in 1982). Nor have their players been in the running for the Heisman trophy (named for Penn player and coach John Heisman) since Cornell's Ed Marinaro placed runner-up in 1971. However, in this era of marginal importance, as Goldstein's volume underscores, Ivy League football remains the game's sentimental bastion against creeping professionalism, and a good show besides. (112 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14629-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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