A penetrating probe into one of the most intriguing and misunderstood sporting stories of our time.

TROPIC OF FOOTBALL

THE LONG AND PERILOUS JOURNEY OF SAMOANS TO THE NFL

A fascinating investigation into the role of football in American Samoan culture and the role of Samoans in American football.

Depending on the statistic, Americans of Samoan descent are between 20 and 40 times more likely than any other Americans to play in the NFL. The Samoan diaspora has extended from the small Pacific island northeast to Hawaii, to the West Coast and inland to Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and elsewhere. Sports historian and documentarian Ruck (History/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game, 2011, etc.) combines historical scholarship, ethnography, sociology, travelogue, and reportage to tell the story of the growth of football in Samoa and among Samoans. Rejecting biological determinism, the author attributes the success of Samoans in football and other sports to “fa‘a Samoa,” the way of Samoa, which stresses the importance of hard work, discipline, competition, community, respect, pain tolerance, and a warrior ethos. Cultural explanations, too, can have their limitations, but Ruck generally avoids reductionism in telling myriad stories of Samoans who flourished both in college football and the NFL and also others who returned to Samoa to teach or coach or who became leaders elsewhere. The author provides a solid history of American Samoa while showing how American sporting impulses took over after World War II, with football holding particular appeal among Samoan boys. At the same time, he shows how contemporary Samoa faces myriad health crises, including extreme rates of obesity and associated issues like diabetes, kidney failure, and the like, as well as challenges to fa‘a Samoa. Further, he reminds readers that football’s downsides can be all the worse in a place where concussion baseline tests are unheard of, where players wear helmets sent from the mainland that would not pass safety tests, and where, for all of the successes (Junior Seau, Troy Polamalu, and others), most players never get anywhere near a college or professional field.

A penetrating probe into one of the most intriguing and misunderstood sporting stories of our time.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62097-337-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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