A fascinating sports study with much wider-reaching application, featuring page-turning tales of personal triumph and cogent...

THE CAPTAIN CLASS

THE HIDDEN FORCE THAT CREATES THE WORLD'S GREATEST TEAMS

From the rugby pitch to the baseball diamond, a riveting analysis of greatness in sport.

Following the end of one of the greatest streaks in history, the Connecticut women’s basketball team’s 111 consecutive wins, comes a timely study of what made sports’ most successful teams so dominant. Walker (Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe, 2006), the founding editor of the Wall Street Journal’s daily sports coverage, admits that what propelled him into “this all-consuming project” was witnessing the “transformation” of the 2004 Boston Red Sox “from a half-assed bunch of jokers to legitimate contenders,” as well as his lifelong “ache to be part of a great team.” Diligently establishing the parameters of what sports he would and would not consider and the objective criteria used to analyze a team’s success, Walker arrived at a short list of “the top 10 percent of the top 1 percent of teams” from across the globe since the 1880s. In this illustrious company, the author includes recognizable groups such as the 1949-1953 New York Yankees, the only team in history to win the World Series five consecutive times, but also some unknown to U.S. readers—e.g., Espectaculares Morenas del Caribe (1991-2000) from Cuba, who won “every major women’s international volleyball tournament for ten straight years.” Though having had no expectation of finding a common denominator when he began scrutinizing what enabled these disparate paragons of victory to dominate their respective sports, Walker reached an intriguing conclusion: “the most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it”—not the coach, the management, a franchise’s wealth, or overall talent. Combining statistics with epic stories from the playing field, Walker compellingly makes his case that captains possessing traits not usually assumed as shared among leaders are what make empires.

A fascinating sports study with much wider-reaching application, featuring page-turning tales of personal triumph and cogent analysis.

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9719-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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