ROAD SWING

ONE FAN'S JOURNEY INTO THE SOUL OF AMERICAN SPORTS

It is unfortunate that Rushin’s often sophomoric sense of humor intrudes on an otherwise engaging and astutely observed odyssey of the rich variety of American sports, major and minor. A Sports Illustrated staffer for 10 years, Rushin covered 23,000 miles —to revisit the twin pursuits of my youth: epic car trips and unhealthy obsession with sports.” On his trip, grazing at the “endless salad bar of American sports,” he caught everything from amateur softball games and 9-ball tournaments to the NBA playoffs. He included numerous “local shrines,” such as Larry Bird’s hometown of French Lick, Ind., the field used in Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Ia., and the town of Jim Thorpe, Penn. At a Chicago Bears training camp, “a whiff of the Porta Potties— sets off a Proustian wave of nostalgia for high school football games, though he is seriously moved by the tears of Lou Groza and the anger of Dante Lavelli, veterans of the glory days of the dearly departed Cleveland Browns. As Rushin’s tour progresses, he visits the obvious: baseball’s Hall of Fame, Augusta National Golf Club, the Talladega National Raceway, Churchill Downs, the Houston Astrodome, and Dodger Stadium (though primarily for the hot dogs). But he also hits the not-so-obvious: St. Louis, where the Anheuser-Busch brewery and the Bowling Hall of Fame “stand as twin monarchs to keggers and keglers”; the Mildred (Babe) Didrickson Zaharias Museum in Beaumont, Tex., and the Louisville Slugger plant, which is actually located In Indiana. All of this is great fun, and Rushin can be a sharp, sometimes quirky tour guide, e.g., his side trip to Las Vegas to view Andre Agassi’s ponytail on display in a restaurant. But he can’t resist spiking his good work with repeated awful stabs at humor: losses for the University of North Carolina women’s soccer team (284—6 since 1981) “were as irregular as Rose Kennedy.” “The air was warm and heavy and foul, like God’s halitosis,” he writes elsewhere, and he has a bit of scatalogical fun with Michael Jordan’s having —released his own fragrance.— Too bad in a a volume that often offers moments of (Thomas) Boswellian sagacity.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-48229-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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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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