Engaging, entertaining, and more laid-back than many sports books.




Wry essays on sport and its enthusiasts by an agile writer (Road Swing, 1998) who’s likely to discern the human-interest story behind the statistics.

Rushin, a four-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, has traveled worldwide for the “Air and Space” column in Sports Illustrated, where these 24 essays and shorter pieces originally appeared. Along the way, he’s developed an appealing style that combines deadpan humor with a focus on offbeat events (lucrative darts championships, an amputee golf championship, competitive eating) or unusual settings (the Topps baseball-card company offices, Germany’s most dangerous racetrack). Some pieces give prominence to Rushin’s personal misadventures; the title essay, for example, describes his “June golf tour of Scandinavia,” which brought him near the Arctic Circle, a region where one can “banana-slice a ball so badly that it not only travels backward but also travels back in time.” Elsewhere, he takes a broader, historical view: a piece rife with period details and hilarious pseudo-nostalgia examines the bizarre circumstances that made the 1962 Mets the worst ball team ever. Similarly, the 60-page “How We Got Here” explains how TV and personalities like Roone Arledge transformed spectator sports from a regional, blue-collar phenomenon into the “axis on which the world turns”; Rushin is observant, but arguably pulls his punches here. “Tour de France” offers a pungent snapshot of European soccer, as embittered English rowdies clash with colorful French, Italian, and Brazilian fans. “High Rollers” covers roller-coaster cultists who ride for days on end, a breed of enthusiasm also seen among the amateur racers on Germany’s “Green Hell,” the Nurburgring track deemed too dangerous for Formula One. “Planet Nagano” argues that the 1998 Winter Olympics was well served by Japan’s constant blending of normality with the perverse. At his best, Rushin is reminiscent of such other tart commentators on American leisure as Carl Hiaasen and Padgett Powell; his skillfulness enables him to wring entertainment even out of such chestnuts as the epic Yankees–Red Sox fan rivalry.

Engaging, entertaining, and more laid-back than many sports books.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-87113-878-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2004

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.


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...


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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