Gary Shaw was part of a very big herd at the University of Texas in the 1960s, in the days when college athletes would never imagine rising against the system, and the powerful people, who gave them scholarships.
He was at a place so many young men like him merely dreamed about. Playing the sport they loved, in exchange for a college education, has long been the draw for aspiring athletes, especially those of humble means.
However, Shaw’s dream turned into a nightmare. After his college career was over, he wrote a memoir that was as shocking for being published at all as the controversial claims he made about Texas football, and a sport he came to loathe.
News, Views and Reviews About Sports Books, History and Culture
In This Issue:The Big O Sounds Off, A Classic Sports Memoir, A Film Salute to Cleveland Fans, New Sports Book Releases and Remembering Eddie Einhorn
Basketball Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson went off on NBA coaches this week, saying on the Mike and Mike Show on ESPN Radio that they’re not coming up with very good defenses to stop the sensational shooting exploits of Stephen Curry.
Those remarks drew a lot of reaction, especially since the Big O came across as a “get off my lawn” type for saying how coaches seem to understand “analytical basketball and all that” but apparently little else. Indeed, he said, the game was better in his day, long before the 3-point shot: Continue reading
Sports memoir is a book genre drowning far too often with the trite musings of celebrity athletes, coaches and other figures who don’t have much more to say than what we already know about them.
There are some masterpieces, however, that need to be savored not only for being quite different, but also for shedding significant insight on what makes these individuals tick, and what their sport is all about.
Ken Dryden’s autobiography “The Game,” published in 1983 and reissued in 2013, is at, or near, the top of the sports memoir list for reasons going beyond even the best of these books.
What I learned reading “The Game” were insights into how deeply hockey seeps into the sporting soul and culture of Canada, perhaps more so than baseball ever did for Americans. Continue reading
Cross country skiing is as foreign to me, a near-native of the American South, as college football is in Scandinavia.
While watching the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, I spurned the “plausibly live” snippets served up by U.S. television in our prime time—figure skating, downhill skiing and ice hockey—in favor of events that were being contested as they actually happened several time zones ahead.
I had read a story in The Wall Street Journal about Norway’s historic dominance in the winter games, and how most of that prowess was in cross country—or nordic—skiing. Elite athlete training centers, or “sports schools,” have been created with generous public finances. Continue reading
Sonja Henie was a teenage sporting star and global celebrity long before the sport of figure skating produced more contemporary versions.
The Norwegian-born Henie won Olympic gold in 1928, 1932 and 1936 before coming to the United States and embarking on a Hollywood film career. Along the way, she curried favor with Hitler, had several notorious affairs and gained a reputation as something of a mean-spirited person.
The “Pavlova on Ice” image she carved for herself on skates didn’t carry over to her life away from the ice, according to a 1985 biography assisted by her embittered brother, actor Leif Henie. Continue reading
News, Views and Reviews About Sports Books, History and Culture
In This Issue: Pitchers and Catchers Report; Sports on the Brain; SB Nation Retraction; A New Site for Bill Simmons; New Sports Books
The prelude to spring training is underway in Florida and Arizona, as the winter drags on elsewhere. In the Dominican Republic, “The Republic of Baseball” continues year-round, as Michael Hanson lushly writes in The New York Times. The photography is just as gorgeous.
The first major baseball book of the pre-season will be published Tuesday: “The Cardinals Way: How One Team Embraced Tradition and Moneyball at the Same Time,” by New York-based writer Howard Megdal. The author of “Wilpon’s Folly,” Megdal did a Q & A with the Cardinals Conclave blog, which also has posted a review. Continue reading
Sports psychology, in its most basic application, aims to help athletes and coaches improve performance by unlocking mental obstacles, and to examine what impassions fans, often to the point of irrationality.
The authors of a new book approaching broader matters in sports psychology delve into similar terrain, citing an array of recent case studies and academic research, much of it rooted in behavioral science.
In “This Is Your Brain on Sports,” Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers attempt to answer some of the most vexing questions in contemporary sports. Such as: Continue reading
The psychology of sports fans is coming in for more scientific scrutiny in the age of quantification and social media.
Academics, clinical psychologists and other related professionals are conducting studies, poring over blog posts, Facebook updates and database spreadsheets and employing other contemporary tools to measure how, and why, sports fans obsess over their teams the way they do.
A pre-Internet fan memoir is included in this research vault, and it is often cited as a masterwork of the psychology of sports fans, even though some publishers doubted it would sell. Continue reading
Sports psychology as a formalized field of inquiry and research has been around for nearly a century.
Coleman Griffith, considered the father sports psychology, taught at the University of Illinois and in the 1920s published two of the earliest and best-known books in the field, “The Psychology of Coaching” and “The Psychology of Athletics.”
Like other books published in those years and through the 1960s, they were teaching tools, written for and used primarily by coaches and physical education instructors. Continue reading
College basketball books published since the mid-1980s have explored a broader scope of the history, scandals, memorable games, teams and personalities of the sport than ever before.
The publication of John Feinstein’s “A Season on the Brink” in 1986 came as college basketball was entering its “March Madness” stage, named for the month the NCAA tournament is staged, and which was rendering a rash of shocking upsets.
On the latest Sports Biblio Podcast, I discussed this issue and the influence Feinstein’s book had on a new generation of college basketball writers who’ve produced some substantive, entertaining books. Continue reading