RaveThe Washington Post... grim and gripping ... One strength of this book is its \'unfiltered\' treatment of highly charged racial themes, and candor is critical ... this engrossing book is not really about football. It’s about how caring, committed adults can make a huge difference in the lives of young people, especially Black males who are threatened every day with psychological and physical turmoil.
Peter L W Osnos
PanWashington PostThis book has many flaws, and Osnos admits that ... One problem is endemic to books of this sort. Many Washington luminaries think their memoirs are worth writing, and reading, but they’re often wrong. I think of these as \'Dinner With Dean\' books, in which the author — with a healthy measure of self-satisfaction — describes meals he (and occasionally she) shared with the noteworthy and notorious, as in \'Then I had dinner with Dean Acheson.\' (My reference to Acheson, secretary of state under Harry Truman, serves to date me, but the point is still valid.) Osnos falls frequently into this trope ... More serious is the lack of compelling insights into the people and events described here. Yes, Osnos had a good view of history in the making. But what did it all mean? ... The young journalists who covered Vietnam changed the entire relationship between working reporters and government officials, making it far more skeptical and less cozy, a tectonic shift that led to The Post’s courageous coverage of Watergate a few years later. Osnos has little to say on the matter ... One editor warned him that his memoir had to tell readers \'why they should bother.\' He never really answers her question.
Ed. by Mary Pilon and Louisa Thomas
PositiveThe Washington PostAs in any collection, these stories can be very uneven. One about a soccer match between Greece and the Ivory Coast borders on gibberish for all but the most die-hard fans. Another piece, a self-indulgent narrative about an abusive marriage, with a glancing reference to horse racing, could be chopped in half. But many others are insightful and point to a critical fact: The focus on failure starts with an obsession with winning, an obsession that can bleed easily into sickness ... My favorite story in this book, however, is not about losing—or winning. In March 1981, American runner Dick Beardsley was competing in the London Marathon and running neck and neck with Inge Simonsen of Norway ... Somehow, they decided that winning was not \'the only thing,\' that they would cross the finish line together.
MixedThe Washington PostNasaw has done a real service in resurrecting this history, but what’s often missing are the personal narratives of the individuals who lived through this period. One has to turn to other forms — novels, plays, memoirs — to grasp the full human drama.
PositiveThe Washington PostIn his fascinating book The Sports Gene, David Epstein...comes to a compelling if not surprising conclusion: Nature and nurture are both essential ingredients for athletic achievement ... Many researchers and writers are reluctant to tackle genetic issues because they fear the quicksand of racial and ethnic stereotyping. To his credit, Epstein does not flinch. He reviews the best scientific studies ... I have only one complaint: The narrative slows down when the author shows off what he knows about the arcane details of genetic science. In all, however, this is a fine book with a moral message.
MixedThe Washington PostKepner’s book lacks a compelling narrative and well-developed characters. His descriptions of how to throw various pitches can be hard to visualize; detailed illustrations would have helped. Accordingly, this volume will appeal more to hardcore fans than to casual readers, but for us baseball believers, there are plenty of nourishing nuggets here, starting with the essential nature of the pitching profession.
MixedThe Washington PostThis is a compelling book but with sizable flaws. It barely includes baseball (let alone NASCAR) and never once mentions Cubs or Cards, Red Sox or Yankees — franchises that have been eliciting strong loyalties for more than a century. Dohrmann has a fondness for modern teams like the Portland Timbers, a professional soccer club — fair enough. But he lacks a sense of history. He writes, almost sneeringly, that 'fan bases are like ancient religions in that most are so old it is impossible to accurately trace their origin.' But that is not true. Those origins are kept alive by myths and memories, faded photos and bubblegum cards and ticket stubs, collected and cherished over many generations ... This is also a very male-centric book. The only chapter devoted to women features a female-run website that advertises a 'hottie of the week,' a well-muscled male athlete ... Still, his basic insight rings true: Being a sports fan means asserting an identity, connecting to a tribe and a time.