Game on: These sports books score big
Food for thought as you go about your sports book reading for the holiday season ...
By Jeff Pearlman
Haughton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing
There have been other books by former NFL star Brett Favre, but nothing that covers the gamut on the Hall of Fame quarterback like this one. Favre didn't cooperate with Pearlman on this unauthorized biography, but it's for the better.
The author used Favre quotes from other sources and interviewed 573 people, including Favre's mother, his siblings and an awful lot of others who provide behind-the-scene insight and perspective on the greatest Green Bay Packer ever.
Pearlman pulls no punches in this balanced tome that explores Favre's character flaws along with the strengths that carried him to the top of professional football. His exhaustive research uncovers just about everything you want to know — and plenty you probably don't (e.g. his championship farting ability) — about the Gulfport, Mississippi, native.
Much of the book doesn't paint a pretty picture about Favre as a person, but it's not a witch hunt, either. Pearlman uncovers a lot of dirt but also reveals a softer, very human element to Favre's makeup as a person.
Portland readers will pay particular attention to a segment about Favre's rookie year in Atlanta, playing for former Portland State coaches Jerry Glanville and June Jones.
The book was published in 2016, but still holds as a worthwhile read today.
"Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump"
By Rick Reilly
One of America's most talented sportswriters takes on the subject of the 45th president and what we can learn about him from his experiences on the golf course.
This book is not for most Republicans. It's definitely not for devout Trumpians. It's certainly not going to make the reader ready to declare "The Donald" as Humanitarian of the Year.
Reilly fills 242 pages with stories, stories and more stories based on personal experience and interviews with plenty of those who have crossed paths with Trump on the links.
There are rip-off stories, lies stories, cheat stories, inappropriate comment stories and suing stories, all the while emphasizing that many of those who have played golf with him have very much enjoyed the occasion.
I found myself chuckling at many of Reilly's witticisms. He's the master of the creative simile and metaphor ("In Scotland, Donald Trump is less popular than tipping"; "Take the lighthouse. It used to just sit there by the ninth tee, looking a lot like Melania, gorgeous and lonely"; "Letting Donald Trump host a women's golf tournament is like letting Justin Bieber babysit. There's bound to be trouble.")
This book will have you alternately shaking your head in wonderment and laughing at the bizarre nature of all the happenings associated with the leader of the free world.
"Left on Base in the Bush Leagues"
By Gaylon White
Rowman and Littlefield Publishing
This book, with interviews compiled over more than four decades, features chapters on a bevy of sluggers and fast-ballers who never made it big in the big leagues for a variety of reasons.
Most of them are from the 1940s and '50s, when the minor leagues were at their fullest bloom. I'd heard the stories of some of the players — Joe Bauman, Bobo Newsom, Al Pinkston, Joe Brovia, Steve Dalkowski — but in most cases, I hadn't.
Newsom, incidentally, seemed out of place in that he actually had a lengthy major-league career, amassing a record of 211-222 with nine teams in 22 seasons. The righthander had three seasons in which he lost 20 games. But Newsom also pitched 351 games in the minor leagues, going 139-105. The author chronicles his three seasons with Chattanooga in the Double-A Southern Association, when he went 46-40 over three seasons from 1949-51. He was a character, and that's surely why White spent so much time telling his story.
There are two chapters featuring former Portland Beavers Joe Taylor and Brovia, the latter who compiled a .311 career batting average with 213 home runs over 18 minor league seasons but got his only big-league opportunity at age 31. It amounted to 21 games and 18 at-bats with Cincinnati in 1955, the year before he retired as a player.
There's an awful lot of minutiae to wade through, but there are plenty of interesting nuggets for the baseball fans with some spare time on their hands.
"We Will Rise: A True Story of Tragedy and Resurrection in the America Heartland"
By Steve Beaven
Little A Publishing
Portland writer Steve Beaven — an Evansville native — tells the story of the 1977 airplane crash that killed all 29 people aboard, including the coaches and players in the Purple Aces basketball team.
Beaven was 10 years old and a fan of the team when the accident happened, so this was personal. Beaven provides creative profiles and develops the characters as if he knew them, notably up-and-coming coach Bobby Watson and freshman forward Mike Duff, who was supposed to be the next Larry Bird from the state of Indiana.
There is pathos. To wit, on the day of the accident, writes Beaven, "Watson called Al Dauble, a local florist and influential supporter of the basketball team, and asked him to deliver a dozen red roses to Deidra the next day. It would be their fourth wedding anniversary."
Beaven captures the horror of the crash and the aftermath. He takes the reader through the next few years of Evansville basketball as the program rebounds to make the NCAA Tournament.
I skipped through some of the detail, but it's a worthwhile read if for no other reason than it's a true story about recovering from tragedy. It's real-life stuff.
"If These Walls Could Talk: Stories From the Seattle Seahawks, Sideline, Locker Room and Press Box"
By Dave Wyman with Bob Condotta
Wyman is a former linebacker who spent six of his nine NFL seasons (from 1987-92) with Seattle. Condotta is a long-time respected beat writer of the Seahawks with the Seattle Times.
This is a sort of stream-of-consciousness account from Wyman, who has had a radio talk show for years in Seattle and now serves as Steve Raible's radio analyst for Seahawks games.
Wyman covers the various eras of Seahawk football since his playing days, waxing nostalgic on the high points (Mike Holmgren era, the Super Bowl years, the Legion of Boom, Pete Carroll) and offering a lot of educated opinion on the good — and occasionally bad — old days.
Wyman is a Stanford man, so he's nobody's fool. His insights are valuable and, if there is an understandable allegiance to the team, he provides some criticism, too, of characters who have gone in and out of the Seahawks locker room through the years ("Jimmy Graham can't block.").
I found myself trusting most of Wyman's judgments as he gives us both sides of the most polarizing figures (Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman), though he seems to excuse Carroll's looking the other way at boorish behavior because of the on-field results.
Devout Seahawk fans will be entertained, even if there isn't as much inside info in 236 pages as the book title suggests.
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