TMS Bookworm: Sports Books

October 07, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

We're back again with another TMS Bookworm. Every so often, we feel the need to flex our intellectual muscles and let you know that we still kick it old school by (gasp!) reading books. Today we're taking a look at sport-specific books, where the subjects deal with, uh...sports. Biographies have been deemed ineligible. In case you missed any of the wildly successful previous editions, you can view them here. As always, we welcome your suggestions.

Loose Balls by Terry Pluto
I’ve read this baby about three times, and it never gets old. It chronicles the ups and downs of the ABA and many of its notable players and executives. The book is absolutely hilarious and many of its stories are damn near unbelievable. From the young broadcasting 'newb, Bob Costas tripping up and saying "blow job" on the air, to opposing players getting cold-cocked by way of a coach-issued bounty (just seconds after the opening tip!!), this one is again, damn near unbelievable. Classic "toilet book" as the chapters are short and sweet. Best basketball book ever.

Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn
Talk about a dream job - a young newspaper writer gets to cover his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers for two seasons in ‘52 and ‘53. You then flash forward to the 70’s, where he catches up with the players he covered and gives you the "Where Are They Now?". It’s a great book about baseball and a look into the life of an athlete, both during their playing career and after. One of the first (and best) books written where the reporter followed and chronicled a single team's entire season.

The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski
Kind of like John Feinstein's A Season on the Brink, except for this one deals with high school basketball. The author follows the season of a low income, inner-city high school team in Jersey City, NJ. You get a sense of what makes the players survive the tough discipline of legendary high school coach, Bob Hurley, Sr., and how he tries to prepare these boys to become men. Name sound familiar? Yes, he's the father of Danny and Bobby Hurley, the latter of which was an NCAA champion at Duke and later played in the NBA.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Professional climber and Outside Magazine journalist Jon Krakauer details his 1996 attempt to scale Mt. Everest. The first part of the book deals with the commercialization of Everest - specifically the concerns of many longtime professional climbers that are worried about the growing number of inexperienced climbers attempting to reach the top of Everest after mere weeks of training. In an almost prophetic manner, the second part of the book details Krakauer's journey up the mountain with a guided group, meticulously recounting the horrific tragedy that ultimately left twelve climbers dead.

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
Short and sweet. It’s a fairly simple story on the surface: a father and two sons like to fish. After reading this novella, you see it’s so much more. Maclean uses fishing as a metaphor and follows the normal brother, Norman, and the wild brother, Paul. Great prose and vivid descriptions of Montana, you’re hard pressed in finding a book that matches the language. Also was one of the few books made into a movie that did a good job in the translation from prose to film.

The Bad Guys Won by Jeff Pearlman
In honor of one of the new bartenders and Met fan, Jordi, I'm including this baby, detailing the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets. Pearlman gives the reader great insight into what made the team click, but perhaps more memorable, what a bunch of colorful and unsavory characters they were. Sex, drugs, gambling, and legendary drinking stories are served up quick and often, mixed in with numerous player interviews where they have no shame in stabbing one another in the back. Don Henley could have described this book perfectly when he sang, "Love to cut you down to size, we love dirty laundry!"

Moneyball by Michael Lewis
Give this book a chance before you judge it. It’s gotten a lot of negative press from baseball “purists”, but it makes me think they haven’t even read it. Billy Beane’s philosophy isn’t about reinventing the game, it’s about an economic approach for small market GMs to find undervalued qualities in players. In short, you have to maximize your dollar on a limited budget. Well researched and well written. As a former Econ major, I'd lobby for this to be required reading for all college Econ classes.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb
Up until the early 1950's, the thought of a human running a mile in under four minutes was thought to be impossible. The Perfect Mile follows three men who were the first serious challengers to the mythical barrier - Roger Bannister, the British medical student who allotted equal devotion to studies and running, John Landy, the Aussie who devoted all of his time and energy towards being the first to break the barrier, and Wes Santee, the country boy from Kansas who struggled with grips of Uncle Sam and the unforgiving AAU. Many will already know the outcome, but Bascomb's attention to details of the races and the psyches of the runners themselves make this a truly wonderful book.

French Revolutions by Tim Moore
A 36 year old journalist decides to try and ride the route of the 2000 Tour de France about one month before the actual race. Moore, an English travel writer by trade, claims that he’s by no means an avid cyclist and actually goes out of his way to describe his clumsy history with bikes. A devoted fan of professional cycling, he probably fibs a bit on his “lack of conditioning” and “training very little” for a 2,000 bike ride, you forgive him because his travel exploits are downright hilarious. From admittedly skipping brutal mountain climbs to popping hayfever medication loaded with ephedra to keep him going, his honesty and humor shine through. Cycling interest, while not necessary, would probably help.

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
No, not the awful movie adaptation that sets it in Boston. This is the original piece about the author growing up around his favorite football soccer team, Arsenal. Hornby talks about his passion for the Gunners as a boy and also as a grown man, equally sharing his repeated anguish and frustration with them (Cubs fans, anyone?). More of a comedy than a true autobiography, it will keep you turning pages even if you don’t like soccer. Also the author of High Fidelity.