Category Archives: Sports/Entertainment

Books from the New York Times Best Seller’s List January 2014

  How Lucky You Can Be by Buster Olney

Where can you find a good book when you are looking for one?  The library has hundreds of books, but which one should you choose?  One option is to read reviews (like this one) or to wander through book lists, like the New York Times.  This will give you a good idea of what books are being read and enjoyed by others.  Our club decided to pick books from some of these lists.

​The book How Lucky You Can Be was written by Buster Olney, an ESPN announcer.  It is subtitled “The Story of Coach Don Meyer.”  Coach Meyer is the most famous coach that you never heard of… but other basketball coaches around the country know about him.  He devoted himself not only to his teams but also to teaching the art of coaching to anyone interested in the game he loved.  This is much more than a sports story.  It is the story of a dedicated man who at times neglected his family to achieve greatness in his field, passing the legendary Bobby Knight in career wins with over 903 victories, the most by any coach in history at that time.  It took a tragedy for him to express the love he had for his family — wife, children, and his players.

​ Don Meyer had been a college player at Northern Colorado and a head coach for years at David Lipscomb College and Northern State University.  His success was tremendous, but this story really begins on a lonely stretch of two-land road in South Dakota.  While leading a caravan of cars, taking his players on a team-building retreat, Meyer fell asleep at the wheel.  His car veered into an oncoming tractor-trailer truck.  The Coach was crushed, and it was feared that he would die from his injuries.  At the hospital, doctors prepared his wife because they were certain he would not make it through the surgery.  After five hours, Meyer survived but lost part of a leg, his spleen, and had numerous other injuries.  Meyer said that the accident was the best thing that could have happened to him.  He equated it with an angel providing him with a message.  The doctors found that Meyer had terminal cancer.

​ The story describes how this driven coach, who did not want to give up coaching basketball, rose to face the greatest challenge of his life.  He reassessed his life and his relationships.  His three adult children describe the changes that he under went.  Meyer now expressed himself, particularly his emotional self.  He did not hold back telling his children, his wife, or his players how much he loved them.  This tragedy actually has made their family even closer.  This is the story of a man who’s belief in God, his religion, his family, and his team— both coaches and players– gave him the strength to come back to coaching and to fight the lose of a leg and the cancer.  This would be the toughest battle of his life.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly, not only for basketball fans, as an inspirational story of a man fighting to overcome tremendous odds.  (5 of 5)

Other books from book lists rated by different club members:

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Part love story, part meditation on finding spiritual peace in the midst of crisis.  It is a beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective.  (4 of 5)

  Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A funny, informative nonfiction book with excellent examples of misused punctuation. (5 of 5)

  The Hundred Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

The story spans the 20th century with a character similar to Forest Gump.  (4 of 5)

 The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Multiple story lines and strong women tell the story of World War II.  (5 of 5)

    Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Thought provoking historic novel about women being held back by authoritive men.  (4 of 5)

     Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published in 1932, a thought  provoking novel anticipates developments that have profoundly changed society.  (4.5 of 5)

 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

This tale shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during the season of miracles.  (5 of 5)

 God is not Mad at You by Joyce Meyer

A book that explains the relationship between God and man.  (5 of 5)

     Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews

‘Tis the season to be jolly – a funny novel with a heroine who rounds up stray animals of all sorts as well as a killer.  Duck the Halls! (5 of 5)

    Nighttime is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark

A riveting novel of psychological suspense that depicts the mind of a killer. (4 of 5)

The Club Members rating these books:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, Patti Tullis and Rae Ann Weaver

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Crime, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Historical, History, Humor, Inspirational, Inspirational, Murder, Mystery, Personal Insights, Religion, Sports, Sports/Entertainment

Dream Team

By Jack McCallum

Published by Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2012

1992 seems like a lifetime away, and I guess it was if you are 20 years old. For those of us who can actually remember 1992 and were basketball fans even then, “Dream Team” is a treat.

Sports journalist Jack McCallum doesn’t chronicle everything about the ’92 Olympic basketball team and their games and victories. This is not a transcript of the play by play. What he does is give us is insight into how the Dream Team came to be, from getting the go ahead to allow professional athletes to play in the Olympics to the attainment of gold. In addition we get a glimpse of the past and present of those stars and we learn a little about what they are up to now. Jack kind of gives us a little basketball version of VH1’s behind the music. He provides us with the backstage access to one of history’s greatest basketball teams which included Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Christian Laettner, and Coach Chuck Daly

Now, there has been a recent claim by one Kobe Bryant that the 2012 incantation of the U.S. Basketball team could defeat the 1992 Dream Team. My only response to that is a gut busting laugh, because he must have been joking. Michael Jordan laughed as I did, and while admitting that the new guard may have a physical edge, they aren’t as smart. I would also venture to guess that there are few players today who are as competitive as the ’92 squad. Jordan, Bird, and Magic took competitive to a whole other level. Today’s players only care about personal stats and money; winning is secondary to the other two goals. I’ve read quite a bit about Bird (one of my favorite athletes of all time) and Magic, and through their words and this book I have come to a grudging acceptance of Jordan’s greatness. These three together just had a head for the game, they learned how to work as a team, they had a killer instinct, and they never shrunk from the big moment.

Basketball experienced a complete renaissance in the 80’s early 90’s and it culminated with the Dream Team. The Dream Team proved to be a boon for international competition, bringing the game to a worldwide audience and creating new basketball fans and players in far off lands. No matter how good players get, I find it highly improbable that any proceeding team could ever be as good as that one. This is a great read for the Basketball fan and historian.

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The Eighty-Dollar Champion

By Elizabeth Letts

Published by Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2011

Harry De Leyer was a young Dutch immigrant. He had lived through WWII and the German occupation of his home in Holland. After the war he decided to marry and seek his fortune in America. After years of hard work he was slowly inching towards his dreams as a horse owner and trainer. With a growing family however he could not afford the fine mounts that would make wonderful show horses, but he would continue to scrape the bottom of the barrels at horse auctions looking for horses that were within his price range.

One winter day Harry was attempting to make his way from New York to Pennsylvania to attend a horse auction, but unforeseen occurrences caught up with him and he showed up too late for the auction. The only horses left had just been loaded on to the slaughter house truck. Harry asked the driver if he could look at the horses. He didn’t see anything extremely impressive, but one horse in particular stuck out to Harry for his calmness in the face of adversity and for a spark in the old gray horse’s eyes. So, Harry took him from the slaughter house to his home back in New York.

The Eighty-Dollar Champion tells the story of Harry De Leyer and his improbable star jumping horse named Snowman, who he saved from that truck. Elizabeth Letts recounts for us how this horse became a jumper, and to what heights of fame and glory he attained. It was inconceivable that a poor hard working immigrant and a horse of indeterminate lineage could break the barriers of the moneyed Aristocrats and their high priced thoroughbred mounts in show horse competitions, and yet this is just what Harry and Snowman did to become the people’s champion.

Elizabeth Letts has penned an inspirational true story of perseverance, faith, and loyalty. And while it is disappointing and sad to see how time and change catch up with all of us, it is equally uplifting to see what heights man and animal can be lifted.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, History, Inspirational, Nature/Animals, Sports/Entertainment

Is This a Great Game, or What?

Is This a Great Game, or What?

By Tim Kurkjian

Published by St. Martin’s Press

Copyright 2007

Baseball is a game that, for the fan, fills you up, empties you out, breaks your heart, and makes you fall in love all over again. It is a game of memories which remind you of special or important times in your life. It is the bonder of generations. I am a fan of baseball. Baseball is not my life, but it has been the backdrop of many events of my life. Baseball is still the great American past time. Baseball entertains, provides summer long intrigue and struggle, and it gives completely different people a common ground on which to converse.

Tim Kurkjian, a former beat writer and current baseball commentator for ESPN, talks to us about his life in baseball and attempts to remind us why baseball is so great. He has followed the game professionally for over 25 years, and he has seen a lot of baseball in that time (over 3,000 games). The author introduces us to his views of baseball and the personalities he has met within the sport. He provides commentary on baseball statistics, scouting, and great players. He describes what things in baseball bother, confuse, and intrigue him. He also talks about what worries him about children and baseball today. Tim Kurkjian sounds off and explains many things that we may have wondered about baseball, and even on things we never knew or thought about.

For the baseball fan this is great reading. You will get inside information into your favorite sport and even into one of your favorite televisions shows (Baseball Tonight). Those less interested in Baseball will still find this book full of interesting characters and funny stories, and you may even understand family and friends who love baseball a little better.

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Born Standing Up

Born Standing Up

By Steve Martin

Published by Scribner

Copyright © 2007

Steve Martin is one of the funniest comedians of our generation. We remember him for his movie roles: “The Jerk”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, and more recently “Cheaper by the dozen”. His Credits go on and on. Some of us might even remember him from Saturday Night Live. But before that he was a stand up comic. “Born Standing Up” is the story of why he became stand up comic and then why he abruptly quit.

Steve martin’s road to the top started at the bottom with his middle class family in Southern California. His father had aspirations of being an entertainer, and living and working in the shadow of Disneyland and Hollywood Steve had those same aspirations. His family relationships were strained to say the least, so he poured all his thought and energy into his performing career which started out as a mix of magic and music and progressed towards comedy. “Born Standing Up” chronicles the years of his youth through the end of his stand up career. Before your eyes you’ll see Martin’s star rise, not only in words but also in surprising pictures of him, his family, and his acquaintances (who knew Steve Martin ever had anything other than white hair?!)

This is a great book for the Steve Martin fan and for comedic historians, but also for those who enjoy stories of the human struggle for greatness in any occupation.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Humor, Memoir, Sports/Entertainment

The Annotated Casey at the Bat

The Annotated “Casey At the Bat”

By Martin Gardner

Published by Clarkson N. Potter Inc.

Copyright © 1967

 

This is a collection of ballads about the Mighty Casey, with introduction and notes by Martin Gardner. The original Mighty Casey Poem was written by Earnest L. Thayer. It became so popular that many a poet, author, and newspaperman copies or parodied it. And many more came up with their own sequels to the Casey at the Bat story, including Casey’s Revenge and Casey’s Sister at the Bat. I am a big fan of baseball and love the original Casey poem. The copies are a bit boring, because it is obviously very redundant to read them. Even many of the sequels follow the original so closely that it is boring. There are a couple standouts that a baseball fan should read at least once though. They include: “He Never Heard of Casey,” “The Man who Fanned Casey,” “Casey on the Mound,” “Casey 20 Years Later,” and “Like Kelly Did.”

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Poetry, Sports/Entertainment

The Bus: My Life In and Out of the Helmet

The Bus: My Life In and Out of a Helmet

By Jerome Bettis and Gene Wojciechowski

Published by Doubleday

Copyright 2007

            Jerome Bettis A.K.A. “The Bus” is well known for his exploits on the field as a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is admired around the league and by fans around the world not only for his football accomplishments but also for his charitable work. In this book we get to see the man behind the helmet. Jerome Bettis gives the reader a brief history of his life from his days growing up in a tough Detroit neighborhood down through his career in the NFL with the Steelers.

            In this book Jerome is very candid about the mistakes he made in his life, from shoplifting to drug dealing, but he doesn’t make excuses for his actions. He puts those things out there so the reader will understand where he has come from. He also wants his readers to understand that he recognized the need to change his way of life because he knew it would lead him down a path of incarceration or even death.

            For readers who are more interested in football Jerome succinctly details his career on the field and behind the scenes. He chronicles his career from his decision to play for Notre Dame University and Coach Lou Holtz, why the St. Louis Rams traded him, and what made him come back for one more year to play in Super Bowl XL. Jerome talks about wins, losses, injuries (when they happened and when they were reported) and even candidly describes his disagreements with coaches and ownership.

            In a sports landscape full of felons, cheaters, and selfish players Jerome Bettis is a breath of fresh air, and now you can see just why people love “The Bus”.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Sports/Entertainment