Father's Day is Sunday, and these might be a bit late for last-minute gift ideas, but in the world of express shipping and E-books, maybe not. Regardless, if you're looking for summer sports reading material, the following three books won't disappoint.
OVER TIME, Frank Deford, Atlantic Monthly Press.(Amazon link). This book had no chance but to be a home run. Deford's memoir of a life in writing about sports is every bit as eloquent and fresh as his work has been for decades. This is less a treatise on sports, however, as his writing experience. which makes it all the richer. An excerpt:
The first game the Dream Team played at Barcelona was against Algeria. It was no contest. The highlight, such as it was, was when Charles Barkley clobbered some skinny Algerian player for no good reason, and then explained afterward that he had to do it because, who knew, the guy might've had a spear.
Nevertheless, the official postgame press conference was packed to the gunwales, because this was before the Internet and blogs, and the Dream Team was all anybody with a credential was writing about. Those were the old days of consensus and critical mass. However, only the American coach, Chuck Daly, and one designated player were escorted into the interview room. The player chosen was the team captain. That was Magic Johnson.
There are always Olympic functionaries who run these press conferences, and they are usually officious and invariably patronizing. So to here. The media factotum, swollen with power, condescended to allow a few questions, and then, while the beseeching masses raised their hands like little children at a magic show, pleading to be the next chosen one, he summarily announced that he would permit only one more question. He anointed the lucky devil, and after Daly answered his question, the media enforcer began to announce that the proceedings were thereby, as he had summarily warned us, officially closed.
But at that point, Magic gently laid a hand upon the man's arm and silenced him. "No wait," he said. The Olympic aparatchik stiffened, looking at Magic in surprise.
Magic simply nodded and said, "You see, Mr. Jim Murray, the great columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is right over here, and he has to be allowed to ask his question."
Magic and I have had our differences, but I was never so taken by such a lovely public gesture from an athlete on behalf of a sportswriter.
SMART FOOTBALL, by Chris Brown, self-published.(Amazon link). Chris Brown is a Louisville native, Manhattan attorney, and football fanatic. His full name is Chris Barstable Brown, which alone gives you a bit of his family background. He played football at St. Xavier, coached a little bit during college at Purdue, but moved on to a life in the law.
But he couldn't leave football behind. And with his instinctive curiosity, love for football and unique ability to explain the complex schemes he learned during his time in the game, he founded one of the most informative blogs in all of football, smartfootball.com.
When people would come up to him and ask what the blog was about, he was forever giving long explanations. This book solves that problem. This book gives a basic introduction to what he does, combining reworked pieces from his blog with new material to found a groundwork that essentially demonstrates what his concept of "smart football" entails.
He's must-reading on the sport, and this book is, too, whether you're familiar with his blog, or just discovering it. An excerpt:
Prior to becoming the head coach at Florida, Urban Meyer bounced around as an assistant coach, finally as receivers coach at Notre Dame under the (surprisingly) schematically brilliant but instinctively Cro-Magmnon Bob Davie. In his book, Meyer recalled a moment when, after a loss to Nebraska in 2001, he found one of his best players, David Givens, crying at his locker because he felt he hadn't been able to help his team win: he hadn't touched the ball the entire game.
Meyer then swore to run an offense that delivered the ball to his playmakers. While at Notre Dame, Meyer began meeting with his intellectual mentor, Scott Linehan (his professional mentor was, among others, Lou Holtz.) At the time, Scott Linehan was the offensive coordinator at the University of Louisville; he would later become offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, the head coach for the St. Louis Rams, and is currently the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions. Meyer was eventually hired as head coach at Bowling Green and decided that -- in years that just happened to be the rather formative ones for the spread offense -- he would have his staff learned at these underground masters' feet.
Eschewing typical hotspots like Ohio State, Michigan and Florida, Meyer directed his staff to make a Midwest pilgrimage to learn from Linehan at Louisville, Joe Tiller and Jim Chaney at Purude, Randy Walker and Kevin Wilson at Northwestern, and Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia. What they all had in common was that they were one-back or shotgun spread offensive coaches and they each had organized, conceptual ways of thinking about football. In short, they were not big names, and many had not even any championships yet, but as a coach's coach, Meyer could see they were on the cutting edge. So before Meyer's first season at Bowling Green in 2001, Mullen, Meyer and the rest of the staff looked to blend these ideas they had collected. Over the course of just a handful of weeks, they diagrammed their concepts out, debated them, and converted them to a computer: Meyer's first "spread offense" playbook, which would come to be copied over and over again at every level of football, had been written.
WHERE'S THE MANURE: GOOFIEST QUOTES OF THE 21ST CENTURY (SO FAR), by Dave Roos, Telemachus Press. (Amazon link). Roos is a longtime copy editor for The Courier-Journal, who for years edited the popular "Etc." collection in the C-J, a compilation of the funniest and most memorable quotes of that week in sports.
This book is that collection on steroids. It's a collection of quotes that are outrageous, ludicrous, head-scratching and hard-to-believe, yet always entertaining. Roos has a gift for organizing the material.
A few examples:
Fuzzy Zoeller on the cusp of turning 50: "The greatest thing about golf is that there's no end to it unless you're dead. You just go from here to the Senior Tour."
Larry Bird, on ESPN's "Two on Two" special: "Somebody once told me there is more to life than basketball. I said, 'What is it?' And they didn't give an answer."
Maryland player John Gilchrist, explaining why he's so close to his mother: "She's been with me since birth."
Golfer Fred Couples: "I'm playing as well as I've ever played, except for the years I played better."
You get the picture. And Happy Father's Day to all.