Saturday, April 30, 2011

SPORTS Addicts, Play Ball!

 Think you know your sports?  Think again, as Tobias Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim take out their calculators and put longstanding beliefs to the test.  For example, does a home field advantage relate to the jet lag of traveling teams?  Not so, say the authors.  It has more to do with the bias of referees.  Is there a Chicago Cubs curse?  No, it has to do with management style.  Why do certain athletes take steroids?  And why did Michael Jordan say that defense wins championships when, in fact, offense is just as effective?  Zach McLarty reads the audiobook version of SCORECASTING, which has been compared to Freakonomics by that book’s coauthor.

Sports writer Rick Reilly has some things to say about baseball in a humor book out titled SPORTS FROM HELL, in which he tries to find the stupidest sport in the world among entries like Ferret Legging (in which live ferrets are put down your pants), Chess Boxing (in which contestants try to concentrate on making strategic board game maneuvers after being hit in the head repeatedly), and Jart Throwing (launching now outlawed lawn darts which might stick in your skull). Mike Chamberlain is audio guide for this trip around the sports world. Ironically, Rick picks baseball as the dumbest of them all, and lists dozens of hilarious reasons why, drawing from his years as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, as well as anecdotes heard or experienced in the trenches (or dugouts). It's a welcome addition to sports literature, given how fanatical people are about their own religion (ie. favorite sport). Reilly is former author of "Who's Your Caddy?" and Chamberlain a seasoned actor whose turn of phrase is adeptly matched to the tone of the text. For Reilly's next book, how about invented or reinvented games? For example, a game of tennis in which you play with a ball twice the size, using the doubles lines in playing singles, could be called Elevenis. Or basketball might at least be improved (given the increasing height of players) by raising the basket a foot or more (something long overdue.) 

Young kids are targets of egomaniac coaches out to exploit them in PLAY THEIR HEARTS OUT, narrated by Emily Rose Speer. Pulitzer prize winner Dohrmann did his research while following one kid and one coach in this exposé of the youth basketball industry, which lies to kids about their chances at the brass ring, along with the corporate fat cats who dangle carrots while saying nothing about the better educational choices of those not ultimately picked.

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