A title wave of sports books
Readers can find new page-turner to satisfy every athletic passion/KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS
A review of sports books collected over the past two months.
With the Super Bowl's 50th anniversary earlier this year, Sports Illustrated offers the perfect elixir to memories of American sports' biggest spectacle ("Super Bowl Gold: 50 Years of the Big Game").
It's an oversize coffee table photo book, but there is plenty of script, too, including a foreword by Peter King and stories by such folks as Austin Murphy, who writes about the three fans who have been to all 49 games, and also takes a look at the history of the game's halftime entertainment.
Featured is an abbreviated game story from every year by such literary giants as Tex Maule, Dan Jenkins, Paul Zimmerman and Michael Silver, reminding us of the great prose the magazine has featured through its history.
Included are remembrances from a member of each team in every game, players such as Jim Taylor, Jerry Kramer, Chuck Foreman, Jim Kelly, Troy Aikman, Matt Hasselbeck, ex-Portland State Viking Julius Thomas and Russell Wilson.
There is a remarkable collection of photos, including a shirtless Joe Namath doing a TV interview on the beach during media coverage of Super Bowl III in 1969, Refrigerator Perry spiking after a TD in Super Bowl XX, and the scrum of thousands (of which I was part) on media day for Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix last year.
Also, plenty of minutiae, including stat leaders, the MVP, the SI cover and a photo of the Super Bowl ring from every game. Another stat: face-value ticket pricing through the years (first year: $6 to $12; last year: $800 to $1,900).
It's almost too much, which is a rather hollow complaint. This book is a keeper.
Nobody is more qualified to write the biography of a former Dallas Cowboys great ("Mel Renfro: Forever a Cowboy," Inkwater Press) than Bob Gill, who preceded Renfro at Jefferson High and, coincidentally, was the predecessor to Terry Baker at quarterback for the Democrats.
Gill, a retired dentist and noted sports historian, has known Renfro since their teenage years and closely followed Mel's Hall of Fame football career. (Full disclosure: I edited Gill's book.)
The hardbound book is full of information about Renfro's formative years in Portland and his time as a two-sport star at the University of Oregon, about his family life both as a child and as an adult and life after retiring from football, along with Mel's thoughts about his many teammates who shared a locker room through his 14-year career with Dallas.
It's the only Renfro biography out there. If you're a Cowboys fan or if you remember Renfro as one of the great athletes our state has produced it's worth the read.
History books require a tremendous amount of research, and it's clear Mike Stone put the hours into his latest project ("PDX 10s," the story of tennis in Portland from 1886 to 1990, Amazon).
Stone, recently retired after 11 years as tennis director at the Portland Tennis Center, unearthed a mountain of information from the sport's inception in the city in the late 19th century to the end of its "boom" years with the 21st century approaching. An epilogue summarizes what has happened with tennis in the city over the past 25 years.
Facts are provided from things important on a global basis (i.e. three Davis Cup ties) to the smallest of details ("Travis Parrott, 5 years old, won a couple of matches in the 10-and-under tournament division.").
Included is a bevy of photos covering tennis through the years, among them many of the international stars who touched down for exhibitions and various tournaments.
(Full disclosure: There's a photo of me, of all people, in one display. I covered plenty of tennis in the late '70s and through the '80s.)
There is a thorough chapter of the city's two ill-fated World Team Tennis incarnations the Sea-Port Cascades in 1977 and the Portland Panthers in 1988 and '89. And some interviews with some of these integral to the local tennis scene, though more of those would certainly have added to the book's quality.
The appendix has a list of state high school team and individual boys and girls champions from 1936-2014.
If you can get by the countless errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar, the book will be enjoyed by those with a strong interest in the city's tennis annals.
The second book by long-time Portland sportscaster Scott Lynn ("Sports Idols: First Heroes of Our Heroes," Authorhouse.com or Amazon) surprised me.
It's more than just a couple of paragraphs each from the nearly 200 sports figures interviewed by Lynn, who now lives in Tampa, Fla. In some cases, there are a couple of pages of reflections from an athlete or coach from nearly every sport and at least three generations dating to the 1950s.
The book will be of special interest to state-of-Oregon readers, with a large number of the sports personalities either natives or athletes who played for our pro teams.
But there also are national names such as Rick Barry, Nancy Lopez, Ken Griffey Jr., Stephen Curry, Jerry West, Joe Torre, John Hannah, Yogi Berra, Walt Frazier and Brooks Robinson.
There is a bit too much Stan Musial (Lynn's personal hero) for me. But it's an easy read, and there's something for just about every sports fan in this collection that covers nearly 600 pages.
Drazen Petrovic's name will ring a bell with fans of the Trail Blazers teams of the early '90s.
The flashy guard out of Yugoslavia made his mark during a 1 1/2-year stint before a trade to the New Jersey Nets, with whom he earned third-team all-NBA honors.
Petro's flame was extinguished far too quickly, the result of an auto accident in which he lost his life at age 28.
Todd Spehr's biography ("The Mozart of Basketball: The Remarkable Life and Legacy of Drazen Petrovic," Skyhorse Publishing) is a thorough, well-researched tome that captures the spirit of one of European basketball's great names.
Spehr reached most of those close to Petrovic, including his parents, older brother Aleksandar, Drazen's closest boyhood friends, his youth and national coaches.
The book also covers the work of Bucky Buckwalter, the then-vice president/basketball operations of the Blazers who was a forerunner in the NBA of acquiring European talent.
Portland drafted and signed Spanish forward Fernando Martin and Lithuanian center Arvydas Sabonis, the latter ironically a major rival of Petrovic during their years in Europe.
I covered Petrovic during his time with the Blazers and found him to be a delightful personality and an athlete unusually driven to succeed. Spehr caught Petro's spirit perfectly and detailed his rise to fame and tragic end with clarity and reverence.
There is nobody I'd rather read in Sports Illustrated these days than L. Jon Wertheim, and I thoroughly enjoyed his book with Al Michaels, "You Can't Make This Up."
Wertheim who lived in Portland for a couple of years while writing for the Blazers' in-house publication, Rip City magazine has collaborated with a Tufts University psychologist for a new book ("This is Your Brain on Sports," Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers, Crownpublishing.com).
The idea, I guess, was to get beneath the exterior of sport and delve into the depths of our fascination for coaches and athletes and their games.
Wertheim and Sommers explored subjects such as the relationship of quarterbacks to physical appearance (SI excerpted that chapter), the art of being an underdog, the brain circuitry of hockey goons, how poor athletes often become good coaches (and vice versa), and how the agony of one team's defeat can feel just as good to a fan as the thrill of another team's victory.
There's some good stuff here, but I'm afraid I may be too lacking in gray matter to appreciate some of the material. When you deal with Rorschach tests, perception of shapes studies, and behavioral economics, the subject matter tends to fly over my head like a drone headed somewhere beyond.
There is little flow as the authors bounce from subject to subject, which is OK if you can figure out where they're going. My brain on sports wasn't quite able to pick it up. That doesn't mean yours won't.