Monday, February 8, 2016

Interview with Justine Gubar - author of "Fanaticus"

After reviewing her book "Fanaticus", I had the pleasure of interviewing author and ESPN journalist Justine Gubar for her thoughts on the book and her experiences with the fans.





Given your experiences with fan behavior that you write about at the beginning of the book, what was your takeaway from your findings while researching for the book?  Were you surprised, was it what you expected or was it something else?

I was surprised to learn how rampant bad fan behavior is, be it fights in a parking lot, Internet shaming or nasty and offensive taunting. Once I started looking, I felt like there were examples everywhere.  The digital world certainly amplified incidents caught on video and that helps.  I was used to the inspiration and entertainment derived from watching sports, not so used to people getting hurt physically and psychologically.


Tell us about what you felt and experienced while you were in the midst of some of these examples of fan behavior, such as the University of Missouri student section at the men's basketball games. You wrote about what the other fans and people were doing and feeling - now it's your turn to express those same thoughts about yourself. 

I loved my time visiting the student sections. The energy was infectious and it took me back to my days as a college student.  As I recall, in college, we played the elitist card and relied on “safety school” as a top taunt. But the students I got to hang out with for Fanaticus were so much more creative and multidimensional than I ever was with the use of props, pranks and costumes.  Did you see Michael Phelps the other night dressed in nothing but a speedo and gold medals to cheer on the ASU basketball team and distract the opponent? Hilarious. The way student sections embrace popular culture in smart, unexpected and attention-grabbing ways is something I marvel at. I was certain I could never be as irreverent as the Antlers but I did figure I could be as loud as the Oregon Pit Crew.


Was the subject of the book something that you wanted to write about for a long time?  Have you wanted to write in addition to your work in broadcasting?

 I never thought I would write a book actually. I am used to telling stories through other people’s voices on TV. After being harassed by an online mob of angry fans and reflecting on the experience, I realized the range of fan emotion was ripe for exploration. One headline after another felt related to the topic and I just knew I was onto something that needed to be written about sooner rather than later.


While you discuss your exposure to sports briefly in the book (such as going to games with your father), tell us more about why you became an athlete and sports fan.  What is it about sports in general that makes you passionate for them? 

Sports are connective tissue, the fascia of so much of our world.  It’s so easy to bond with strangers over favorite teams and star players. Events are unscripted drama-- a spectacle surrounded by incredible pageantry. You go to a rock concert which is its own kind of spectacle but you pretty much know how it will end.  Maybe there’s  tension as to whether the band plays 2 or 3 encores  but that is nothing like the tension of whether the Warriors can keep the home win streak alive or the emotion of winning or  losing the Super Bowl.


Do you plan on writing any other books in the future?  If so, what would be the topic(s)?  Also, feel free to add anything else here that you wish to add.

Writing a book is all about having a great idea that can sustain your curiosity for—literally years.  I’m in search of the next great idea and welcome any suggestions… Justine@fanaticusthebook.com

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review of "Love at First Slice" - fictional golf novel

It is time to catch up on some past requests for reviews - that was one of my New Year's Resolutions.  Hey, starting to work on a resolution in February is not too late, right?  This is a book I received in the fall and is the first one on the backlog to be used toward resolution. Here is my review of "Love at First Slice."




Title/Author:
“Love at First Slice” by Mark Chase

Tags:
Golf, fiction, humor, drama

Publish date:
September 23, 2015

Length:
302 pages

Rating: 
3 ½ of 5 stars (good)

Review:
I was particularly interested in this book when I read the synopsis. The book is about an amateur golfer who would struggle with his game and wanted to lower his handicap – something that many fellow hackers like myself could understand. The story of Phil Hunter, as told in this novel by Mark Chase, certainly lived up to that expectation as this golfer could relate to Phil when he would slice a tee shot and hear that dreaded “thunk” of the ball hitting a tree.

That is one of the many calamities that happen to Phil on the golf course. The worst is that an errant shot hits his former boss (who just fired him from his radio show) in the chest, causing the man to have a heart attack and die. Meanwhile, Phil is in danger of losing his membership at a prestigious club because his handicap is too high.

The storyline and plot are interesting and what Phil undergoes in order to improve his game and his life is certainly a funny tale. The funniest section was when Phil bought a lot of new golf equipment and he compared the experience to pornography. The last sentence in that chapter left me in tears because it was so funny. I will not give away a spoiler, but if a reader likes humor, that sentence will be one of the best.

The pace of the book and story was a little slow for me, as it seemed like it was taking Phil too long to get his mind and act together to get back on the golf course. When there was a golf scene, Chase wrote it in great detail to make the reader feel like he or she is one of the people in Phil’s foursome. Those are the best parts of the book, as the rest of the story, while good overall, was difficult at times for me to follow and enjoy.  However, by the time the reader reaches the end, it does make sense.

If a reader is looking for a funny but dark story, this novel will fill that need, as long as he or she understands the game of golf. Golfers like me who struggle with their own games at times will also enjoy it because Phil is one of us.

I wish to thank Mr. Chase for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
Paperback

Buying links:


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-at-first-slice-mr-mark-chase/1123158617?ean=9780993183003

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review of "Federer and Me"

After getting up very early both mornings this past weekend to catch the women's and men's finals of the Australian Open, I was in the mood to read a book on tennis.  Luckily I found one on NetGalley for request and my request was quickly approved.  I am thankful the publisher granted it as I enjoyed this book written by a huge fan of Roger Federer.  Here is my review of "Federer and Me." 


Title/Author:
“Federer and Me” by William Skidelsky

Tags:
Tennis, professional, fans, Federer

Publish date:
May 3, 2016

Length:
272 pages

Rating: 
4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:
Sometimes a legendary team or athlete will attract many fans and some of those fans will truly fit the definition of the word that “fan” is derived from, “fanatic.”  That is certainly the case for William Skidelsky, a writer who is a huge fan of tennis star Roger Federer. Skidelsky tells readers just how obsessed he is with Federer in this humorous and self-depreciating memoir.

The book starts off with Skidelsky’s adventure in trying to obtain tickets for the 2014 Wimbledon finals where Federer faced Novak Djokovic. The manner in which he obtains these precious ducats and how he has to break the news to his wife is a hilarious story and sets the tone for the chapters in which he talks about this obsession about the Swiss tennis star.

Skidelsky calls himself a tennis nerd in the book as he writes sections on the game’s nuances such as the importance of the grip, the evolution from wood to graphite rackets and why the single handed backhand shot has nearly disappeared. These parts of the book were fascinating to me and while some casual fans may be overwhelmed with this level of detail, readers who want to find out intricate details like this will be very pleased.

There are long stretches of the book where Skidelsky talks about his life without tennis as well, and they are included to paint a complete picture of the author. But the best parts are certainly when he is talking about his favorite subject, Roger Federer.  Whether it is camping out for tickets to see him at Wimbledon, describing the agony of Federer being on the losing side of one of the best matches in Wimbledon history or getting to ask Roger questions at a press conference, any tennis fan who follows his or her favorite player will be able to connect with Skidelsky and his extreme fandom.  A fun read that is recommended to all tennis fans.

I wish to thank Atria Books for providing an advance review copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links (pre-order at time of posting):


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/federer-and-me-william-skidelsky/1122403817?ean=9781501133930

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review of "Triumph and Tragedy in the NHL"

Those who have followed my blog or took the time to read some of my reviews (I thank all of you who take the time to do so) know that the vast majority of my reviews are positive as I try to find the best aspects of the books I read.  However, this one in which I was hoping to learn a lot of information about hockey players who died young was one with which I was very disappointed and my review reflects that.  Here is my review of "From Triumph to Tragedy."




Title/Author:
“Triumph and Tragedy In the NHL” by Brad Lombardo and Robert Osborne

Tags:
Ice Hockey, professional, death, drugs, history

Publish date:
April 22, 2015

Length:
160 pages

Rating: 
2 of 5 stars (not so good)

Review:
There has been one player who has died as a result of an on-ice incident in the history of the National Hockey League, Bill Masterton. He was playing for the Minnesota North Stars when the tragedy occurred and while I was not old enough to understand the game yet, I have always wanted to learn more about this incident as the North Stars were my favorite team while they were in Minnesota.

Therefore, when I saw there was a book that would provide information about Masterton’s death along with five other hockey players who died young (Terry Sawchuk, Tim Horton, Pelle Lindbergh, John Kordic, and Steve Chiasson), I believed that I would learn more about the lives and deaths of all six players. While that goal was achieved, I was left disappointed with all six stories.

I felt that all of the stories about each player were lacking depth in their playing careers, especially in the case of Sawchuk. While he was considered one of the best goalies of all time and the authors acknowledge this, it felt like the discussion was more about all the times he was dealt to another team or would retire instead of his excellence.  For John Kordic’s story, the authors did discuss his addiction to performance enhancing drugs, but did not go into a lot of depth.  While this type of writing would be good for people who just may want to know who these players were and how they died, they would not be helpful for readers who want to know details about their careers and their lives. That was my second biggest disappointment.

However, what I felt was the most disappointing aspect of the book was the inaccuracy of many facts presented about teams and other players. When I read a book and I know that a fact or statistic is incorrect without have to do a search to know that it is incorrect, it leaves me questioning the editing, proofreading and fact checking of the entire book. Here are three examples that caught my attention as soon as I read them:

-       In the chapter on Masterton, the authors state that the last two years that the franchise played in Minnesota, the team dropped the “North” from the name and were known as the “Stars.”  This is not correct. The team wore a new logo on their jerseys the last two years in Minnesota that spelled “Stars” across the chest that they continued to use in Dallas.  However, the team was still known as the “North Stars” in those last two years and did not change to “Stars” until after the move.

-       In the chapter on Sawchuk, it is mentioned that his record number of 103 shutouts was broken by New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur in 1990.  While Brodeur did break the record and is one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, it would have been awfully hard for him to break the record in 1990 considering he was drafted in the NHL draft in June 1990.  For the record, he broke Sawchuk’s record in 2009.

-       In the chapter on Tim Horton, it was noted correctly that the last team he played for, the Buffalo Sabres, made it to the Stanley Cup Finals the season after Horton was killed in a car crash.  However, the book stated their opponents in that series were the Montreal Canadiens – the Sabres lost that series to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Those are just the ones that I caught right away.  While I didn’t look for more errors that I did not know without researching, these along with some typos did detract from my enjoyment of the book. I did finish the entire book as I did want to read about each player, but my overall expectations for the book fell far short of how I felt when I finished.  Readers who just want to know the very basics about these six players whose lives were cut short may enjoy this book, but serious hockey fans should pass on it.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/from-triumph-to-tragedy-in-the-nhl-mr-brad-james-lombardo/1121795918?ean=9781493709052

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review of "Team Chemistry"

Looking for something a little different than the usual biographies and baseball history books, I decided to try this one when I saw it offered on NetGalley.  While there is a lot of history dialogue, it certainly is a different take on a different baseball subject. Here is my review of "Team Chemistry."




Title/Author:
“Team Chemistry: The History of Drugs and Alcohol in Major League Baseball” by Nathan Michael Corzine

Tags:
Baseball, professional, drugs, history, performance enhancing drugs

Publish date:
January 30, 2016

Length:
244 pages

Rating: 
4 ½ of 5 stars (Excellent)

Review:
While the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) has been a source of controversy in Major League Baseball for nearly two decades, this issue is not the first time that the sport has been engulfed in issues with drugs. This book by Nathan Michael Corzine makes the case that PEDs are simply the latest in a long list of uses and abuses of drugs, alcohol and tobacco products by baseball players. 

Whether the use of the substances was for medical purposes, such as those used by Sandy Koufax, or for recreational use, such as the drinking of Mickey Mantle or the cocaine use by players in the 1980s like Tim Raines, Corzine writes of a long history of the use of many substances. The economics of the use of substances is also explored as fund from tobacco and alcohol advertising was a major source of revenue for the clubs in the first half of the twentieth century. 

Much like how the sport has evolved through the years on the field, Corzine writes about the uses of the various substances as an evolution as well.  From the alcohol and tobacco to marijuana and cocaine to PEDs, each era is chronicled for not only the use by players, but what was done by the game’s commissioners and owners to address the uses. That ranges from doing nothing to damage control due to bad publicity to proposing random testing.  Each topic is described in great detail and through excellent research and writing, the reader will learn much about the history of substance use in the game.

Readers may be tempted to try to judge whether one era of substance use was worse than another, like I did, and that would be a mistake. The book makes it easy to try to judge each player described, the closest to a negative aspect in it.  However, that doesn’t take anything away from the overall quality of the writing or the factual reporting.  Any reader who is interested the history of baseball should read this one.

I wish to thank University of Illinois Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

Buying links:



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review of "Fanaticus"

I always am happy to see an author send me a request for a review - whether it is to help promote a book, inquire to see if I am interested in reading it or just to make a connection, it is always welcome.  However, when I saw a message from a journalist I have seen on ESPN asking if I would review her book, my heart rate increased just a little.  I am thrilled to post a review of this book on fan behavior written by Justine Gubar, an Emmy winner for her work at ESPN.  Here is my review of "Fanaticus."


Title/Author:
“Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan” by Justine Gubar

Tags:
Sports, psychology, fans, behavior

Publish date:
June 4, 2015

Length:
254 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (Outstanding)

Review:
While sports can be a relaxing form of entertainment, they also can elicit the worst behavior in people as well. What can cause otherwise well-behaved humans to act like this is explored in “Fanaticus”, a well-written and well-researched book by ESPN producer Justine Gubar. 

Starting with Gubar’s experiences at dealing with this behavior while doing investigative work on the scandal that led to the removal of Jim Tressell as the football coach at Ohio State, the book explores the different aspects of fan behavior and the various settings in which it can take place.  

From name-calling and threats that Gubar received from Ohio State fans to the riots in Vancouver after the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals to an interview with a “professional” European soccer hooligan, the scope and breadth of research done to illustrate the psychology and behavior of sports fans is thorough and informative.  Nearly every level of sport is covered – from the poor behavior of parents at children’s sporting events to student sections at college games to riots during and after professional games. Just about every sport is covered as well – Gubar leaves nothing out in her expose of rowdy fan behavior. 

What is also noteworthy about the book is that she concludes that the nature of this behavior is multifaceted and that there is no easy solution.  Among the factors discussed in the book are alcohol, mob mentality and how much a team is part of a fan’s personal identity.  Why there is no easy answer to any of these include economics (such as the profits from sales of alcoholic beverages), difficulty of enforcement and the growth of social media where people can express themselves instantly and with more anonymity. Every story, from the time Grubar confronts one of the people who were harassing her during her work on the Ohio State scandal to the tale of the Oregon student who played a cruel trick on a California basketball player, will grab the reader’s attention and won’t let go. This a book that all sports fans, no matter the level of fandom, should read. 

I wish to thank Ms. Gubar for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read
E-book (PDF)

Buying links:


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review of "Bench Bosses"

Books that list the best or worst of something or someone in a particular sport are always fun to read and will most likely leave a reader debating some of the selections.  This book about the best coaches in the history of professional hockey is so much more than just a list.  It is certainly one of the best books I have ever read of this format.  Hopefully hockey fans reading this will get a chance to pick it up as it is highly recommended.  Here is my review of "Bench Bosses." 




Title/Author:
“Bench Bosses: The NHL’s Coaching Elite” by Matthew Dibiase

Tags:
Ice Hockey, professional, coaching, list

Publish date:
October 27, 2015

Length:
544 pages

Rating: 
5 of 5 stars (Outstanding)

Review:
Most sports books that are lists of the best or worst of something usually follow a tried and true format – countdown to the top spot, a brief biography or recap of the team or player and an explanation why the team or player is ranked at that spot.

Take that format and throw it out the window when picking up this book on the best coaches in the history of professional hockey. Hockey historian Matthew Dibiase devised a format that takes both positive and negative accomplishments by hockey coaches and ranked the best coaches from 1 to 50, with a few extra “honorable mention” coaches. 

His methodology is simple in one respect – positive accomplishments such as playoff appearances and Stanley Cup wins are worth one point each while negative accomplishments such as a losing season or missing the playoffs lose one point each. Then a few tweaks to allow for items such as different requirements for these accomplishments through different eras and it makes for one of the best books about any sport for comparing eras.

Hockey fans and historians will appreciate the write ups for each coach, especially those about coaches from the early days of the sport like Pete Green, Art Ross, Frank and Lester Patrick and Ralph “Cooney” Weiland.  Even if the reader has not heard of some of these coaches from many years ago, he or she will appreciate what that coach has meant to the game and what he accomplished after reading that coach’s passage.

Another reason that I believe that this is one of the best books about who is the best at what he does is that Dibiase includes accomplishments in other professional leagues – the Pacific Coast Hockey League and Western Canada Hockey League/Western Hockey League from the early 20th century and the World Hockey Association from the 1970’s. By including a coach’s accomplishments in these leagues as well, Dibiase gives a complete picture of what the coach achieved without shortchanging him because he coached in a different professional league.

Finally, the book doesn’t stop at just ranking these coaches. There are chapters describing who was the best coach in each decade, which coaches often came close to making the Stanley Cup finals but never made it, rivalries and separate short chapters on each of the aforementioned other professional leagues. That gives the book even more credibility as a complete comparison of these coaches over the history of professional hockey.

The book can be read for pleasure or can be used for reference as well.  It is an outstanding record of the best coaches the game has known and should be on the bookshelf of every hockey fan and historian.

I wish to thank Mr. Dibiase for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Format Read
Hardcover

Buying links:


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bench-bosses-matthew-dibiase/1118063985?ean=9780771025082