cover image Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History

Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History

Mike Pesca. Twelve, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4555-4036-5

In his first book, Pesca, host of The Gist podcast, collects lively and informative essays on possible alternatives to some of the most notable moments in sports history. The entries come from sports columnists, historians, documentarians, and fans, and “propose hypotheticals that sparked the imagination, that opened the door to a hidden history or set off a plausible chain reaction we might not have even considered.” Highlights include Shira Springer’s “What If the United States Had Boycotted Hitler’s Olympics?” in which she presents a convincing case that a boycott would have been better for the 1936 Olympics, immediately setting the sporting event on “a more progressive” course. In “What If Muhammad Ali Had Gotten His Draft Deferment?” Leigh Montville convincingly argues that Ali’s time away from boxing in 1966 “was the most important time of all”—that without his image of “challenging authority,” Ali’s career would have been “perfunctory, simply about boxing.” In one of the best essays, “What If Nat ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton’s Pass Hadn’t Gone Awry?” Claude Johnson takes a look at racism in the early days of professional basketball with Nat Clifton playing in 1948 on the New York Rens, an all-black pro basketball team (Clifton’s errant pass caused the Rens to lose the game, and perhaps a franchise spot on the newly formed NBA). Enlightening and entertaining, Pesca’s collection of hypothetical sports outcomes gives sports fans much food for thought. (May)