Competitive sports triggers many complex emotions—joy mixed with tears, suffering stirred to violence. In the same week in June, hockey fans set fire to cars in the Vancouver streets two nights after a nation of basketball fans in the U.S were introduced to the word "schadenfreude" in the NBA finals, when the Mavs beat the Heat.
More than a few of this season's crop of sports books seem particularly soaked in a brew of anger and envy. Top of the charts is the new king of schadenfreude, Scott Raab, whose The Whore of Akron is subtitled "One Man's Search for the Soul of LeBron James." A proud vilifier of all things LeBron, Raab was given a dream ending, thanks to Herr Dirk Nowitzki. Then there's the widespread enmity toward Duke University's basketball team, which will be channeled by a couple of Tarheel bloggers in Duke Sucks, cheekily subtitled "A Completely Even-handed, Unbiased Investigation into the Most Evil Team on Planet Earth."
Thirty years ago "the most hated man in America" might have been a sportscaster. In Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports, Mark Ribowsky offers a portrait of the complicated and polarizing Cosell.
Often in sport, villainy is more roguery, and the story of Hack Wilson told in Hack's 191 by Bill Chastain qualifies. Wilson was a hard-drinking man and friend of Al Capone who also set an RBI record that still stands after 80 years. Baseball in that era gets a beautiful portrait in The Big Show, featuring the photographs of early baseball by Charles M. Conlon. This brings a long-gone era of baseball—and America—to black-and-white life. Conlon's photos are from the turn of the century till 1942.
WWII wreaked havoc on professional sports, and collegiate sports, especially college football, took ascendancy. Randy Roberts tells the story of that 1944 undefeated West Point team in A Team for America: When West Point Rallied a Nation at War. The team coached by Red Blaik went 9–0, outscored opponents 412–46, and running back Doc Blanchard won the Heisman. And we won the war.
Famous athletes that time forgot are often the spark to great sports books—remember an athlete called Seabiscuit? And Mercer University in Atlanta and author Jaclyn Weldon, who has written several true crime books for the press, weighs in with The Greatest Champion That Never Was: The Life of W.L. "Young" Stribling. Stribling's story involves a magnificent boxing career, almost a win against then-champ Max Schmeling in 1931 in Cleveland, then a tragic death two years later. With the Schmeling-Louis rivalry that followed, and WWII, it is understandable that Young Strib's story was lost. Now it is found.
Basketball fans of a certain age will be curious about West by West, the Hall of Fame guard's life story, subtitled with typical Jerry West directness, "My Charmed, Tormented Life." West details the burden of being self-driven and incapable of accepting defeat.
Rafael Nadal, the Spanish tennis player, also presents his story of dedication to winning in Rafa, written with John Carlin. The book will publish just before Nadal will be in New York pursuing his second straight U.S. Open title.
And since they call antelope "game" and hunting a "sport," why not this unique entry in the sports book field: foodie Georgia Pellegrini's Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time. Pellegrini is a telegenic food blogger with restaurant experience, Ivy League background, and she's a crack shot. Duck!
PW's Top 10 Sports
Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time
Georgia Pellegrini. Da Capo, Dec.
The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon's Golden Age of Baseball
Neal McCabe and Constance McCabe. Abrams, Sept.
Hack's 191: Hack Wilson and His Incredible 1930 Season
Bill Chastain. Globe Pequot, Jan.
The Whore of Akron: One Man's Search for the Soul of LeBron James
Scott Raab. Harper, Nov.
A Team for America: When West Point Football Rallied a Nation at War
Randy Roberts. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nov.
Rafael Nadal with John Carlin. Hyperion, Aug.
West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life
Jerry West with Jonathan Coleman. Little, Brown, Oct.
The Greatest Champion That Never Was: The Life of W.L. "Young" Stribling
Jaclyn Weldon. Mercer Univ. Press., Oct.
Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports
Mark Ribowsky. Norton, Nov.
Duke Sucks: A Completely Even-handed, Unbiased Investigation into the Most Evil Team on Planet Earth
Reed Tucker and Andy Bagwell. St. Martin's Griffin, Jan.
The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon's Golden Age Baseball Photographs by Neal McCabe and Constance McCabe, foreword by Roger Kahn (Sept., hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1-4197-0069-9). The definitive collection of the work by Conlon, one of America's greatest baseball photographers, who worked from1904 till the WWII period, provides a moving depiction of past baseball greats.
Wooden: Basketball & Beyond: The Official UCLA Retrospective, intro. by Dick Enberg, foreword by Denny Crum (Nov., hardcover, $85, ISBN 978-1-4197-0115-3). The definitive tribute to a man whose greatness transcended sports, with photos and statistics.
The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History: The Oral History of a Legendary Team by Bernard M. Corbett and Jim Baker (Aug., hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1-60819-067-6). Relive the most glorious and important moments in New England Patriots history, from Gino Cappelletti and the old AFL to Steve Grogan and Tom Brady
(dist. by Sterling)
UFC Official Fan's Guide: As Real as It Gets by Thomas Gerbasi and Anthony Evans (Oct., hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-84732-865-6). With exclusive features, striking photographs, along with fan trivia, the guide explains the rules and background of ultimate fighting, profiles 30 top fighters, offers a peek behind the scenes, and looks back at the UFC's greatest contests.
Cyclepedia: A Century of Iconic Bicycle Design by Michael Embacher, foreword by Paul Smith (Aug., hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1-4521-0167-5). This homage to the beauty of the bike, packed with photographs, showcases the innovations and legacies of bicycle design over the past century. Embacher is a designer and collector.
Da Capo/Da Capo Lifelong Books
Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time by Georgia Pellegrini (Dec., hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-7382-1466-5). The Omnivore's Dilemma meets The Pioneer Woman Cooks: a provocative book that pushes the boundaries of the foodie revolution and considers why, how, and what we eat. The author has attended Wellesley, Harvard, and the French Culinary Institute in New York, and worked at Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill at Stone Barns—and she loves to hunt wild game.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football by John U. Bacon (Oct., hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-8090-9466-0). Rodriguez took over a storied program and in short order ran into controversy, mounting losses, and NCAA investigations. Bacon, who wrote a book with Michigan coaching legend Bo Schembechler, was granted intimate access to the doings in the Michigan program, and tells of Rodriguez's trials and eventual dismissal this January, after only three years on the job.
Globe Pequot Press
Hack's 191: Hack Wilson and His Incredible 1930 Season by Bill Chastain, foreword by Don Zimmer (Jan., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-7627-6963-6). Hack Wilson was the ultimate hard hitter. His record 191 RBIs in the 1930 season for the Cubs may never be beat (it is still the season record), and so may the record of his hard-drinking lifestyle. Chastain recreates the most productive offensive season in baseball history, and recreates Wilson's heyday in Prohibition-era Chicago as a pal of Al Capone.
The 3-Degree Putting Solution: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven Technique for Drastically Improving Your Putting by Michael Breed (Sept., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-59240-656-2). Here's the secret: change the loft on the putter face from four degrees of positive loft (as conventional wisdom dictates) to a negative loft of three degrees, reducing backspin. For more, read the book by the award-winning Golf Channel Breed.
Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton by Jeff Pearlman (Oct., hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-59240-653-1) is the revelatory biography of Chicago Bears superstar Walter Payton, a beloved figure with unmatchable elusiveness on the field who was sadly felled by a rare form of liver disease at age 45.
Shaq Uncut: The Autobiography by Shaquille O'Neal with Jackie MacMullan (Nov., hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-4555-0441-1). Shaq is a four-time NBA champion and a three-time NBA Finals MVP. After being an All-American at Louisiana State University, he was the #1 draft pick by the NBA in 1992. Although O'Neal announced his retirement this spring, he will no doubt continue to be heard from, as he is universally well liked and marketable.
(dist. by PGW)
Hockey's Original 6: Great Players of the Golden Era by Mike Leonetti, foreword by Jean Beliveau, photos by Harold Barkley (Oct., hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-1-55365-563-3). The hockey stars of the 1950s and '60s—Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe, Dave Keon, Bobby Hull, Jean Beliveau, Terry Sawchuk, Tim Horton, and others—were some of the most passionate players in National Hockey League history. Leonetti tells the story of the early NHL against the backdrop of Toronto Star photographer Barkley's images, some classic, others never seen before.
The Whore of Akron: One Man's Search for the Soul of LeBron James by Scott Raab (Nov., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-206636-7). Esquire writer Scott Raab gets lucky. His angry screed against the player who left Cleveland, slated for November publication, will get a surprise ending, at least to the author, who was not expecting King James to fail in the NBA finals. A good deal of press will no doubt accompany the publication.
When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the Old Knicks by Harvey Araton (Oct., hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978 -0-06-195623-2). In the tradition of The Boys of Summer and The Bronx Is Burning, here's a fascinating look—part autobiography, part sports history—at the 1970s New York Knicks, set against the tumultuous times in which they reigned, from the veteran New York basketball writer.
A Team for America: When West Point Football Rallied a Nation at War by Randy Roberts (Nov., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-547-51106-1) details the story of how the 1944 West Point football team went undefeated, captivating and inspiring the nation in the process.
Houghton Mifflin /
The Best American Sports Writing 2011, edited by Jane Leavy; series editor, Glenn Stout (Oct., paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-547-33696-1) collects the year's best sports writing, chosen by Mantle's and Koufax's biographer.
Soccer Anatomy by Donald T. Kirkendall (Aug., paper, $21.95, ISBN 978-0-7360-9569-3). This inside look at the world's most popular sport includes 79 exercises, each with step-by-step descriptions and full-color anatomical illustrations: for players, coaches, parents, physicians, physical therapists.
Rafa by Rafael Nadal with John Carlin (Aug., hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-4013-2451-3). A candid look into the life of tennis's #1 player, covering both his youth and the year that will cement his place in history. No tennis player since Andre Agassi has captivated the world like Nadal; to be published during the lead-up to the U.S. Open.
Best Seat in the House: One on One with the Greats in the Game by John Feinstein (Dec., hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-316-07904-4) returns to the subjects of the author's first 10 books, crafting a narrative of the most revealing encounters he's had—Bob Knight, Jim Valvano, John McEnroe, Tiger Woods, and many more.
West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life by Jerry West with Jonathan Coleman (Oct., hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-316-05349-5). The legendary player and basketball executive, West grew up in straitened circumstances in West Virginia before going to fame as a collegian and professional. West is unsparing in his self-assessment, and the publisher calls this book "a profound confession and a magnificent inspiration."
(dist. by IPG)
Let's Get It On: The Making of MMA and Its Ultimate Referee by "Big" John McCarthy (Sept., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-60542-141-4). With his long tenure as a ref, McCarthy has experienced firsthand many of MMA's greatest moments. An inside-the-cage account of mixed martial arts' roller-coaster ride into the mainstream.
Mercer Univ. Press
The Greatest Champion That Never Was: The Life of W.L. "Young" Stribling by Jaclyn Weldon White (Oct., hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-88146-252-4). "Young" Stribling Jr. grew up in vaudeville and was a professional prizefighter by the time he was 16. When he fought Max Schmeling for the world championship in 1931, his movie-star good looks and unassuming personality had already won the hearts of people. Weldon tells a tale that, surprisingly, is not better known: Strib lost only 12 of nearly 300 fights, was knocked out only once, and died at age 29 after a motorcycle accident on his way to visit his wife and brand-new baby in the hospital.
Meyer & Meyer Sport
The Dark Side of Sport: Exposing the Sexual Culture of Collegiate and Professional Athletes by Nick Pappas (Oct., paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-84126-338-0) aims at athletes, coaches, managers and administrators, sports fans, educators, and students to address the rampant sexual deviancy and aggression occurring within many athlete cultures.
Breakthrough 'Boys: The Story of the 1971 Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys by Jaime Aron (Oct., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-7603-4039-4). The inside stories from former players, coaches, and other key figures exploring the tumultuous road the Cowboys took to their first championship in 1971.
Soccer Men: Profiles of the Rogues, Geniuses, and Neurotics Who Dominate the World's Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper (Oct., paper, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-56858-687-8). Kuper's bestseller Soccernomics pioneered a new way of looking at soccer through meticulous empirical analysis and incisive commentary. Kuper now leaves the numbers and data behind to explore the heart and soul of the world's most popular sport.
Howard Cosell: The Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports by Mark Ribowsky (Nov., hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-393-08017-9). A deeply misunderstood sports legend, once the most hated and loved man in America, gets his due in this absorbing, revelatory biography.
(dist. by Trafalgar Square/IPG)
An Epic Swindle: 44 Months with a Pair of Cowboys by Brian Reade (Sept., paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-0-85738-599-4) relates the inside story of how Liverpool FC came within hours of being repossessed by the banks after the 44-month reign of American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. A tale of debts, lies, and two arrogant Yanks that led to a kind of civil war dragging Britain's storied football club to its knees.
Rowman & Littlefield
Super Bowl Monday: From the Persian Gulf to the Shores of West Florida: The New York Giants, the Buffalo Bills and Super Bowl XXV by Adam Lazarus (Aug., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-58979-600-3). This stirring book describes how two disparate events—a football game and a war—mirrored, for a day anyway, the mixed sentiments of a nation coming together for its most singular annual sporting event against the backdrop of hostilities thousands of miles away.
St. Martin's Griffin
Duke Sucks: A Completely Even-Handed, Unbiased Investigation into the Most Evil Team on Planet Earth by Reed Tucker and Andy Bagwell (Jan., paper, $12.99, ISBN 978-1-250-00463-5) offers a detailed examination of why the most hated team in college basketball, Duke, sucks—written by a couple of University of North Carolina Tarheel bloggers.
A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak, and Grace by Ralph Branca with David Ritz (Sept., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4516-3687-1). The Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who was on the wrong end of the "Shot Heard Round the World," tells his remarkable story upon the moment's 60th anniversary.
Liston and Ali: The Ugly Bear and the Boy Who Would Be King by Bob Mee (Nov., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-61608-369-4). The boxing historian contextualizes the two fights between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston, which, as Ali would loudly proclaim when he upset "the Ugly Bear" in Miami, "shook up the world."
St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne Books
Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story by Jim Dent (Aug., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-65285-2). The award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Junction Boys tells the moving story of Steinmark, a scrappy safety on the University of Texas team that won the national championship in 1969. Steinmark, a fan favorite, played with a painful thigh, which turned into the bone cancer that killed him, but his life inspired many.
Syracuse Univ. Press
Tarnished Rings: The International Olympic Committee and the Salt Lake City Bid Scandal by Stephen Wenn, Robert Barney, and Scott Martyn (Dec., hardcover, $39.95, ISBN 978-0-8156-3290-0). The lawyer and car salesman in charge of Salt Lake City's failed Olympics bid in 1998 tried harder to get the bid for 2002 . They engaged in bribery and other unethical moves, which led to an overhaul of the IOC. Mitt Romney eventually was brought in and led a successful bid for the city.
Taylor Trade Publishing
The Last Icon: Tom Seaver and His Times by Steven Travers (Nov., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-58979-660-7). One of the greatest pitchers of all time, and still a legend in New York, gets his due just in time for the 50th anniversary of the franchise next spring.
The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit by Michael Cannell (Nov., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-446-55472-5) The true story of the first American to win the Grand Prix, with vivid accounts of the glamorous—and deadly—world of motor racing circa 1961, is written, says the publisher, "with the pacing of a novel and in the tradition of Seabiscuit and The Right Stuff."
Univ. of Missouri Press
Gibson's Last Stand: The Rise, Fall, and Near Misses of the St. Louis Cardinals, 1969–1975 by Doug Feldmann (Sept., hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-8262-1950-3). Bob Gibson, who grew up as the son of an activist youth educator, became one of the most complex and beloved players in Cardinals' history, thanks to his proud demeanor and overpowering pitching. His final years on the team are placed within the context of American history and popular culture.