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Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

Amateur (2018©)  —  book review
Over Christmas, my daughter gave me a couple of books as prezzies.  One of them was “Amateur“, written by Thomas Page McBee.  The premise of the book is that the author has gone from being a woman to a man and is seeking to become the first transgender person to box in Madison Square Garden in New Your City.  He is fighting in a charity event against a non-professional fighter (like himself), who is presumably non-trans – at least there is no mention of the male opponent being transgender as well.  Anyway, the book is autobiographical and describes the training and preparation leading up to the match.  The book also relates background information about the authors parents and siblings.  It also has a small amount about the stages of being / becoming transgender.
I asked my daughter why she got me this particular book and if she had read it.  She replied she had not read it and she just wanted to expose me to different perspectives.  The other book she gave me was the Michelle Obama bio, which I have not read yet.
Anyway, I found the book difficult to “get into” because I didn’t (and don’t) care for the author’s writing style.  I found the ideas being expressed unclear and the sentences “stilted”.  Several times I had to re-read a sentence or a paragraph because I wasn’t sure I understood what the author was saying or how it added to or followed on with whatever else was being said.  Eventually, I got the hang of the writing and had fewer problems reading along.
Although the book is “about” boxing and preparing for a fight, it is also about aggression and “being male” – or at least what the author believes is being male in modern society.  I found much of this to be “interesting” even if I don’t necessarily agree with everything the author was trying to relate.  That is, much of it makes sense / rings true, but I’m not sure it (the points being made) are uniquely “male” or modern.  I also don’t know if they are unique to western / American society.  “Interesting” because I am not transgender, did not grow up as a “tom-boy”, and have not spent a great deal of time thinking about being a “straight” “male” as opposed to being “gay” or “trans”.  To this extent, my daughter was successful in getting me to think outside the box.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  It is difficult for me to know who the target audience for this book is, so it is equally hard to recommend it to anyone stumbling on this post / review.  I don’t know that LGBQ folks would want to read about someone who is “trans” or about boxing and preparing for a fight.  I (personally) did find the writing about the training and preparation for the fight to be pretty interesting, enjoyable and well described.  In one way, the book made me chuckle.  Although I personally participated in a boxing tournament as a teen, I went into it completely unprepared, untrained and unfit.  LOL – and the results showed.  I guess, my question is would another trans person (female to male) find this book interesting.  I am not sure they would, except maybe to know there are others (like themselves) out there and they are adjusting to being their “new” selves.  And, maybe that’s enough…
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On This Day In:
2018 Feeling Both
2017 Just Start
2016 Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall
2015 Restraint At The Inn
2014 To Not Discovering
2013 I Have Less To Say
2012 Not The Best Prediction I’ve Ever Read
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Image of Willie McCovey

“Stretch”

Two days ago, on Halloween, the world lost one of the true gentlemen of sports history:  Willie Lee McCovey.  Nicknamed “Mac”, “Big Mac”, and (my personal favorite) “Stretch”, McCovey was a first baseman who defined the position for me as a child.  He played for the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball for 19 of his 22 seasons in the majors.
My earliest memory of ANY sports event was attending a baseball game as a youth at Candlestick Park and seeing McCovey, Willie Mays, and Juan Marichal in person.  My mom and I sat high in the upper deck, underneath the shell which used to line the stadium.  I don’t recall if the Giants won the game or much else about the game except – Marichal’s high-kick pitching delivery style, Mays hit a home run and “Stretch” made a terrific catch at first base.  It wasn’t a high catch (as shown in the image above).  It was low, near the ground and McCovey had to practically do the splits to make the catch.
It seems “funny” to think of this, but imagine you are Willie Mays – arguably the greatest baseball player of all time and in the top five career home run hitters in history and you bat third in the order because the guy (Willie McCovey) batting fourth, behind you, has more power…
None of the above speaks to the true greatness of the man, himself.  It is better to think of Willie McCovey this way:  his last active year was 1980.  That same year, the Giants retired his jersey number (44) and began awarding “The Willie Mac Award” which is given to the team’s most inspirational player that year, as voted on by the team’s players, coaches, training staff, and (just recently included) fans.  Finally, in 1986, in his first year of eligibility, Willie McCovey was voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
R.I.P “Stretch”.  And thanks for the childhood memories…
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On This Day In:
2017 Dodgers Choke Away World Series
Firing Director Comey = Obstruction
2016 Why Do Republicans Always Seem To Be Angry?
2015 All Things Being Equal
2014 Fearful Light
2013 Unexpectedly Knowledgeable
2012 Seems Obvious
2011 See The Specialist

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First off…  With all due props…  Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox for winning the 2018 World Series!!!
Image of Boston World Champions patch
Boston defeats LA in 2018 World Series 4 games to 1 !!!!
Image of Stamp over Dodger Logo
As an SF Giants fan, all I can say is:  “Two World Series losses in a row!!  How sweet it is!!!!
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On This Day In:
2017 By Their Acts Thy Shall Know Them
2016 Remembering
2015 One
2014 Sure Experiments And Demonstrated Arguments
2013 Irrational Complacency
2012 Why Criticize?
Giants Sweep 2012 World Series With Game 4 Win (4 To 3)!!!
2011 Saying Just Enough
2010 Giants Win Game 2 Shutout of Rangers – 9 to 0!!!

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Years ago we discovered the exact point, the dead center of middle age.  It occurs when you are too young to take up golf and too old to rush up to the net.
  —  Franklin Pierce Adams
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On This Day In:
2017 Improvise
2016 Got Leisure?
2015 It’s Been Hurtin’ For Quite A While Now
2014 Curious Talent
2013 Eureka
2012 Slow Me
2011 He Said What?!?
2010 Gritty
3 and 3
Just A Hunch
Wall Street – Movie Review
2nd Pair – Shoe Review (Aborted and Final)

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The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA”  –  book review
On Wednesday (11 May 2018), I finished reading “The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA”  (2009©)  – written by: Chris Ballard.  The game in question is basketball and not soccer – which is what I assumed the book would be about until I opened it.  My copy did not come with the dust cover and the sub-title is not on the binding.  Oh, well…
This book is a blend of various types of sports authorship: part biography, part techniques and skills, part biology, part X’s and O’s and part psycho-babble.  Interestingly, the blend worked and the book ends up an entertaining and interesting (if not particularly useful) read.  Sometimes a hard childhood makes a superstar, sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes “just” being superb at individual skills and techniques will elevate you to superstar status, most times it doesn’t.  Most times being a biological freak will get you into the league – even if it is not enough to make you a superstar.  And, it appears, sometimes superstars are cerebral.  Unfortunately, the book doesn’t confirm (or prove) ALL superstars are cerebral or that average and not-quite-superstar players are not equally cerebral (thoughtful about their game / skills).  And, because correlation does not prove causation, we can’t know if being cerebral makes a player a superstar.  Causation appears unlikely, though.
The book breaks down the “art” of the game into twelve particular skill sets / attributes the author wants to describe, including: “killer instinct”, pure shooting, free throws, defense, rebounding, blocking shots and being big.  There are five other specifics, but these (listed) are representative of the book.  Each chapter uses interviews with one or two active players – active as of the time of writing or the decade immediately prior – (2009 or the 1990’s) to relate the star to the author’s proposed “art“.  Through first person interviews and interviews with teammates and coaches, we get a feel for what makes the “superstars” truly super.  It turns out: great genes, desire, practice, coaching and attention to detail, and luck are all it takes to be great.  (Sarcasm: “WHO would have guessed?”)
So, is the book any good and was it worth my time reading it?  Yes, and yes.  The author played basketball at a much lower level and what clearly comes across is his love for the game and his feelings (not so subtle) that, “If only…”  This is a feeling which almost everyone who has seriously participated in any sport can relate to – particularly if you too “loved” your sport.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  I tend to read books (history, sports, biographies and science books) to scratch a particular itch.  While I can’t say I learned anything generally about sport or basketball, or anything specifically about skills and techniques in this book, I did thoroughly enjoy reading about the players and their views on their skills and sport.  Sometimes, just reading about passion for a subject is enough to make a subject more interesting than the book about the subject itself really ought to be.  It’s the difference between “love for the game” and diagrams of X’s and O’s.  This book scratches the first itch, even if it pretty much ignores the second.  I got the book at Half-Priced Books for $2.  Well, worth the cost and the time – particularly if you like hoops.  (Unashamedly, I do!)
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On This Day In:
2017 The Voice Of Experience
2016 Who And When
2015 Change Process
2014 What Is Still Possible
2013 Strength Is There
2012 Beyond Reasonable Doubt
2011 Celebrating Values
2010 Is it just me, or is it suddenly dark around here?
Dance!

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My daughter (Sarah) had a take your pet to work day, today.  She borrowed Shiva.  So, we had no dog walk this morning.
I made up for it by hitting the asphalt.  I got out and jogged (slogged) 2 miles in 30 minutes.  Yes.  I know.  Pretty slow.  But given my weight and other health factors, I’m quite pleased.  I started like gang-busters last December, but I thought I’d broken my left foot (stress fracture) and had to stop in mid-January.  Turns out it was “only” a bit of arthritis and it seems there is nothing to be done about it.  The podiatrist made me up some shoe / arch inserts, but all they did was make my feet hurt like I’d been beaten with a cane.  And that was after only a 30 minute walk to the pool.  I tried the inserts again a few days later, but they were agony almost immediately (literally within steps).  I haven’t worn them since.
So, between the 2 miles and the 60 minutes of treading water, I’m feeling pretty tired.  Healthy tired, but tired.  Now I just have to see if I can keep it up.
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On This Day In:
2017 Living Memory
2016 December
2015 That’s Gotta Leave A Scar
It’s All About Me (…Not!)
2014 Bull’s-Eye Next
2013 Change ÷ Time
2012 High Anxiety
2011 To Be, Do
2010 In the Arena…
Not An Island, Today…

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Chasing Perfection: The Principles Behind Winning Football the De La Salle Way”  (2015©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for “Chasing Perfection” written by Bob Ladouceur with Neil Hayes.  The book is about coaching American Football at the high school level.  Ladouceur was the head coach of the varsity football team at De La Salle High School here in Concord, California.  His teams are the owners of the all-time longest winning streak in high school history (151 wins between 1992 and 2004).  To put that into some perspective, the next longest streak is 109 games!
There are lots of different types of sports books.  There are coach and player biographies.  There are league and team histories.  There are greatest games, greatest championships and greatest dynasties.  My favorites are those which discuss – in depth – schemes and techniques (in any sport).  I enjoy them because you get a chance to learn the why’s and how’s of the game which then allows you to see and understand why something is working as it is happening on the field (or court).  As such a book, this is perhaps the best book I have ever read about football – specifically, football techniques.
This is not really an “X’s” and “O’s” play diagram type of book.  It IS a “we want the tackle to have his inside foot here, his outside foot there, four to six inches back and heel no more than one inch off the ground, with this much weight on one hand” book.  That, literally, is the detail provided in the explanations in this book.  And, I love it!!
I haven’t been this excited about reading a football book — WHILE reading the football book — since I was in high school and just learning how to play.  Back then, I read a book on defensive football written by Dick Butkus and another book with chapters on various players and I was completely enthralled by Raymond Berry at wide receiver.  Berry is NFL Films #36 greatest players of all time and Butkus is, well, Butkus.  I learned more from that book and that chapter than I have from a host of other books I’ve read about the sport of football – at every level.  And this book is as good as if not better than both of those.
Every part of organizing and building a team is covered: offense, defense, special teams, nutrition, weight training, scouting opponents, game planning.  You name it.  It’s here.  Now, realistically, is it encyclopedic?  No.  But, then it’s less than 300 pages.  If you want a book with “X’s” and “O’s”, this isn’t the book.  But you can find dozens of those which still won’t add up to what you’ll learn from the reading (and re-reading) of this book.
Final recommendation: VERY highly recommended.  Not only did this book explain things I didn’t know about, it also explained the reasons why some things I used to do instinctively actually worked.  This book is so good, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to coach any sport at any level.  It is that good…
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On This Day In:
2017 We Can Figure This Out
2016 Just Enough
2015 Bourne Bond
Springs Eternal
2014 Brains First
2013 Not Listening Anymore
2012 At Your Marks!
2011 We Are Not Alone
Underlying Rationality
2010 Is the Obama Administration Failing?
In Other Words…
Quite Please!
In A Hostage Situation…
Are We Done Yet?
In Order…
Flip-flopping…
Proof of Choice…
On “Leading” A Democracy To War…
Actually, It’s All About Me…

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